Australian tourism is known for its sun, surf and sand. What is often overlooked are the fantastic underground experiences that can be found throughout Australia. Whether you are an adventurous traveller seeking a deep dive into the heart of the earth or just seeking a memorable event venue, this guide has something for everyone looking for a different underground Australian experience.

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1. See Glow Worms

Endemic to Australia and only found in damp tropical caves, glow worms light up the interior of caves as a means of attracting smaller insects. Only a few places in Australia offer tourists a chance to visit these seclusive creatures, but three of our fantastic operators run regular guided tours to visit caves with large glow worm populations. Ecotourism Certified Cedar Creek Estate Winery in Queensland, for example, not only produces great wine and hosts events, but also runs guided tours to the Mount Tamborine Glow worm cave. This cave has been artificially developed to help local glow worm populations grow and is combined with a rain forest walk for a truly unique experience.

 glow worm caves cedar creek estate

If you want to visit glow worms with a twist, Gogo Tours in Victoria and Doki Doki Tours and Global Travel Services in Cairns are both ECO Certified and both run guided glow worm tours to natural caves with Japanese guides. This is a great opportunity for Japanese travellers and students learning Japanese to experience glow worm caves while leaning facts and stories in fluent Japanese.

2. Cave events and functions

Ever dreamed of hosting a wedding underground?

Wedding Credit Capricorn Caves Facebook

Capricorn Caves, only a 35-minute drive from Rockhampton in Queensland, holds Advanced Ecotourism Certification and hosts several cave-based activities that you might not normally associate with caves. Hosting concerts and weddings in their famous Cathedral Cave, Capricorn caves allows visitors to create truly memorable experiences that will be hard to top.

 capricorn caves cathedral

With a history as a secret dance hall for the Perth elite, the Cabaret Cave at Yanchep National Park is another great place for special functions, dinners and themed events. Yanchep National Park is Respecting Our Culture (ROC) Certified and is part of Parks and Wildlife Western Australia.

 cabaret cave

3. Caving experiences

Cave exploration, also known as spelunking, can range in difficulty from crawling through gaps deep beneath the earth, to taking a guided tour through a gigantic underground cavern. Several of our certified operators host various levels of cave exploration, from the hardcore spelunking tour to an easy open self-guided walk. This guide there has caving experiences to suite all levels of comfort. 

For those seeking a unique adventure, K7 Adventures hosts several adventurous activities throughout both the summer and winter seasons, including hiking, abseiling, skiing, photography workshops and most importantly, caving exploration tours.

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K7 Adventures holds Advanced Ecotourism Certification on their caving exploration tours in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains region, which involves abseiling down into the depths of the Wee Jasper limestone cave system where visitors get to explore the wondrous natural limestone formations with the expert guidance of the K7 team. This full day trip can be combined into an overnight camping track depending on the package that best suits your interests.

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Mentioned earlier for its event space in Cabaret Cave, Yanchep National Park also has over 400 recorded other caves to explore. With so much choice there are options for the professional spelunker as well as the casual tourist. Two main caves in the park are used for guided tours. Crystal Cave hosts an easy 45 minute walk through a glittering limestone cavern, or for a challenge and to push yourself out of your comfort zone, Yonderup Cave offers a 90 minute caving adventure guided tour where visitors can experience real spelunking with an experienced guide.

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(Left to right: Crystal Cave, Yonderup Cave)

Another option for caving adventures is Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, which holds Advanced Ecotourism Certification on four different cave tours, Ngilgi Cave Semi-Guided Tour, Mammoth Cave Self-Guided Tour, Lake Cave Fully-Guided Tour, and Jewel Cave Augusta Fully-Guided Tour. These self-guided and fully-guided tours offer a fantastic opportunity to explore the caves of the Margaret River region at your own leisurely pace or at the direction of a knowledgeable guide.

 margaret river caves

Finally, while we already mentioned Capricorn Caves for their event space, they also offer caving exploration tours for those looking to push their comfort zones. Capricorn caves also run exploration and fossil discovery activities designed for families, school groups, and team building exercises.

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4. Cave Kayaking

If spelunking is not your style, and you’re not looking to organise an underground event in the near future, how about some cave kayaking? While not completely underground, the concept of visiting sea caves in a kayak is too unique to pass up. Making its way onto this guide, Roaring 40°s Kayaking Tours are Advanced Ecotourism Certified and are a must do for those travelling to Tasmania. Their unique tours offer visitors the chance to paddle along the Hobart coastline in the Hobarts Cliffs, Caves and Beaches tour.

 Matt Glastonbury Roaring 40s Kayaking Dec 2015 34 copy

5. Sleep underground

Opal mines, blistering heat hot enough to cook an egg and houses like no others in the world: Coober Pedy in South Australia is well known as the opal capital of the world, but what you may not know is that many of the houses, buildings and shops are underground. Groovy Grapes Tours offer a Rock Patrol Tour through to the centre of Australia, including a stopover in Coober Pedy to visit a local opal mine and stay the night in an underground bunker like the locals.

 Coober Pedy

The Rock Patrol tour is Ecotourism Certified and takes visitors on a six day tour from Adelaide to the town of Alice Springs, stopping off at unique landmarks and attractions along the way. Being a bit off the beaten path, this is a great way to visit Coober Pedy and experience a unique underground lifestyle.

Have you visited any of Australia’s caves? Tell us about them in the comments below.


While in movies superheroes command the spotlight, in real life heroes often work behind the scenes. Whether it’s their humility, commitment or diligent focus on creating positive change, normal, everyday heroes – like the ones we’ve been telling you about for the past couple of months – are often the ones who are changing things without you realising it, the ones who encourage and inspire, but in a natural way, because that’s just how they are.

For no one is this truer than for Back Country Bliss Adventures’ manager and part owner, Margaret Heffernan. Owner Jason Heffernan describes her as committed, conscientious and caring, and notes that she is always encouraging others to be better.

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“Margaret works behind the scenes, however by frequently educating our tour guides, they are better educated to share our eco friendly ways with guests,” he explains. Jason notes that Margaret has been the one responsible for Back Country Bliss Adventures’ waste reduction strategy, ensuring that as much as possible is recycled, staff are educated on waste separation, leftover food is frozen or donated to local wildlife carers and food scraps are used for Margaret’s worm farm.

“Margaret has gone above and beyond to ensure we reduce our day to day waste,” Jason notes. He also explains that Margaret is the one who sorts the business’ rubbish to reduce the company’s footprint and makes sure that that they are leading by example, including by providing reusable BPA free water bottles to all their guests to use, and washing and refilling these at the end of every tour.

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Margaret has also set up educational signs around the workplace to help people sort their waste, keeps the team up to date at staff meetings and has replaced as many chemicals and cleaning products as possible with eco-friendly versions.

The results? Back Country Bliss’ food waste has been reduced dramatically, with almost none ending up in regular waste. Thousands of single use water bottles have been avoided, and local animal carers, to whom spare and leftover fruit is donated, are better equipped to rehabilitate injured animals.

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Margaret, thank you for all that you do for Back Country Bliss Adventures and for protecting and preserving our beautiful planet! Thank you to Jason for this nomination.

For more information on Back Country Bliss Adventures, visit their website or Facebook page.

For more information on our other Everyday Ecotourism Heroes, check out the other articles in this series:

Is there someone in your business who you think is an Everyday Ecotourism Hero? Tell us about them!

Have we piqued your interest in travelling sustainably? Make sure you check out our Green Travel Guide and news page for some eco travel inspiration!


[All images sourced from Back Country Bliss Adventures’ Facebook page]



This week’s “Harmony Day” on March 21 (commenced in 1999), is a day when all Australians celebrate our cultural diversity. This day is often celebrated by Indigenous Australians and people from a range of cultures within communities.  Ecotourism Australia wants to promote the work in Indigenous tourism in Australia and around the world.

To achieve this goal, we need to understand what Indigenous tourism is. Quoting the Indigenous Tourism web portal (2008):

“Indigenous tourism is tourism that directly engages Indigenous people, either by allowing them to manage a site or making Indigenous culture the focus for a destination. An Indigenous-focus tourist is generally an international or domestic tourist who participates in or undertakes at least one Indigenous tourism activity during a holiday, such as visiting cultural sites or Indigenous communities, experiencing traditional dances, arts and crafts, and travelling to remote Indigenous areas.”

According to The United Nations Economic and Social Council, it is estimated that there are around 400 million Indigenous peoples, or five percent of the total world population, spread over 90 countries.

Indigenous tourism can be an opportunity for Indigenous people to show their culture, nature, traditions, and so on, in a respectful manner if managed correctly. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) – with whom Ecotourism Australia has just formed a partnership –  is correct when it says: “As one of the most thriving economic activities, tourism is well placed to contribute to Indigenous people in improving their livelihoods. If managed responsibly and sustainably, Indigenous tourism can spur cultural interaction and revival, bolster employment, alleviate poverty, curb rural flight migration, empower women and youth, encourage product diversification, and nurture a sense of pride among Indigenous people. However, this type of tourism also raises a series of ethical, social, economic and human rights-related challenges that need to be addressed by the sector.”

Working with Indigenous people in tourism can be a very rewarding experience.  One of the key elements is to take the time to learn all you can about their culture, traditions, rituals, family priorities, etc., specially if you have staff in your business with Indigenous heritage, is important that you sit down with them and discuss all the differences between cultures. This can help you understand for example, why they may need a number of days off to attend family matters like funerals or other family rituals. 

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Raramuri community in Chihuahua, Mexico. Image credit: Ximena Alvis


If you want to start a project with Indigenous peoples or in their territory, you will need to understand and follow the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) principle:

“In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recognizing their rights and making specific mention of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a pre-requisite for any activity that affects their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources.”

Following FPIC is crucial to ensuring that Indigenous peoples are well informed of any project or tourism activities on their lands, giving them the power to authorise them and be part of them, benefit from them and ensure that these projects or activities are being respectful with their culture, beliefs and environment.

In the end, it is an exercise of communication, learning from one another, being respectful with everyone’s beliefs, culture, environment, and sharing the same goals of the project.

If you want to get involved with Indigenous tourism in Australia, Ecotourism Australia offers a ROC Certification program. This program encourages the tourism industry to operate in ways that respect and reinforce Indigenous cultural heritage and the living cultures of Indigenous communities.

ROC certified tourism operators are committed to protecting cultural authenticity and integrity, developing sound business practices, environmental protection and acknowledging Indigenous people’s spiritual connection to the land and water.

For more information about ROC Certification, visit our certification website.

Has your business had experience in working with Indigenous people? We’d love to hear about it. Any lesson learned is worth sharing!



–          Tourism Australia 2008, The Indigenous Tourism Web Portal, located at, accessed June 2009.

–          UNWTO Panel on Indigenous Tourism: Promoting equitable partnerships

–          Free Prior and Informed Consent An indigenous peoples’ right and a good practice for local communities

–          Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Business Planning Guide. Checklist for Success. Author: Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC (AtBC)



[Header image picture credit: Kimberley Wilderness Adventures]


In case you hadn’t realised, the seasons have changed and we’re now officially in autumn in Australia. Whilst in some parts of the country the summer weather is slow to disappear and it may not be too late to get your beach fix, in other parts the cooler days will have you already dreaming of your next summer’s beach escapes. To help you with the dreaming, we thought we’d give you our top five Australian islands you may not have heard about. On each one, you’ll have the chance to enjoy an ECO certified experience (or more), meaning that you can soak up the sun, discover something new and know that your visit is not going to cost the earth… or stop you from returning to your new favourite island in years to come.


Broughton Island, NSW


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Image: Moonshadow – TQC Cruises


Situated just eight nautical miles north east of Port Stephens, NSW’s Broughton Island has a diverse landscape of volcanic peaks, sandy beaches and forest variation home to endangered frog species and a nesting ground for mutton birds and penguins. The island is also host to two of our Advanced Ecotourism certified operators, Moonshadow – TQC Cruises and Imagine Cruises. With these two operators running activities on the island, there is no shortage of choice and activities to suit everyone’s taste, whether you’re interested in a leisurely swim off the island or exploring the unique habitats and ecosystems on land and over water. Both of our operators provide unique experiences and services with options in dolphin watching, snorkelling, and guided walks.


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Image: Moonshadow – TQC Cruises


Rottnest Island, WA

Sitting just nineteen kilometres off the coast of Freemantle, Rottnest Island hosts pristine beaches, clear water, historical sites, natural attractions and several restaurants. With two of our certified operators (Rottnest express, & Rottnest Island Authority) on the island there are several options for travellers seeking accommodation for long stays or quick and easy day trips. With island activities including snorkelling, cycling, skydiving and island exploration. It is also a great place to see the native wildlife including the adorable and unique Quokka. There are many more hidden gems to find on Rottnest island.


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Image: Rottnest Island Authority Facebook


Bedarra Island, QLD          


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Image: Bedarra Island Resort

This is a true tropical island getaway. Part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, it’s possible to get here by boat from Mission Beach, or via helicopter, if you’re feeling adventurous. Since 2011, Advanced Ecotourism and Climate Action Business certified Bedarra Island Resort has had a comprehensive sustainability program in place for off grid electricity production, waste management, and revegetation projects. This is a great spot to relax and enjoy the island of Bedarra while maintaining your own commitment to sustainability.


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Image: Bedarra Island Resort


Dirk Hartog Island, WA 

Holding Advanced Ecotourism Certification on its accommodation and operations, Dirk Hartog Island hosts an Eco lodge, villas, and camping. Sitting just off the coast of Western Australia, the island is accessible by barge, charter boat or light aircraft. With swimming, snorkelling, walking tracks and island exploration, visitors won’t be short on activities. The island also boasts several unique and breathtaking attractions including Rose Lake, rock pools, blowholes and a historical lighthouse.

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Image: Dirk Hartog Island

Magnetic Island, QLD

Just eight kilometres off the coast of Townsville, with an average of 320 sunny days per year, 24 kilometres of walking tracks and 21 beaches, Magnetic Island is a must do for tourists seeking an adventurous getaway. If you have ever dreamed of seeing an ideal tropical sunset or exploring the pristine waters of a World Heritage site by kayak, then Magnetic Island Sea Kayak Tours are for you. Holding Advanced Ecotourism Certification, and Green Travel Leader status on its tour operations. Magnetic Island Sea Kayak Tours offers visitors the option of a guided morning kayak tour or an afternoon sunset tour which boasts some of the most beautiful sunsets in Australia, and exploration of the pristine waters and local coral.


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Image: Magnetic Island Sea Kayak Tours

We hope we’ve inspired you to plan your next island holiday. Is there an island that you love, that we haven’t featured? Tell us about it in the comments below!


We are excited to welcome our newest certified operator, Cape Tribulation Horse Rides, who have just achieved Ecotourism Certification for their horse rides, Polaris UTV Afternoon Tour, Polaris Electric UTV Night Adventure and Quad Bike Eco Walk.

 Image 1 cape trib Facebook


As the only horse riding operator in the area, Cape Tribulation Horse Rides offers customers a once in a lifetime experience riding horses along beautiful Myall Beach or taking electric ‘Polaris Ranger’ buggies and quad bikes through the rainforest. There are many plant species seen throughout the tours, and the area is home to a wide range of bird species and butterflies. Fortunate customers may even get the chance to see white-breasted eagles and crocodiles hanging around the trails. During whale season, humpback whales can be spotted from the beach as well.

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On the daytime tours, experienced guides take customers through the rainforest. Here, customers have the opportunity to see native plants and wildlife – including tree kangaroos! Guides also take customers to crystal clear mountain streams and to the beach, where they can go for a refreshing swim and enjoy refreshments and lunch.


Image 4 cape tribprovided by owner 


If anyone is keen on a night tour in the oldest rainforest in the world, Cape Tribulation Horse Rides have got just the thing. During their Polaris Electric UTV Night Adventure, customers get the Jurassic feel while navigating through the Daintree area. Cape Tribulation Horse Rides have got self-driven, electric ATVs to assist all customers on this exciting opportunity.


Image ATV Website 


With experienced and well-trained staff members, Cape Tribulation Horse Rides ensures that their operation leaves a minimal impact on the environment and provides all guests with unforgettable tours. Their emphasis on sustainability can be seen in their use of solar power to run all electrical equipment, use of electric vehicles for tours, encouragement to staff to ride or walk to work, use of biodegradable products wherever possible, preference for locally sourced products to reduce emissions and support the local community, monitoring of emissions, use of organic waste to make compost, reuse and recycling paper and plastic, monitoring of soil conditions, participating in feral animal and weed control and working with relevant organisations to report injured, rare or endangered wildlife.

We here at Ecotourism Australia are happy to welcome Cape Tribulation Horse Rides to as a certified operator and would like to congratulate them on their achievement.   


 [Photos from Cape Tribulation Horse Rides’ website and Facebook page.]


“Quality Through Creativity” Led the 2019 GSTC Asia-Pacific Sustainable Tourism Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand

“Quality through Creativity” Led the 2019 GSTC Asia-Pacific Sustainable Tourism Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand The 2019 GSTC Asia-Pacific Sustainable Tourism Conference “Quality through Creativity” took place from Febraury 27th to March 2nd in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Organized by Thailand’s Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Conference (GSTC), the […]

The post “Quality Through Creativity” Led the 2019 GSTC Asia-Pacific Sustainable Tourism Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).


Ecotourism Australia is pleased to announce that Managing Australian Destinations has joined its membership as a new Business Member.

Managing Australian Destinations is a Queensland-based destination management company providing a range of ground management, event production services and team building activities for group movements around Australia.

With 25 years of operating experience and a company commitment to environment practises, Managing Australian Destinations promotes the use of Ecologically sensitive suppliers and promotes environmental awareness through its management practises and event design.

Managing Australian Destinations offers tourism products ranging from personalised tours and team building activities to product launches and gala events. Some of its unique tourism products and services feature coral health team building exercises and a proclivity for managing themed galas and dinners.

Team Building – Coral Brief

In running personalised team building activities, one option is the Coral Brief. This activity provides the opportunity to contribute to helping sustain one of the great wonders of our world while forming new bonds and lasting memories with team mates.

Coral Brief takes guests to the Low Isles, about 1 hour from Port Douglas. Here, guests are provided with an educational experience learning about reef health and contributing to scientific research by measuring coral health with coral health ID charts and underwater writing slates. Guests can choose from a range of transport options on the coral cay from stand-up paddle boards, to snorkelling, or by foot.

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Dinners and Events

Managing Destinations Australia can design and run dinners and events catering from an intimate 30-person dinner on a remote beach in the Kimberly to a 3000 person dinner in the tropical rain forest.

mad logo business member

Having won the European Incentive & Business Travel Mart’s international award for the most environmentally conscious Destination Management Company, Managing Australian Destinations has a furthered their commitment to sustainability by joining ECO Tourism Australia as a Business Member. We are glad to welcome Managing Australian Destinations to our Business Membership and wish them every success in their future endeavours.

To find out more about Managing Australian Destinations visit their Website or Facebook page.

[Photos courtesy of Managing Australian Destinations website]

GSTC, The Code and ECPAT International join forces to end the sexual exploitation of children by in travel and tourism

At ITB travel trade show in Berlin, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with The Code and ECPAT International to work together to expand standards for the protection of children and to take other measures to end this crime. “Sustainable tourism is on the rise, consumer demand is growing for […]

The post GSTC, The Code and ECPAT International join forces to end the sexual exploitation of children by in travel and tourism appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).