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Buchan Caves, East Gippsland
Swimming Hole Heaven in Victoria


 
Swimmer's alert: As of mid December 2019, the managing authority temporarily closed the Buchan Caves pool. I provided preliminary public comment on the closure on ABC Gippsland radio on 13 December 2019 and have submitted a request for further information to Parks Victoria. With the bushfires severely impacting Buchan in late December 2019, the local council, Parks Victoria and the local community have more important priorities, to recover and rebuild from the fires. If you notice any changes at the pool over the coming months before I become aware of them, please let me know via the comment form at the bottom of this web page.
The A.E. Lind swimming pool in the Buchan Caves Reserve is a pool forged out of the bed rock that fills from a natural underground stream. The underground water trickles in through the Dukes Cave outlet in one corner of the pool, and spills back into a local tributary of the Buchan River. This means that the water in the pool is fresh, cool and crisp, having been filtered in its journey through the limestone caves. Swimming at Buchan Caves Reserve Above: The cave fed pool at the Buchan Caves Reserve (Order this image)

The water is chilled in this giant rock refrigerator making it excruciatingly cold in the morning and only for the brave hearted at other times. It is an exhilarating experience that makes your senses come alive, listening to the stream trickle peacefully into the pool while you watch starlings hurtle in and out of the cave at breakneck speed. The pool itself is around 10 metres wide and 15 metres long. There is a lawn area beside the pool and plenty of seats by the pool side. Buchan Caves Reserve is a great family holiday destination and I have fond memories of visiting the caves and feeding the numerous kangaroos that come to feed in the camping ground at dusk. Guided tours of the two main caves are available every day. There are also many walks from the reserve, ranging from less than an hour to full day walks. Swimming at Buchan Caves Reserve Above: Icy water from the cave outlet flowing into the pool (Order this image)

Below is a video that I took of swimming in the pool in January, including a water temperature reading at the Dukes Cave outlet into the pool to see exactly how cold the water really is. To put the temperature reading in the video in context, you can compare it with my list of indoor pool water temperatures around Melbourne which also lists temperatures for Port Phillip Bay and the San Francisco Bay. The good news is that the Buchan Caves Reserve pool is not as cold as the swim from Alcatraz.

Other Information Before You Go:
Location: Caves Rd, Buchan Caves Reserve, Buchan, 350 km (approx. 4 hr 20 mins drive) east of the Melbourne CBD
Latitude:-37.494547 Longitude:148.167845
Getting there: From the Princes Hwy at Bairnsdale take the Lakes Entrance bypass route via Bruthen (along the Great Alpine Rd) then the Bruthen-Buchan Rd to Buchan. In Buchan turn left up Caves Rd and the pool is a few hundred metres on the left hand side. Park next to the Cottonwood tree just over the little bridge about 20 metres past the pool.
Facilities: Public toilets, cold shower, change rooms, pool fence, car parking, camping ground, rubbish bins, bicycle parking
Entrance fee: None

Water temperature: Cold
Water clarity: Clear
Under foot: Rock and concrete
Sun shade: Limited to no shade available
Opening times: Restricted opening times. Open 9am to 5pm during Christmas and Easter holiday periods. Exact dates are not specified by the managing authority.
Maximum water depth: Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency suggested: Beginners
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: No diving, no bombing, no drinks in glass, no misuse of the lifebuoy, do not drink the water, children must be accompanied by an adult, do not feed the kangaroos, no cats or dogs, no firearms, no horse riding
Wheelchair access: Generally accessible to wheelchairs. Submerged hand railing around perimeter of the pool. Camping ground toilets have wheelchair access.
Accommodation Options: Camping is available at the Buchan Caves Reserve, which is managed by Parks Victoria. Alternatively, you can try accommodation in Buchan. I have stayed at both the campground and the Buchan Valley Log Cabins (as a paying customer) and enjoyed both.
Managing authority: Parks Victoria
Nearby attractions: Cave tours, including adventure caving run by Parks Victoria if you plan ahead, and W Tree Falls 20 km to the north of Buchan.
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the approximate location of the pool.
Comments:
Here is one swimmer's experience of swimming in the pool at Buchan Caves Reserve:

"I swam in the pool Dec 8th 2019. My comment is about a skin condition I had. Creams had not worked. The next day it had gone I had relief for two months..amazing ...sadly the fires have come thru. l want to return. The ranger did mention that they were adding chlorine to the pool. I wonder if this would change its healing qualities" - P.P. (full name provided but withheld by editor), Melbourne, Australia 25/1/2020

Editor's note: I cannot verify the medical claims in this statement, but have corresponded with this swimmer to confirm, to a limited degree, their identity and more details of their skin condition. If anyone has had a similar experience as a result of swimming in the pool, let me know. Due to the water's origin from a limestone cave, the water is very hard (i.e. high in minerals such as calcium). One study I am aware of that looked at water hardness and its effect on skin condition was a clinical trial by the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, which did not identify any evidence of differences in eczema severity in hard or soft water. Water chemistry from the caves is however complex, and the skin's response to different environments can be even more so. It is possible that contents in the water other than those associated with water hardness could be at play. Chlorine tends to dry the skin, so I hope Parks Victoria don't resort to chlorine.

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