Snorkel at Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

Hey there, friend!

Who would have thought you could go snorkelling or scuba diving in the middle of a sheep farm? I certainly didn’t until I was researching places to explore around the Limestone Coast region and came across the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier.

Thanks to its history of volcanic activity, this pocket of South Australia is a treasure trove of geological attractions, and numerous sinkholes dot the area!

The Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier, in particular, is a cenote, a water-filled sinkhole. Its crystal clear water makes it a popular spot for snorkelling and scuba diving.

Explore the Kilsby Sinkhole with me

In this journal entry, I’ll take you through our experience at this stunning sinkhole. I’ll share what you need to know for your visit, tips for those travelling with their precious pooch, insights into the various tours offered, and much more!

Where is Kilsby Sinkhole?

Kilsby Sinkhole is situated in the beautiful countryside of Mount Gambier, on a sheep farm owned and operated by the Kilsby family. It’s a short 15-minute drive south from the town centre.

If you’re not familiar with Mount Gambier, it’s a small city, or more like a big country town, close to the border of Victoria. From Adelaide, it takes about a 4.5 to 5-hour drive southeast to get there.

As mentioned, this region of South Australia has an abundance of natural wonders. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the Discover Mount Gambier website.

Ziggy the Starcraft serviced by KC Caravans. Located in Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast, South Australia.
Sinkhole from the viewing platform above

The tours available at Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

Sinkhole Tour

The Sinkhole Tour is a great option if you’d rather stay dry. This 60-minute tour provides insight into the sinkhole’s geology and history, and includes a couple of short presentations.

During the tour, you get to view the sinkhole from the top platform and, additionally, climb down to the floating pontoon to look inside. The closer you get, the more you’ll notice the remarkable clarity of the limestone-filtered water of the sinkhole!

The tour costs $15 per person, and kids under 10 can enter for free. Younger kids need supervision as the small pontoon lacks railings, and the water underneath is more than 10 metres deep.

Snorkel Tour

I’m stating the obvious, but the Snorkel Tour is where you actually experience being in the water!

Before you get in, you are given a brief rundown on the basics of snorkelling, and also the history of the sinkhole. The tour runs for about 2 hours and during this time, you’re accompanied by an experienced snorkel supervisor.

It costs $99 per person and includes all of the equipment you need. Participants must be over the age of 12. You’re allowed to bring and use your own mask and snorkel, if you prefer.

One thing that isn’t obvious when you’re just looking into the sinkhole from above, is the depth and width of the caverns below. During the “dry” tour, I was amazed to hear of the actual dimensions of the underground caves, and to learn of what you can see while snorkelling or scuba diving!

Scuba Diving

If you’re into scuba diving or free driving, the folks at Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier work with several licensed diving instructors who are approved to carry out diving activities at the sinkhole.

We saw some a group of divers gearing up to go cave diving while we were there! You can see a list of the operators here, and ways to contact them directly for more information.

Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier
Hubby and I at the floating pontoon inside the Kilsby Sinkhole

My thoughts & experience

I’m not the most confident person in the water, so I was hesitant to book myself in for a Snorkel Tour. Instead, I opted for the “dry” tour, and I found it to be a great introduction to the sinkhole. Plus, at $15, the Sinkhole Tour offers amazing value for money!

When you first climb down to the pontoon inside the sinkhole, the colour of the water just blows you away; it’s this unreal shade of blue. I wish my photos did justice to how vibrant it actually is in person.

I’m actually really keen to do the Snorkel Tour at some point in the future, now that I’ve been there and learned there’s much more to see below the surface. Graham, the tour guide and owner of Kilsby Sinkhole, also assured me that the wetsuits provided are super thick and buoyant!

Inside the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier
Inside the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

Book your visit

To participate in any of the guided tours at the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier, you must book yourself in, prior to your visit. This can only be done online via the Kilsby Sinkhole website.

Entering the farm & access to the sinkhole

  • The Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier, is located on a working farm and because of this, you can only access the site through a booked tour or diving session.
  • They encourage you to arrive as close to the time of your booking as possible for safety reasons, about 5-10 minutes early is fine but no more than that.
  • When you get there, you’re allowed to open the gate but make sure that you close it after you enter because of livestock kept on the fields. From there, there’s a short gravel drive to the building.
Charlie in the car
Charlie is used to being in the car by himself for a short period of time

Taking your dog to Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

As mentioned, it is a working farm and therefore, dogs are not allowed on the property. However, they can stay inside your vehicle while you’re on a tour, as long as they are securely restrained and contained.

We did this with Charlie because it was winter weather, and we weren’t going to be longer than an hour. I would only recommend doing it if your dog feels comfortable and safe being alone in the car, and there’s no risk of overheating.

What is a sinkhole?

A completely unqualified geoglogy lesson from me, haha.

From what I can gather, a sinkhole occurs when water seeps into the underground limestone and creates a cavity below the surface. Over time, it gets to a point where the surface is no longer supported and caves in, thus creating a sinkhole.

The caverns and tunnels can fill with water, which is in the case of the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier. We were shown a photo of the collapsed surface as a pile of rubble on the floor of the sinkhole. It was pretty interesting!

Going into the sinkhole onto the floating pontoon

The history of the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

Graham Kilsby ran our tour, and can I just say, what a top bloke! He had such a cheerful personality and spoke to us with so much enthusiasm.

He is very passionate about sharing the sinkhole with the public and seems to have a few creative ideas in the works to enhance visitor experience. Don’t be surprised to find a café/restaurant on the premises in the near future!

The Kilsby family has owned the farm and sinkhole for several generations, so Graham has many fond memories of it growing up. He talked about how, as a kid, he would bombie into the water from the very top. That’s one hell of a private swimming pool, don’t you think?!

Over the years, the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier, has gone through a diverse range of uses. I found it interesting when Graham spoke about the government leasing the sinkhole and employing it for military research in the late ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s.

How remarkable it must’ve been to have that happening in your backyard! You can watch an interesting video about the Kilsby family on Youtube.

The viewing platform above the sinkhole
The viewing platform above the sinkhole

How deep is the Kilsby Sinkhole?

When you look into the sinkhole from above, you don’t actually see the expanse of the caves and tunnels underneath, it’s quite wide and deep! We were told that at its deepest water level, it’s close to 70 metres.

I can completely understand why the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier is the perfect environment for scuba or free diving, and why it’s on most cave divers’ bucket list.

The water is crystal clear and calm, and when the sun is shining into the sinkhole, it creates magical light effects down below. We were shown some epic images from people’s dives, you can view Kilsby Sinkhole photos on their website and Instagram.

The best time of year to visit

Even though water conditions stay relatively the same all year around, a cool 15 degrees Celsius, I would say the best time to visit the Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier, is in summer. It’s when the most sunlight shines through the sinkhole and into the cavern, creating those stunning light effects.

Another video of the sinkhole while on the floating pontoon

Animals & Plants at Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

There is an abundant amount of plant life that line the cavern walls, it’s probably more spectacular to see underneath the water. We were told that there is a cute resident turtle living in the sinkhole named Turtie, although we didn’t see him during our tour.

Turtie was introduced a couple of years ago as he needed a new home. You might be lucky enough to spot him in person but if not, you can always check out his Facebook page!

Sinkhole Gin

At the Kilsby Sinkhole HQ, where they sell merchandise and other goodies, my eagle eyes spotted their Sinkhole Gin label. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their range of gins, distilled using the same pure limestone-filtered water that flows into their sinkhole and crafted with botanicals sourced locally.

They have two gins available:

  • Contemporary Australian Gin
  • Limoncello Gin.

We took sample bottles home; they came with these two plastic glasses which we’ve kept because they are perfect for caravan life. We needed some like them so it worked out really well!

The two gins tasted very nice; smooth with lovely flavours. My favourite was the limoncello!

Sinkhole Gin from Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier
Sinkhole Gin from Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

And that’s a wrap!

I hope you’ve had a great time exploring the stunning Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier through this read, and it has sparked your interest in planning a visit soon.

Have you been before? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments or pop in any questions you might have; I’d love to hear from you. Safe travels and happy exploring! Thanks for joining me, hope to see you again!

Sheryl

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Kilsby Sinkhole in Mount Gambier

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