CityLife Atherton Tablelands
Rock Your World
Words by Stacey Carrick
Wouldn’t you love to crack open a 44 million-year-old geode?
You can do just that at The Crystal Caves in Atherton!
Geode cracking is just one of many fascinating attractions at the caves, according to manager Ghis Gallo.
“The geode cracking is possibly the most successful thing we’ve ever done, other than build the museum itself,” she said.
“You buy a bubble of lava that’s 44 million years old, you choose it and crack it open yourself, then we identify what you’ve got. It’s the ultimate lucky dip.
“It’s a phenomenal concept— you choose a rock and you get to be the first to see what’s inside.
“It’s hugely popular, it’s interactive, it’s educational.”
The caves were proudly built by Rene Boissevain to display his private collection of more than 600 crystals and fossils from all over the world in a fun and interactive way.
Rene is a man with a passion. He has spent a lifetime travelling to every corner of the world to collect natural crystals and prehistoric fossils.
He invites you to share in this passion by taking a self-guided tour of his man-made cave.
Rene’s obsession with rocks started when he found a massive agate nodule at Agate Creek near Forsayth in the early ‘60s.
He well and truly caught the fever and couldn’t wait to share his obsession with the world.
The Crystal Caves started as a rock shop called Fascinating Facets in 1983.
They began as a single grotto in 1987 and now encompass seven chambers called Grand Grotto, Fossil Gallery, Phantom Pocket, The Fairytale, Glasshouse Collection, Amethyst Room and Magic Spheres.
The Caves now attract around 25,000 people each year, with visitors journeying through 300m2 of tunnels and grottos that Rene built to feature his collection.
The self-guided tour allows unlimited time to marvel at the interactive displays which allow you to touch and photograph them.
The business is still owned by Rene and Nelleke Boissevain and has been managed by daughters Cecilia Boissevain and Ghis Gallo since 2014.
“He wants people to touch, he wants people to engage and to go through self-guided in their own time so they can get that sense of exploring and discovering and unearthing things as you would find them in nature,” Ghis said.
“The thing that people like the most about the caves is the fact they can actually touch the crystals, particularly the kids.
“When they come into the museum and they are told they are allowed to touch everything, you just see their faces light up, and a sigh of relief from the parents!
“People are also surprised by the size of the museum— it’s so much bigger than they expected.
“The whole reason Rene built the museum is because he’s like a big kid, he wants everyone to be as excited about rocks as he is.
“He wanted it to be as engaging as possible.
“My favourite customers are the ones we convert from sceptics to raving fans, and that happens a lot.”
Rene’s collection comes from all over the world, including Australia, South America, India and Morocco.
There are more than 600 individual specimens in his collection; most of them are millions of years old and were formed when the Earth was formed.
Rene’s collection is constantly changing and evolving.
“If you haven’t been to the caves for 20 or 30 years it’s worth another look, because it’s changed a lot since then,” Ghis said.
“Without a doubt it’s the best it’s ever been.
“It is a side of natural science that most people don’t know anything about.
“We know what to expect when we go to an aquarium, a botanic garden or a zoo.
“When you go to The Crystal Caves you’re going to see things that you did not know existed and it’s all natural.
“It’s taking a sneak peek at something that is largely unknown.”
Ghis said the business is lucky to have survived when many others sadly could not remain viable.
The Caves survived the pilots’ strike in 1989, the collapse of Ansett in 2001, Cyclone Larry in 2006, the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-2008 and of course COVID-19.
The longevity of the business proves its success and its popularity.
Ghis said it’s important to stay current, listen to what people want, grow with the market, engage with the industry, open seven days a week and of course look after your staff.
Anything else of note? Just 385 million-year-old marine fossils, the jawbone of an Ice Age woolly mammoth, dinosaur eggs from China and an agate that’s had the same water swirling around inside it for 80 million years— definitely worth a visit!
• Crystal Caves is at 69 Main St, Atherton, visit www.crystalcaves.com.au. Locals discount is available.