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Codes and Ethics of Caving


  1. Introduction
    1. Recognising their primary aim of protecting the caves and karst of Australasia, cavers will actively promote cave conservation and sound management proctices through example, eductaion, advice and training.
    2. This code establishes a minimum standard of caving practice.
    3. Higher standards may be required by management authorities for particular caves or karst regions, in which case those standards will be adhered to.
  2. Toward Landowners and Management Authorities
    1. Landowners, tourist guides and any person representing a management authority will be treated with courtesy and respect.
    2. All caving parties must have specific or tacit approval from the landowner and/or management authority before entering any property or reserve, must follow only agreed routes and must not visit forbidden areas.
    3. The prevailing procedures regarding gates on properties and reserves must be followed, and care taken to cause no damage to stock, crops, equipment or landscape features. In short, leave as found.
    4. All parties will be as self-sufficient as possible and will not presume on the good will of landowners aand/or management authorities for water, supplies or assistance.
    5. Where the cave entrance has been blocked by the landowner and/or management authority, it will be re-blocked after use, or, with the landowner's and/or management authority's permission, more appropriate protection installed unless the landowner and/or management authority otherwise instructs.
    6. No gate will be installed at or in a cave unless approved by the landowner and/or management authority and arrangements are made for key security. Any gate must have an accomanying sign giving reasons for gating and access conditions u nless the landowner and/or management authority otherwise instructs.
    7. No cave excavation, including the use of explosives, will be undertaken without the permission of the landowner and/or management authority and the society committee, and only after an asessment of the environmental effect.
  3. Toward Caves
    1. Camping will not occur in a cave, unless absolutely necessary to achieve a specific speleological or conservation objective.
    2. Caving activity must be conducted in a manner responsible to the cave environment, taking particular care to avoid damage to any speleothems, sediments, biota and other natural phenomena. The maximum size of any party should be limited to that which provides the best quality of experience or achieves specific aims.
    3. Cave entrances and passages should not be excavated/enlarged (including the use of explosives), water levels in sumps should not be modified and stream flows should not be diverted, until all possible effects are assessed and the appropriate permission gained. Any modification must be the minimum required.
    4. Established marked routes must be used, single tracks should be followed and care taken to avoid needless deposition of mud. Mud-throwing or modelling is unacceptable.
    5. All human introduced wastes must be removed from the cave and disposed of properly.
    6. Cavers will not smoke in any cave.
    7. Caves must not be disfigured by unnecessary marking (including 'direction arrows'. Entrance tags and survey marks should be small and inconspicuous.
    8. Disturbance should not be caused to any biotic community. No disturbance should be caused to maternity or over-wintering roosts of bats. Collection of specimens will be kept to the minimum required for study purposes only.
    9. The technique, agent and justification for air or water flow-tracing experiments should be chosen to minimise environmental impact and must be approved by the relevant authorities and the society committee.
    10. Explosives should not be used inside a cave or at the cave entrance unless absolutely necessary, and the only with the permission of the landowner and/or management authority and the society committee, and only after an asessment of the environmental impact.
  4. General
    1. Recognised cades for minimum impact camping will be observed with particular emphasis on complete removal of rubbish and, wherever possible, avoidance of camping on karst catchment areas.
    2. Reports on speleological work and caving activities are to be honest and accurate, avoiding sensationalism or exaggeration.
    3. Any published work must acknowledge other people's contributions to the work, either as clubs or individuals, published work or personal communication.
    4. Consideration should be given before publishing an article disclosing a cave's location, as to its intended audience, the wishes of the landowner and/or management authority, and the subsequent effect on the cave.
    5. When visiting an area frequented by another society, the club or party will co-operate fully with that society.
    6. Disputes will be conducted in a restrained and responsible manner




The need for a Minimal Impact Caving Code (MICC) has evolved over many years as cavers have realised the impact that they have on caves. That impact is so diverse and varied that it has become necessary to devise a caving code that ensures that cavers are aware of the measures that are necessary to reduce their impact on caves.

To those of you who have just become Australian Speleological Federation (Inc) (ASF) members it is important that you understand that a MICC IS necessary because cavers are one of the major sources of damage to caves. Read the MICC carefully and apply it to all of your caving – it will not completely stop cavers damaging caves but it will certainly reduce their impact on the cave environment. This MICC was devised by cavers FOR CAVES – please assist the Caves of Australia by using these simple MIC techniques. This MICC should be used in conjunction with the ASF Code of Ethics.


This code is divided into two sections. One relating to the exploration of a newly discovered cave or section of cave and the other relating to general cave visitation.

The following practices may fall into both sections and may be modified depending on the type of cave being visited. It should be stated that we are discussing here a code which will ensure that cavers have a minimal impact on the cave they are visiting. In many instances the practices may not apply as the impact that cavers have, may be minuscule, compared to the impact of flooding of the entire cave, for example. These practices are generally intended to apply in caves where cavers are likely to have a detrimental impact on the cave purely by entering the cave.

In-cave marking refers to the use of a variety of materials to define tracks, routes and barricades in a cave. These measures should be taken to protect sensitive areas, confine caver foot damage, make cavers aware that a sensitive (it may be an unobvious cave animals' territory) area exists.


General Cave Visitation

  1. Remember EVERY caving trip has an impact. Is this trip into this cave necessary? If it is just for recreation, is there another cave that is less vulnerable to damage that can be visited? Make this assessment depending on the purpose of your visit, the size and experience of the proposed party, and IF THE TRIP IS LIKELY to damage the cave.
  2. Where possible the party leader should have visited the cave previously and hence should be aware of sensitive features of the cave, the best anchor points, and generally reduce the need for unnecessary exploration.
  3. Cave slowly. You will see and enjoy more, and there will be less chance of damage to the cave and to yourself. This especially applies when you are tired and exiting a cave.
  4. If there are beginners on a trip, make sure that they are close to an experienced caver, so that the experienced caver can help them when required, e.g. in difficult sections. Ensure that the party caves at the pace of the slowest caver.
  5. Keep your party size small – 4 is a good party size.
  6. Cave as a team – help each other through the cave. Don't split up unless impact is reduced by doing so.
  7. Constantly watch your head placement AND that of your party members. Let them know before they are likely to do any damage.
  8. Keep caving packs as small as possible or don't use them in sensitive caves or extensions.
  9. Ensure that party members don't wander about the cave unnecessarily.
  10. Stay on all marked or obvious paths. If no paths are marked or none is obvious – define ONE!
  11. Learn to recognise cave deposits or features that may be damaged by walking or crawling on them. Examples are:- Drip Holes, Stream Sediments, Paleo soils, Soil Cones, Crusts, Flowstone, Cave Pearls, Asphodilites, Bone material, Potential Archaeological sites, Cave Fauna, Coffee & Cream, Tree Roots.
  12. Take care in the placement of hands and feet throughout a cave.
  13. Wash your caving overalls and boots regularly so that the spread of bacteria and fungi are minimised.
  14. If a site is obviously being degraded examine the site carefully to determine if an alternative route is possible. Any alternative route MUST not cause the same or greater degradation than the currently used route. If an alternative is available suggest the alternative route to the appropriate management authority and report the degradation.
  15. Carry in-cave marking materials while caving and restore any missing markers. Tape off sensitive areas you believe are being damaged and report the damage to the appropriate management authority.
  16. If it is necessary to walk on flowstone in a cave remove any muddied boots and or clothing before proceeding OR DON'T PROCEED! Sometimes it is better to assess the situation and return at a later date with the appropriate equipment.
  17. Treat the cave biota with respect, watch out for them, and avoid damaging them and their "traps", webs, etc. Also avoid directly lighting cave biota if possible.
  18. If bone material is found on existing or proposed tracks it should be moved off the track to a safer location if at all possible. Collection should only be undertaken with appropriate permission.
  19. If you eat food in a cave ensure that small food fragments are not dropped as this may impact the cave biota. One way is to carry a plastic bag to eat over and catch the food fragments. This can then be folded up and removed from the cave.
  20. Ensure that all foreign matter is removed from caves. This includes human waste. If long trips are to be made into a cave ensure that containers for the removal of liquid and solid waste are included on the trip inventory.
  21. When rigging caves with artificial anchors, e.g. traces, tapes, rope etc, ensure that minimal damage occurs to the anchor site by protecting the site. For example protect frequently used anchors, e.g. trees, with carpet, packs, cloth, etc. Bolts should only be used where natural anchors are inappropriate.

New Cave or Extension Explorations

  1. The existing microbiology of the new cave, both fungi, bacteria, and a world of protozoa, will almost certainly be irreversibly contaminated on the first trip into the cave! If you consider cave microbiology has not been investigated in the area of this new cave, if cave microbiologists are available, then please consider including them on initial explorations so that they may collect uncontaminated samples.
  2. Do not enter the new area if you do not have the equipment required to undertake the minimal activities. Surveying equipment and in-cave markers.
  3. The minimal activity should be in-cave marking and surveying. Not purely exploration.
  4. Ensure that all alternative routes are examined, by completing the cave survey, prior to crossing sensitive areas. It may not be necessary to enter some areas as they can be by-passed.
  5. Having determined that a sensitive area is to be crossed it should ALWAYS be marked. Reduce future damage by defining a distinct, minimal width track.
  6. Discuss in-cave marking within the party and ensure that all ideas are evaluated before marking is undertaken.
  7. Copyright Notice. The contents of this file are ©Copyright to the Australian Speleological Federation Incorporated. Without limiting the rights under copyright legislation, no part of the contents may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior permission of the copyright owner. In the first instance enquiries should be directed to the ASF General Secretary.
The copyright owner will normally grant a licence without charge to reproduce the Minimal Impact Caving Code, provided that the copyright holder is acknowledged. All requests should be directed to the Secretary.

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