Imagine a campsite where there is no wind or dust, no rain, no noise and where the temperature stays a constant 22-24º all the time, summer and winter, day and night. Could such an idyllic place exist? Well, believe it or not, it does and, surprisingly, it’s in Coober Pedy, SA.
Welcome to Riba’s Underground Camping.
Riba’s offers the unusual novelty of underground campsites where you can pitch your tent or put down your swag in your very own underground alcove. It’s all climate controlled so you can be guaranteed a dry and cool night’s sleep, regardless of the weather gods upstairs. For those who prefer a bed, there are also rooms offering the same dry, cool attributes. And for those happy to camp out under the stars or in their own van, there are above-ground options too.
Rick and Barbara Noone – their first two initials give the name Riba – had this great vision back in 1994 and the first stage of their underground tent camping opened in 1997. Extensions to the park since then have included the addition of underground rooms that cater for single, double or family accommodation.
Nowadays, the above-ground caravan park boasts shady, covered powered caravan sites, an underground TV room with free wi-fi, unpowered caravan and camping sites, an enclosed barbecue area, plus a coin-in-the-slot laundry.
THINGS TO DO
With its unique moonscape environment, Coober Pedy is one of those places that you need to visit yourself as, without seeing it first-hand, it is hard to imagine such a vast area littered with all the signs of previous and current mining activity.
Renowned for its underground lifestyle, the surrounding hills are honeycombed with homes that are complete with modern comforts and wonderfully cool when it’s almost unbearably hot outside in summer. There are also a number of underground churches serving different ethnic communities and an underground hotel, complete with modern facilities and with little actually showing at street level.
Riba’s is about 4km south from the main town but this makes for an extremely peaceful atmosphere and there is little to detract from the starry skies at night unless, of course, you opt to sleep underground!
With plenty to see and do in and around Coober Pedy, Riba’s adds a unique experience to the mix and the friendly welcome from Rick and Barbara makes you feel right at home.
RIBA’S UNDERGROUND CAMPING
Starting out like most hopeful miners in Coober Pedy, with high expectations of finding the opal that would mean living in luxury for life, Rick spent many hard years mining for the elusive gemstone. Unfortunately, the hard work resulted in little luck.
However, he has turned his extensive experience into a business by conducting fascinating tours of the onsite opal mine in the evenings. His tours keep young and old entranced as he describes the way opal was formed millions of years ago and how primitive mining methods have given way to modern equipment like tunnelling machines. These advancements have eased the labour involved in the mining process but increased costs tremendously.
Rick and Barbara offer a free night of unpowered camping or 50 per cent off a powered site to people who book for the mine tour.
Coober Pedy is located around 545km north-west of Port Augusta in outback SA. Riba’s Underground Camping is located 4km south of the town of Coober Pedy.
- Coober Pedy is known for its opal mining and Riba’s offers onsite opal mine tours in the evenings at $24 for adults and $15 for kids under 12.
- Explore above ground with a bus tour of the area, including the famous dog fence – built to keep dingos out of the south-east and stretching for thousands of kilometres. The commentary by the experienced local drivers enriches your knowledge of the area.
Riba’s Underground Camping: www.camp-underground.com.au
Riba’s offers the first night of camping free when you book a mine tour. Discounts are also available for powered sites and budget rooms.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #539 July 2015.