Since September 1987 The Crystal Caves attraction in the Tablelands’ town of Atherton has immersed visitors into its thrilling and fascinating underworld of minerology and semi-precious gems.
From the time it opened, The Crystal Caves impressed visitors with its lifelike attraction of manmade caves built by René Boissevain to house his illustrious and slightly idiosyncratic collection of the earth’s treasure.
The former mink farmer, tobacco grader and ‘croc’ shooter put all his entrepreneurial energy into creating the network of caves, tunnels, chambers and crawl spaces.
The Crystal Caves has evolved over the years and now houses more than 600 pieces in 300sq metres of limestone cave lookalike.
Now 80, René developed The Crystal Caves from a shopfront into one of the region’s most significant tourist attractions, visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year.
Mr Boissevain said he is proud of what they have achieved and says The Crystal Caves sparkle is just as bright, if not brighter than it ever was.
Mr Boissevain’s daughter Ghislaine Gallo agreed the milestone is very satisfying, given the hard work and creativity all her family had put into getting the caves up and running, and then expanding to meet demand.
Ghislaine, who accompanied her dad on many expeditions with her sister, is now sales and marketing director for the caves.
Her father created a museum that combined the hard science of mineralogy with a fairy tale adventure land.
Venturing in with a headlamp, visitors explore an underground landscape that mimic the exhibits usual location.
“It is as natural a setting as possible for these priceless specimens from all over the globe.
“And it’s a museum where touching exhibits and taking photos is encouraged. Dad wants to share his enthusiasm for the stones and gems with the world,” Ms Gallo said.
Part of the museum’s 30-year story is Rene’s Indiana Jones-esque hunt for the biggest and brightest gemstones, crystals, minerals and fossils which has taken him round the world. He has pursued fossilised eggs in Madagascar, selenite crystals from the Caves of Swords in Mexico, an ancient Lapis Lazuli carving in China and a 3.5-metre-tall amethyst in Uruguay.
René began his museum career with rocks from Agate Creek in NQ which he took to his home country of Holland and built a collection he opened to the public. He returned to the Atherton Tablelands in 1977 and began dreaming of building a museum here.
In 1987 The Crystal Caves opened, and was successful in creating an air of mystery and exploration that kept visitors riveted.
And René’s passion for the earth and its beauty and secrets is being passed on to younger generations.
As one visitor noted on TripAdvisor:
“My children have now chosen what career they want…. and now insist we pull over to dig at every dry creek bed on our travels to find fossils and crystals. We were all absolutely enchanted by the man made, very clever tunnel system and extensive collection of gems and fossils that were accompanied by brilliant information.”
René Boissevain’s life work is probably summed up in that review.