Self-Guided Show Caves

Self-Guided Show Caves, Erdmann Cave with a new non-guide concept

Part 1: Why choose a self-guided cave tour?

caves now offer self-guided tours

In recent years, the landscape of show cave tours has undergone significant changes.

Many caves now offer self-guided tours, a trend driven by several factors:

• COVID-19 restrictions: Social distancing mandates made group tours impossible, prompting creative solutions;

• Radon protection regulations: In some caves, guides' experience limited exposure due to air quality concerns;

• Staffing challenges: Finding enough guides, especially during peak seasons, can be difficult.

These reasons alone demonstrate the potential of self-guided tours as a viable option for many show caves.

Part 2: Possibilities and Implementation – Erdmann Cave in Hasel

Self-guided adventure tours in show caves

In 2022, Cave Lighting was tasked with developing a system for unguided exploration at the Erdmann Cave in Hasel, Germany. Two years prior, we had successfully completed the cave's initial illumination project. This new venture represented a pilot project, allowing us to test and implement innovative technical solutions and automated processes in a real-world setting.

We developed and described the idea back in 2021.

(The description of Cave 4.0 "Self-guided adventure tours in show caves and show mines" can be found in the brochure, download here).

The task was clear:

A. First phase of the project - hardware and programming of the system

• The existing PLC control system is to be supplemented by the "self-guided adventure tour" function;

• Traffic lights are to be installed at three narrow places in the show cave;

• The show cave should be divided into at least 5 areas, in which the lighting is switched on by motion detectors;

• A video camera with a counting function is to be installed at the entrance to the show cave, as it is important for the show cave staff to know whether all visitors have left the cave;

• Seven cameras are to be installed in the show cave so that visitors' movements can be monitored;

• To enable immediate assistance in emergencies, three intercom stations is to be installed within the cave, facilitating direct communication with the surface

Station 2 Erdmann Cave

B. Second phase of the project - audio guide and beacons on site

• A script of the tour is to be written;

• The script will then be used to create content for the audio guide; including a welcome page and explanations for 5 stations in the show cave

• The audio guide will also be translated into English and French;

• Audio recordings of the audio guide in three languages + development;

• Testing of the software and app, as well as publication on the Internet;

• Installation of electronic markers (beacons) in the show cave and testing of the complete lighting and guiding system;

• Activation of the self-guided show cave

The tasks were clearly defined and the realisation of the project in the Erdmann cave was completed in two successive phases.

audio guide and beacons on site

Section A. In spring 2022, after a 6-month development phase, the Cave Lighting team with Alejandro Hernaiz, Dan Ciulpan and Vladimir Vashkevich came to Hasel to complete and programm the system in the show cave accordingly. The construction phase lasted around 3 weeks. By the end of March, the show cave was ready to go into self-guided operation.

programm the system in the show cave

Section B. The second phase of the project was commissioned in November 2022. Together with the partner company Hearonymus GmbH from Vienna, also with the participation of the municipality of Hasel, Cave Lighting created the audio content for the audio guide and also developed the specifications for the electronic markers. Hearonymus, under the direction of Mr. Peter Grundmann, adapted the content to the Hearonymus APP, translated it and recorded the audios. The app was ready in summer 2023. In autumn 2023, the electronic markers were then installed in the show cave in Hasel and the entire system was put into operation.

Hearonymus, platform for audio guiding
Hearonymus, platform for audio guiding

Part 3: Advantages and disadvantages.

The solution installed in the Erdmann cave has some advantages, but also various disadvantages.

If you don't have the option of guided tours led by trained guides in the show cave, then the self-guided show cave option is the saviour for any show cave.

If there are so many visitors that guided tours are practically impossible, then the self-guided tour in the show cave is an option that can save the day.

If you want to offer a low-cost tour of the show cave, self-guided tours are a suitable alternative for visitors on a budget.

Erdmann cave Station 4

However, if you want to offer a high-quality guided tour of the show cave, then a proper guided tour is much better.

If you want to protect the cave from vandalism, guided tours are the better choice.

If you want to earn more money with guided tours, then well-organised and professionally guided tours are the right way to achieve your goal.

Erdmann cave Station 5

Part 4: Key data

The following devices were installed in order to realise the unguided application in the Erdmann cave:

1. Traffic light system: Green - Red
6 CL-ESQ-01.6 DMX RGBW fixters

2. Video surveillance system
8 Dachua IP cameras and corresponding components

3. Microwave motion detector
9 pieces CL-BMR-02

4. Intercom system
3 pieces Fanvil POE intercoms + 1 piece Fanvil IP telephone

5. Electronic tokens for audio guide.
12 BLE beacons

The total budget for the project, including sections A and B, was around €58,000.00.

The entire self-guided show cave in Hasel will be open to visitors in the 2024 show cave season and we are very excited about the initial feedback.

We would like to thank the municipality of Hasel for their trust and our partner company Hearonymus GmbH for their excellent cooperation.

Cave lighting team

More articles from 2024