About Us

  • The Andamooka Observatory is a family owned, independent, off-grid bookshop with tours and special events
  • Andamooka Observatory tours provide the time and space to relax, learn about opal mining, local history, observe the night skies, and soak up the elements

Leila Day:  tour guide, opal miner, artist and member of the Andamooka Post Office and Andamooka Opal Showroom Underground Opal & Mineral Museum crew

  • Leila is creating new ways of presenting raw opal with resins and polymer clay
  • Leila is an Andamooka based artist with experience in using many mixed medias, acrylics, photography, graphic design and opal cutting
  • Leila represented the Andamooka Opal Field Region, on the Regional Development Australia Far North’s ‘Rising Stars’ Program
  • Leila is a board member of the region’s peak tourism body: Flinders Ranges and Outback South Australia Tourism Committee (FROSAT)
  • Leila is a member of the Tourism Industry Council South Australia (TiCSA), the Space Industry Association of Australia, the Astronomical Society of South Australia (ASSA), The South Australian Museum, Mars Society Australia (MSA) and the Andamooka Lapidary Association
  • Leila has lived in the Andamooka, Roxby Downs, and Olympic Dam region for 14 years
  • Leila’s ‘Blacklight Eromanga Sea Exhibition’ is on display from 5th May – 18th June 2021 at the Roxby Downs Art Gallery
  • 2021 Space & SciFi , 2019 Eromanga Sea with ‘Death by Carrot’, 2019 Down the Rabbit Hole Experience’ collaborations with with ‘Death by Carrot’ and local artists

‘I love opal mining. I love being able to be my own boss, have time and space to connect with people, nature and nurture my creative side.
I teach people about opal, how it is formed, how to mine and what to look for by creating artwork, jewellery pieces, organising events and tour guiding within the Opal Fields.
Inspired by female pioneer, opal miner, adventurer, and author Minnie Berrington, I decided to immerse myself. Quickly I discovered how much freedom this lifestyle provides, mining in the cool of the morning, you get to see the best of the outback sunrises, listen to the birdsong as the day arises, do your morning workout, some pick swinging, shoveling and rock cracking then hopefully be rewarded with ‘a bit of colour’ and I’m not talking about a suntan. Twice I have come across fossilised shells leading me to take up interests in learning about Australia’s prehistoric inland sea, paleontology, geology, and earth sciences. The opportunities that arise from becoming involved in the opal mining industry are endless and a great way to become an entrepreneur’ – Leila Day

Conan Fahey: tour guide and opal miner

  • Born in Katherine NT, grew up in Streaky Bay, Maitland and Kangaroo Island and worked in remote areas when in the military, mining and consulting industry
  • Enjoys sharing and explaining how the Andamooka Opal Fields ecosystem works, how wonderful opal and rare opalised fossils are and our amazing night skies visitors
  • run the Andamooka Observatory, an independent, off-grid bookshop with astronomy and customised opal mining tours
  • Visited family in Andamooka from the early 1970s.
  • Lived in Andamooka in the late 1980s , mid 1990’s and currently since 2017
  • Board member of the region’s peak tourism body: Flinders Ranges and Outback South Australia Tourism Committee (FROSAT)
  • Conan is a member of the Tourism Industry Council South Australia (TiCSA), the Space Industry Association of Australia, the Astronomical Society of South Australia (ASSA), The South Australian Museum, Mars Society Australia (MSA) and the Andamooka Lapidary Association
  • Since 2018, on Tuesday mornings @ 9.20 am on ABC North and West SA ‘Breakfast’, the Woomera Baker Observatory’s Rebecca Tayler and the Andamooka Observatory’s Conan Fahey talks what is new in space news, stargazing, science, and astronomy on the ABC Listen App, Andamooka 105.9 FM, Coober Pedy 106.1 FM, Leigh Creek 1602AM, Maree 105.7 FM, Port Pirie 639 AM, Roxby Downs 102.7 FM
  • Conan was presented the Council for International Trade and Commerce South Australia (CITCSA) 2010 Outstanding Long-Term Contribution award
  • Conan has provided consulting services to Tourism Australia, the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC), Tourism Northern Territory (TNT), Brand SA, the South Australian Tourism Council (SATIC), the Adelaide City Council (ACC) and Business SA
  • Bachelor of International Studies
    Flinders University
    Majors: International Relations & Asian Studies
    Bachelor of Arts
    Flinders University
    Majors: Politics & Globalisation

“I love living a nocturnal marsupial lifestyle, doing opal mining tours and opal mining in the day and at the Bookshop reading, stargazing, and studying the
skies at night. In these tough times I feel truly fortunate to have this work/lifestyle in such a strong and supportive community and that means an incredible amount to
me. The desert, the timeless space, and the stars, I love the strong community culture, the rich long history of the people and the land, meteor showers, wildflowers, the elements, the Milky Way, and silence. These things brought me here and keep me coming back. Opal mining has been in my blood since the early 70s when our family took regular trips to visit my Auntie and Uncle who were teaching and opal mining in Andamooka. On these holiday visits, my uncle and father sometimes discovered varying size parcels of opal, sometimes not. In November 1983, mining by my uncle and father was interrupted when the plant that they contracted was required to do more work on uncovering a  plesiosaur. My father absolutely loved the days assisting the group uncover sections of the opalized fossil. I have had first hand experience of these discoveries and from this and interest and fascination with opal.’- Conan Fahey

  • The Andamooka Observatory was recently recognised by the London based international aerospace company Ultra Group for their STEM based projects and community initiatives
  • The Andamooka Observatory and Woomera Baker Observatory regularly host astronomy, palaeontology and science related events and activities
  • Every Friday the Woomera Baker Observatory host a Public Outreach Astronomy session
  • The Andamooka Observatory and German Gully mine features in several short films and documentaries (2019 ‘The Sand That Ate The Sea,’ writer & director Matthew Thorne, 2019 ‘Rear View Mirror’ writer & director Jonathan May, 2017 ‘Opal Dreamers’ by Lonely Oak Films & Imaging) and the AO mine 4×4 makes a solid appearance in the Tim Minchin TV series ‘Upright’.
  • The Andamooka Observatory and German Gully mine has featured in several newspapers and magazines articles ( Fritz Magazine, The Advertiser, InDaily,oneOutback) and have recently been used as locations for fashion, calendar, and films shoots (Tanya Anic Bridal & Event Wear‘s “The Stars” collection)
  • Music videos: 2020 ‘Kingdom Go’ by Blue Brown, 2019 ‘Spare’ by Luke Howard, 2019 ‘Salt Flats’ by Luke Howard, Lior, Shards, 2019 ‘Light Ascending’ by Luke Howard, Shards, 2019 ‘Futura Coda’ by Luke Howard, Lior, Shards, 2015 ‘Hiding to Nothing’ by Bad//Dreems
  • Every Tuesday night the Andamooka Observatory host astronomy, palaeontology, and science related events
  • Regularly collaborate with the Woomera Baker Observatory on arts, music and astronomy projects (National Science Week projects, host the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, Hayabusa2 Capsule Recovery Team over 2 nights at the Woomera Baker Observatory)
  • Collaborations with Public Outreach Astronomer and astrophotographer Padraic Coen of PK Imaging Public Astronomy and Dr Muhammad Akbar Hussain of the the Southern Cross Outreach Observatory Project and Mareekh Design
  • Astrophotography and video collaborations with Akela Films, Lonely Oak Films & Imaging and Adrian Scoop Photography
  • Students and staff from the Design Construct Program (The School of Art, Architecture and Design University of South Australia) conducted a site visit and workshops on 14th – 16th November 2018 .The Design Construct Program is UniSA’s nation-leading, hands-on construction program offering project based learning experience to students of the School of Art, Architecture and Design. Running since 1993, it is one of the largest student construction programs in the world and has produced a number of remarkable buildings, many of which have won awards.

‘Much of the world’s population today, now live-in large metropolises, or large towns, that are heavily light polluted. In fact, there are many people that have never seen the Milky Way because of this light pollution. The potential for astronomy tourism in a location like Andamooka and Woomera is enormous. The desire to reconnect with the celestial ballet of stars above has driven many people down to Australia to see our skies, especially from places like Japan, China, Europe, and the United States. Andamooka is a place to see astronomical beauty; a place of fascinating geology; palaeontological wonders, majestic wildlife; in addition to the cultural and spiritual heritage of Aboriginal Australians that dates to some 50,000 years ago.’- Paul ‘Starman’ Curnow, Adelaide Planetarium and University of South Australia lecturer and Astronomical Society of South Australia vice president and honorary life member

About Andamooka

  • Andamooka is the most accessible opal field in Australia, famous for opalised fossils including South Australia’s only known dinosaur ‘Kakuru Kujani’. More and more people are coming to try their luck at opal mining
  • The town boasts an underground opal showroom & mineral museum, lapidary club, underground opal mining tours, dark night skies perfect for stargazing, miners sized meals at the Dine-A-Mite Cafe and relaxed accommodation options
  • In 2021, Andamooka was a Tourism Industry Council South Australia – SA Top Tourism Town Finalist. Andamooka was nominated for the SA Top Tourism Town by the Roxby Downs Visitors Information Centre
  • Andamooka is well known for opalized fossils, opal, metal mining, but also for fossicking, fossils, gems, gold, stargazing, astronomy, wildlife, wildflowers, birding, and a road less travelled to a last frontier
  • The Andamooka Opal Fields is the most accessible in the world (a short drive from Olympic Dam Airport and a quick flight from Adelaide)
  • The Andamooka Opal Fields starts at the junction of the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs and the road to Woomera, Roxby Downs, and Andamooka
  • Andamooka is a located 600 km from Adelaide and 285 km from Port Augusta
  • 110 kilometres north east from Woomera on the road to Roxby Downs and almost on the western shore of Lake Torrens
  • Andamooka is famous for Opalised Fossils
  • Australian marine reptile fossils are common although currently poorly documented
  • 110 million years ago the Andamooka Opal Fields was once a part of the vast Eromanga Sea inhabited with a wide variety of marine life shells,  Ichthyosaurs, Plesiosaurs (five distinct plesiosaur taxa have been recorded)  Rhomaleosaurs, Elasmosaurs,   belemnites (ancient Cephalopods), fish,
  • The Lower Cretaceous rocks of South Australia have yielded a diverse marine reptile assemblage of up to five families of plesiosaur (including a new cryptoclidid or cimoliasaurid, indeterminate elasmosaurids, a possible polycotylid, rhomaleosaurids, and pliosaurid) and one family of ichthyosaur (ophthalmosaurid). Other common associated vertebrates include chimaerids and osteichthyans
  • The Lower Cretaceous (Aptian-Albian) southern high latitude deposits of Australia have yielded a diverse range of marine reptile fossils. Most of the current marine reptile specimens are derived from the predominantly Aptian Bulldog Shale and Wallumbilla FormationThese units, famous for producing opal, represent shallow epicontinental marine depositional environments
  • Lower Aptian-Lower Albian Bulldog Shale (Eromaga Basin), northern South Australia
  • South Australia’s only known dinosaur Kakuru kujani was dug up in Andamooka
  • The centrepiece of the South Australian Museum Opalised Fossil Gallery is the priceless opalised skeleton of a six-metre long Addyman Plesiosaur found in an opal mine in Andamooka in 1968. It is the finest known opalised skeleton on Earth.
  • Australia is the only place in the world where you find opalised fossils… the bones of a small carnivorous dinosaur species Kakuru kujani have been replaced by precious opal.
  • Kakuru is a genus of theropod dinosaur that lived 110 million years ago during the early Cretaceous Period
  • Karkaroo the juvenile Andamooka Plesiosaur came to reside in the Andamooka Opal Underground Museum in August 2018 and put on public display. The colourful opalised bones of this plesiosaur was found in the false level (8.5 meters) at Tea Tree in October 2016
  • One of origins of the word ‘Andamooka’ is  the local Aboriginal (Kuyani) term for a large waterhole which was pointed out to the explorer John McDougall Stuart  in 1858. Also claims the Kuyani word is ‘Arndoo-moku’ which means a loaded or powerful bone
  • Andamooka is the Gateway to Lake Torrens National Park and another to the Outback via the Borefield Road / Oodnadatta Track to William Creek, Marree, and Oodnadatta
  • Lake Torrens National Park plays a significant role in Adnyamathanha, Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Arabana, Barngarla, Kokatha and Kuyani beliefs and songlines
  • Lake Torrens measures as the second largest lake in Australia
  • Lake Torrens is a usually dry salt patch spanning over 200 kms in length and 30 kms wide
  • 40,000 years of storyline and culture connected to the land and Lake Torrens
  • Lake Torrens to the Kuyani is ‘Ngarndamukia’, which means ‘shower of rain
  • In 1930, opal was discovered in “floaters” after an outback thunderstorm at what is known as One-Tree Hill by boundary riders Sam Brooks and Roy Shepherd
  • Andamooka is referenced in popular culture Futurama Series (S06E20“All the Presidents’ Heads” episode of the sixth season) and in the Max Brooks novel, World War Z
  • The Last of the Knucklemen (1979) was filmed in Andamooka. “A group of opal miners live in a tin shed near the outback town of Andamooka in South Australia. The foreman, Tarzan (Gerard Kennedy), is known as ‘the last of the knucklemen’ for his ability as a bare-knuckle fighter. Tarzan’s rival is Pansy (Mike Preston), a hothead scheming to provoke Tarzan into a contest with town brawler Carl (Steve Rackman). Caught in the middle of Pansy’s plan are Tassie (Stewart Faichney), Horse (Dennis Miller), Mad Dog (Steve Bisley), veteran miner Methuselah (Michael Duffield) and new arrivals Monk (Michael Caton) and Tom (Peter Hehir). When Pansy brings Carl to challenge Tarzan, Tom reveals himself as a karate champion and takes on Carl.”
  • The Last of Knuckle men’ remake rumours
  •  Learn the story of Alice Minnie Florence Davies-Berrington (1897-2001) was the first Andamooka Postmistress and the first female opal miner in the Coober Pedy and Andamooka Opal Fields. In 1958 Minnie wrote a book about her life called ‘Stones of Fire: A Woman’s Experience in Search of Opal’
  • Tarzan is a long term resident in Andamooka. Originally from Croatia, Tarzan has been in the opal industry since 1964 and dug one of the deepest holes (75 feet) in the Andamooka Opal Field (Hallion Hill). Tarzan is an accomplished photographer, he works in acrylic paint, as well as drawing mediums such as pastel, graphite and charcoal. He began painting in 1970, and sold his first piece within the same year.
  • Until recently Andamooka was the only Australian city where none of the streets were  named
  • Andamooka’s local mini grid  is supplied with electricity by a 1650 Kw diesel power station
  • The town has population of 316 people
  • A total of 220 bird species and 45 different reptiles in the region
  • Andamooka is 76 m above sea level
  • Increased global interest in opals and astronomy created by the Discovery show series ‘Outback Opal Hunters’ and the ABC’s Stargazing Live. Andamooka has had a significant spike in tourists due to interest created by the Discovery show series ‘Outback Opal Hunters’. The Outback Opal Hunters has sparked a local opal rush from the BHP mining towns Olympic Dam and Roxby Downs. More and more people are coming to try their luck opal mining and working with locals to explore new ground.
  • Andamooka is becoming a hotspot for locations for film, fashion, design, jewellery making and music video which have reached national and international audiences brining more and more film and photography enthusiasts to town
  • Cal the Stoner’ is a sculptor and artisan stonemason who explores changes in natural stone, through placement in different environments. Cal is creating a life sized tiger that when complete will have opal eyes and claws
  • Best CWA Shop in Australia (according to ABC’s Peter Goers OAM in the ‘Boo-Teek’ OP Shop, run by the Country Women’s Association
  • Andamooka is the largest town administered by the Outback Communities Authority. The community is represented locally by the Andamooka Progress and Opal Miners Association (APOMA)

About Opal

“Opal is one of the world’s most fascinating gemstones, its brilliant play of colours- changing and flashing as the stone is turned- sets it apart from all others. No two opals are ever the same: each has an individual pattern, and there is no end to the variety available. A single opal can display a range of colours encompassing the entire visible spectrum” – Dept. of Mines and Energy, South Australia’s Opal (state print, 1990, p.1)

  • Opal is Australia’s National Gemstone
  • In Aboriginal dreamtime stories, the Opal was created when the colours of the rainbow touched the earth
  • Opal is a form of silica, chemically like quartz, but containing water within the mineral structure
  • South Australia’s opal fields supply an estimated 80% of total world opal production with Andamooka contributing a large share to this multimillion-dollar export trade
  • Andamooka produced some of the most beautiful specimens of opal ever seen by man
  • Andamooka Crystal Opal is a luxury brand.
  • Andamooka crystal is the finest quality opal in the world
  • Andamooka Crystal opal is the most valuable type of opal and the most stable of the Australian opals in that it does not fade, craze, or crack
  • One of the world’s best and most famous opal was mined in Andamooka, the ‘Queen’s Opal’ was presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1954. This opal, once cut, weighed in at 203 carats. It was set in an 18-carat palladium necklace
  • Andamooka Opal Matrix is unique to the Andamooka Opal Fields
  • The Andamooka Opal Field includes 24 separate fields that covers an area of about 52 sqm on the Arcoona plateau in open cuts, shafts, large bore holes and tunnels
  • Opal is mined from 4m to 25 m down on the ancient seabed
  • Andamooka is famous for producing crystal seam opal
  • Opal mining in Andamooka is deemed to be ethical since an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) has been signed by the Kokatha People, relevant government authorities and all 163 opal miners who are working on the Andamooka Opal Fields
  • Opal mining at Andamooka is like other opal fields mining was done by hand, shovel, and hand winch
  • UV blacklight noodling for opal at night visit when there is no moon
  • Most popular machine is the excavator, used after bulldozing overburden
  • Some shaft mining and decline mining with bobcats and noodling machines
  • All precious opal in South Australia occurs in rocks affected by weathering during part of the Tertiary period, some 15 to 30 million years ago. The weathering process broke down minerals of the country rock to produce the clay mineral kaolinite and soluble silica. It also created cavities in the rock by dissolving out soluble minerals and fossil shells. These cavities, together with faults and fractures, provided pathways for underground water containing the soluble silica released by weathering. After the period of weathering, changes in climate caused lowering of the underground water table which carried the silica-rich solutions downwards to form the opal deposits
  • Opal is a form of silica, chemically similar to quartz, but containing water within the mineral structure. Precious opal consists of small silica spheres, of uniform size and arranged in a regular pattern. The colour in precious opal is caused by the regular array of silica spheres diffracting white light and breaking it up into the colours of the spectrum. The play of colour in opal depends on the angle of incidence of the light and can change or disappear when the gem is rotated. The size and spacing of the spheres also controls the colour range of opal. In opals showing red flashes, the spheres are larger than those showing violet or green flashes. In potch opal and common opal the silica spheres may be absent or too small or irregularly arranged to produce colour.
  • Opal at Andamooka occurs in the shallow marine Bulldog Shale, part of the Marree Subgroup of Early Cretaceous age, which overlies Algebuckina Sandstone or laps directly onto pre-Mesozoic rocks. The top sub-unit of Bulldog Shale, called kopi by the miners, consists of highly weathered white sandy clay with scattered, large erratic boulders. At the base of the kopi there is an extensive sandy boulder bed, called the concrete or conglomerate band, which contains numerous pebbles, cobbles and boulders of pre-Mesozoic rocks, chiefly Arcoona Quartzite. Beneath the conglomerate band is a pale brown, grey or yellow claystone with a low sand content referred to as the mud. Opal at Andamooka occurs predominantly at one horizon, referred to by miners as the level, at the contact of the conglomerate band and the mud. Other sub-levels (squibby levels) occur above the main level but none are as prominent, continuous or productive.
  • The main opal varieties produced are crystal opal (transparent to translucent), white opal, and some black opal. Painted ladies are boulders, generally of quartzite, which split along a fracture to reveal a coating of opal. Matrix opal is cloudy stone with flashes of colour, which is thought to form by replacement of limestone boulders in the conglomerate band. Opalised sandstone or opalstone forms by deposition of opal in the spaces between the quartz grains in sandstone boulders. Both matrix and opal sandstone can be treated by soaking in sugar solution and boiling in sulphuric acid to darken the body colour and enhance the play of colour