Explore the Enchanting Luminance of New Zealand’s Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Glow Worm Caves in New Zealand

Your trip to New Zealand can never be complete without visiting the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. This place offers a unique experience because it has a world-only insect. Every seasoned traveler has Waitomo Glowworm Caves on their wish list, and we don’t see why this should pass you.

Why You Should Visit Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo Glowworm
Photo: Lapis Ruber

There are other limestone caves worldwide, but none is like Waitomo Caves. Waitomo Caves is known for its tiny living light from insects living in the cave. Waitomo Caves is home to many animals, including albino cave ants and giant crickets. But the main interest is the species of glow worms. 

The Arachnocampa Luminosa grows to an adult around the size of a mosquito and is found exclusively in New Zealand. They are the main highlights of the Waitomo Glowworm Cave tour.

Local and international visitors enjoy staring at the thousands of glow worms as they illuminate the dark cave walls and ceilings like stars in the sky. The scene formed above you as you glide silently through the darkness of the Glowworm Grotto by a boat will give you the illusion of an astronaut in a spaceship.

NZ Waitomo Glowworm
Photo: ccheviron

Visitors often recall their experiences, explaining how they had nothing like it. You can also visit Waitomo Glowworm Cave to marvel at Mother Nature’s light display as you glide through the starry wonderland of Waitomo Glowworm Grotto.

Boating along the meandering, underground Waitomo River is another unique experience only people visiting Waitomo caves get. When you visit Glowworm Grotto, you can glide silently along the river and meander underground, following its path. All the while, you will be staring at the tiny glowworms above your head.

The serene ambiance created by glowworm natural lights makes Waitomo Glowworm Cave a world-renowned tourist destination. We are sure you don’t want to miss that. So, prepare yourself for a unique experience you are yet to have.

Cultural and Natural History of Waitomo Glowworm Cave

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

Waitomo Glowworm Caves’ rich cultural and natural history dates back to 1887. An English Surveyor, Fred Mace, and a local Maori Chief, Tane Tinorau, initially explored the cave. They managed to access the cave system through a tiny underground opening.

The duo only had candlelight to navigate through the darkness that filled the cave. That made it possible to discover the star-like glowworm lights scattered across the cave formation on the ceilings.

Unknown to them, those glow worms hung peacefully above their heads. The two were happy with their discovery and returned to the cave many more times before an even more stunning breakthrough.

Tinorau discovered a land entrance into the glow worm cave during one of his solo visits. It became the only entryway onto the underground caves still used today. Waitomo Cave opened up to the rest of the world when a railway line was extended to Otorohanga in 1987.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

Tourists started visiting the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in 1889. Tinorau and his wife became the tour guides and were thrilled to show visitors these magical glowworms. Even most of the leading tour guides in Waitomo Glowworm Cave are descendants of this power couple.

Much has happened since Fred Mace and Tinorau discovered the Waitomo cave. The government wanted to control the cave and develop more facilities on-site to cater to overseas visitors. The government took over its administration in 1906, and the first Waitomo Caves Hotel was built in 1910.

Fortunately, the land was returned to the local māori people, who are now the majority of tour guides. They also share revenues generated by the cave.

Waitomo Glowworm Protection

NZ Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo glowworms are one of a kind in the world. That necessitated the need to protect them, and scientists are doing their best to conserve them.

The Waitomo Caves are monitored by the Scientific Advisory Group, which uses automated equipment to track air conditions in the cave. In particular, they observe carbon dioxide levels, temperatures, and humidity. The data on how the cave should be managed for prosperity is carefully analyzed.

The group regulates the number of visitors in the cave at any given time to avoid the buildup of carbon dioxide.

Visiting Waitomo Glowworm Cave

Visiting Waitomo Glowworm Cave is worth your time and resources. The guided tour is usually divided into three different levels. It all begins at the top level, consisting of the cave and Catacombs.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

The first level opens to a second level through a 16-meter vertical limestone shaft. This is the Banquet Chamber, where the earliest visitors stopped for refreshments. You will quickly confirm that story by the dark soot on the ceiling. Alternatively, your tour guide should explain it to you.

The third level consists of a Cathedral, demonstration platform, and jetty. Cathedral is a famous performance ground. Many singers and choirs come to this area because of its good acoustics, thanks to its 18-meter-high ceiling.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

You will conclude your tour with a boat ride through Glowworm Grotto. That is when you will meander underground along the Waitomo River and marvel at the glowworm lights we mentioned earlier. You can call it the climax of your tour of Glowworm Cave.

See Related: Lake Wanaka’s Puzzling World

What Should I Know Before Visiting Glowworm Caves?

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

First, you will need a ticket for any of the caves. You can buy a family pass ticket for the caves you intend to see or a package for all the caves. If you ask us, we would recommend the bundle package. It is cheaper and allows you to explore all of Waitomo Caves, which is worth it.

You can visit the caves at any month of the year. All the caves are open every day of the week except Aranui Cave, which is closed on Christmas Day. Tours depart every half an hour. So, you will not have to wait for long before fulfilling your curiosity about visiting New Zealand’s hot tourist destination spot.

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Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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