Skip to Content

Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand

Waitomo Glowworm 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.

Waitomo Glowworm
Photo: Lapis Ruber

Real Reason Why You Should Visit Waitomo Glowworm Caves

There are other limestone caves in the world, 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.

Visitors, local and international, 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 an illusion of an astronaut in a spaceship.

NZ Waitomo Glowworm
Photo: ccheviron

Visitors often recall their experiences, explaining how they had nothing like it in their lives. 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 that only people who visit 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 glow worm 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 Caves’ rich cultural and natural history dates back to 1887. The cave was originally explored by an English Surveyor Fred Mace and a local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau. They managed to access the cave system through a tiny opening that descends underground.

The duo only had candlelight to navigate through the darkness that filled the cave. That made it possible to discover the star-like glow-worm lights scattered across the cave formation on the ceilings. Unknown to them, those were glow worms that hang peacefully above their heads. The two were happy with their discovery and returned to the cave many more times before even a more stunning breakthrough.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

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. And 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 discover the Waitomo cave. The government wanted to control the cave and develop more facilities on-site to cater to overseas visitors. Its administration was taken over by the government 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

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 is carefully analyzed to deduce how the cave should be managed for prosperity.

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 worthy of 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 up to a second level through a 16-meter vertical limestone shaft. This is the Banquet Chamber, where the earliest visitors stopped for refreshment. 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.

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 glow-worm lights we mentioned earlier. You can call it the climax of your tour of Glowworm Cave.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

What Should I Know Before Visiting Glowworm Caves?

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 Waitomo Caves, which is worth it.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

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.

Related Resource:

Lock In Your Travel Now
Looking for Extra Travel Perks?
My favorite travel companion is The Platinum Card® from American Express, which gives me lounge access, Uber credits, upgrades, and plenty of other travel perks. If you want to find out the best travel rewards credit card for you, consider using CardMatch to instantly get matched to a travel rewards credit card that meets your travel needs.
Booking Flights

Use Skyscanner to book the cheapest flight possible. Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine as you can find flights around the globe and from every airline possible. You'll be in great shape to get the best price possible.

You must grab a free trial or join Scott's Cheap Flights Premium to get cheap flight alerts directly to your email inbox. My favorite cheap flight alert was 25,000 Delta SkyMiles to London non-stop.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It's a low cost way to ensure your travel plans go smooth no matter what's thrown at it. Use World Nomads to find the best policy for your travel schedule.
Book Your Accommodation
In order to capture the widest selection of properties and the best price, use Booking.com as they have the cheapest rates for guesthouses, hotels, luxury condos, B&Bs and so much more.
Want More Destination Ideas Direct to Your Inbox?
Be sure to join the ViaTravelers Newsletter for expert tips, tricks and inspiration for your next travel journey!