The glowworm studded Waitomo caves are a world-renowned destination within New Zealand.
Famous for their abundance of glow worms, extensive underground river system and stunning stalactite and stalagmites formations, a trip to the Waitomo caves is a trip to another world. Keep reading to find out why you should discover the Waitomo caves.
The History of Waitomo Glowworm Cave
The caves were first explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau accompanied by an English surveyor Fred Mace.
Local Maori people knew of the caves existence, but the subterranean caverns had never been extensively explored until Fred and Tane went to investigate. They built a raft of flax stems and with candles as their only lighting, floated into the cave where the stream goes underground.
As they entered the caves, their first discovery was the Glowworm Grotto with its myriad of tiny bright lights dotting the cave ceiling. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they saw a multitude of lights reflecting off the water. Looking up, they discovered that the ceilings were dotted with the lights of thousands of glowworms. Debris and logs littered the waterway, but by poling themselves toward the embankment they were able to leave the raft and explore the lower levels of the cave. Here they found themselves surrounded by the glorious cave decorations.
By 1889 Tane Tinorau had opened the cave to tourists. Visitor numbers soared and Chief Tane and his wife Huti escorted groups through the cave for a small fee. In 1906 the administration of the cave was taken over by the government. In 1989, almost 100 years later, the land and the cave were returned to the descendants of the original owners. Many staff employed at the caves today are direct descendants of Chief Tane Tinorau and his wife Huti.
Three caves to choose from
Whilst in the Waitomo region you can explore three caves by foot; the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave. Each cave is uniquely magical and comes with its own history and culture.
The Glowworm Caves are the most famous of the Waitomo caves, having been a tourist attraction for over 130 years. Wonder through the cave and marvel at its tallest chamber, the Cathedral, before embarking on a boat ride through the glow worm grotto. On the boat ride you’ll sit in silence (glow worms don’t like noise) and be able to take in the magical creatures lighting up the cave above.
Ruakuri Cave is the largest cave in the Waitomo area and was discovered between 400 and 500 years ago. Enter this wheelchair accessible cave through a spectacular man-made spiral entrance, which opens up onto an extensive system of limestone formations and crystal tapestries. Learn about the rock formations and see glow worms up close and personal.
And finally we have Aranui Cave. Although Aranui isn’t home to any glow worms, due to the absence of any water, it is home to some of the most spectacular pale brown, pink and white stalactites and stalagmites the Waitomo region has to offer. Everywhere you look in Aranui is adorned with fragile, sparkling formations, which create an enchanted and intimate experience
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