The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a world renowned New Zealand tourist attraction. Delighting international visitors and locals alike, the "Waitomo Caves" are home to the Arachnocampa Luminosa Glowworms, which are unique to New Zealand.
Thousands of the tiny glowworms each give off a small amount of luminescent light. Combined they enable to roof and walls of the caves to glow in the dark. Young or old, this natural phenomena is a true marvel.
Local Maori were the first to offer guided tours through the caves, as early as 1887. Management of the tours since then has switched between government and the local tribe. The site now boasts a large complex with local visitor centre, Discovery Centre for kids, and Museum with local artifacts.
Now, the mention of caves might conjure up a feeling of a dark and dingy place with spiders and all sorts. While there may be the odd insect, the caves are kept in tip top condition while still protecting the nature within. Even the air quality is monitored for the glowworms. If the conditions would affect them, the caves are closed for that day.
The other key drawcard to 'the Caves' are the intricate limestone formations. Over millions of years, water trickling down through the cave has left mineral deposits. These have built up by as little as 1cm per 100 years, to form the now massive stalactites (from the ceiling) and stalagmites from the floor). You can even see fully formed columns which is a rare sight.
The caves are well kept and you do not need to get down on your hands and knees or anything dirty. There are handrails and paths but you do need solid shoes (no stilettos!) and a warm jacket is advised. The cathedral part of the caves is a massive hollow space which incidentally has played host to Opera singers who have used the acoustics to put on very unique shows in the past.
The main cave tour involves a 250 metre journey down three levels of the caves. Starting down a long narrow shaft you'll experience a little of the cave experience, without needing the full body kit like some of the more 'messy' caves around the place.
Continuing down on foot, you arrive at the spectacular underground cathedral. The highlight of the tour is the silent, gentle, underground boat ride beneath the glowworms. A magic experience, and one for the bucket list. Allow 45 minutes for the full glow worm tour including boat ride.
The award winning Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre and the Waitomo Museum must also be part of your visit. Learn all about the history of the area, caving in general, and of course how the glowworms live and flourish in this environment. You can also see some much older wildlife in the form of local fossils discovered in the area.
Definitely worth a day trip, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are situated one hour South of Hamilton City.