Waitomo Cave on the North side of New Zealand is a popular attraction for both locals and foreigners, as the glowworms are really a sight to be seen. The glowworm, more officially called Arachnocampa luminosa, is native to New Zealand so it’s the only place to see them. There are thousands of them illuminated within the caves, which can be enjoyed from a tour through the cave by a boat ride. While on the boat you will also get to hear about the caves history in general, so it really quite an experience.
The worms themselves are only about the size of a mosquito, and tours to see their glow in Glowworm Grotto have been going on since the 1800’s. The local Maori people had known about he caves but didn’t do the first in depth exploration until 1887, which they did by candlelight on a raft. They were amazed to find both the glowworms and also the amazing limestone formations that are still seen today. Those limestone formations were created 30 million years ago when they caves were actually underground. They are full of coral, fish skeletons, seashells, and other fossilized remnants of the sea.
By 1889 visitors were being taken through the caves similarly to how they are now, and in 1910 the Waitomo Caves Hotel was build to accommodate all of the visitors. These days the Scientific Advisory Group keeps a close watch on both the protection of the caves and the safety of everyone visiting them. They monitor things like the carbon monoxide levels, rock temperatures, air temperatures, and the humidity, which allows them make decisions about how many people should be allowed into the caves on a day by day basis. One of the largest formations to be seen in fact, is rarely open to the public because the carbon monoxide levels get too high.
If you’re planning on visiting the caves know that it’s a very toursist friendly area. You won’t be getting a real adventurous experience in the caves, but it is heavily guided and won’t be claustrophobic for most people. It’s also a great activity to do with children since it’s relatively safe.
The caves are closest to Auckland, so its a great place to visit if you’re staying in that area. There is of course plenty to do in Aucklans besides visit the caves. There are tons of islands around the coastline that make water activities extremely popular. One such island is Waiheke Island, which is about a 35 minute ferry ride. The weather on the island is warm and full of white sands, and there are wineries on the island which makes it a perfect stop for all age groups.
Rangitoto Island is a volcanic cone that’s only 600 years old, which makes it a unique stop. You can take a ferry over to explore it on foot, or you can rent kayaks for a different sort of adventure. Once on the island you will find plenty of caves to go exploring in.