Light Up Your Vacation With The Waitomo Caves

August 29, 2013

A natural wonder of New Zealand, the intricate maze that are Waitomo Caves is home to thousands of glow worms and web of limestone. The mass of millions of fragile spikes in Waitomo's Aranui Cave in New Zealand's King Country is the unique result of ancient earthquakes. The cave was formed on a fault line, enabling rain water that created the limestone crystals to get into the cave easily. 

The result is a grotto bejeweled in pale brown, white and pink sparkles, like nature's own chandelier. The glowworm caves were first searched in 1887 by Maori Chief Tane Tinorau and English surveyor Fred Mace. While the locals were aware of the nearby subterranean caves, they had not delved into them. 

After building rafts out of flax and armed with the light of candles, the pair drifted into the cave where they discovered the glowworm crammed grotto. Their bright little bodies lit up the cave, like tiny stars filling the underground sky. Following the discovery of the glowworms and the glittery caves that were their home, the pair returned many times and upon discovering better access to the caves, they were opened up to the public in 1889.

Today the caves are visited by thousands of tourists each year and have been named one of the top things to do in the country.
The caves lay about 12km north of Te Kuiti and can be explored by foot, abseiled or traveled by water. There are several tourism companies in the area who offer adventure activities inside the caves including black water rafting, cave abseiling, and eco-tours. 

What makes the caves extra special is fact they are full of glow worms, a tiny insect that despite its size challenges manages to illuminate the cave system. Abseiling inside the caves is an especially popular past time of visitors as it provides a unique look at the cave's interior and gets visitors up close and personal with what is commonly referred to as the 'Lost World'.

Visitors can also check out the limestone formations created over millions of years and admire the Glowworm Grotto by boat, as the little creatures light up the water. The guided tour ends with the cave's 'Cathedral', which is known for its amazing acoustics.

The nearby Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre, set in the centre of Waitomo Village, will let you in on everything you need to know about the caves, their glowing dwellers and the surrounding area, before exploring them yourself. The small museum includes a multi-media glowworm show, displays on limestone landscape and caves, information about the local history and culture, as well as fossils and moa remains.

Filed under Places to Visit

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