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Waitomo Caves

Home of mystical blue glowworms and Black Water Rafting

sunny 19 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

On the advice of nearly every New Zealand guidebook I have seen, I still had Waitomo Caves near the top of my "To Do List" despite it being just 10 days since I visited the impressive Lake Cave near Margaret River in Western Australia. What makes them special and different from other caves are their glowworms; which also makes this particular blog entry a bit of challenge as they are almost impossible to photograph!

Waitomo is 125 miles (202 km) south of Auckland and there over 300 caves mapped in the area. I visited the two most popular, starting with a 2 hour tour of Ruakuri Cave, the longest guided cave tour in Australasia. As seems to be the way in New Zealand there was a dispute over ownership of the original entrance and it was also a Maori burial ground so the cave is now accessed via a spectacular new 49 feet (15 metre) spiral staircase that felt like something out an old Doctor Who set.

Me stood at the entrance to Ruakuri Cave

Me stood at the entrance to Ruakuri Cave


The spiral staircase entrance down to Ruakuri Cave

The spiral staircase entrance down to Ruakuri Cave


The rock at the entrance into Ruakuri Cave at the bottom of the spiral staircase

The rock at the entrance into Ruakuri Cave at the bottom of the spiral staircase

Like all show caves Ruakuri has easily damaged cave formations and there is monitoring equipment by the entrance to ensure CO2 brought into the cave by tree roots or the breathing of visitors is kept within manageable levels. The path then meanders around cave formations and through fissures in the limestone deeper and deeper into the cave.

Cave formations and CO2 monitoring equipment inside the entrance to Ruakuri Cave

Cave formations and CO2 monitoring equipment inside the entrance to Ruakuri Cave


Flash photo in the darkness of the walkway ahead

Flash photo in the darkness of the walkway ahead


A wafer shaped stalactite by the walkway in Ruakuri Cave

A wafer shaped stalactite by the walkway in Ruakuri Cave


A delicate rusty coloured stalactite inside Ruakuri Cave

A delicate rusty coloured stalactite inside Ruakuri Cave

So far so good, Ruakuri Cave although extensive has been very similar to any other show cave this far. Then comes the mystical bit when we reach the glowworms and the lights are turned out to see them - photos aren't allowed (even if my camera was up to it!) so I have provided a link. Each glowworm is a the larvae of small mosquito like fly that has attached itself to top of the cave with 3-5 inch (10-20 cm) silk fishing lines dangling beneath it with a blue almost light at the end to attract larvae prey from the underground river flowing below.

The underground river is also where you can go Black Water Rafting and can get up close to the glowworms and this is suppose to be the ultimate cave experience and something I am sure I might have been tempted to have a go at if I had more time in New Zealand.

Watch out below! The darkness of the gorge beneath us where you can go Black Water Rafting

Watch out below! The darkness of the gorge beneath us where you can go Black Water Rafting


A cavern full of stalactites deep inside Ruakuri Cave

A cavern full of stalactites deep inside Ruakuri Cave

We then returned to the Waitomo Caves Visitor Centre and went on the more commercial feeling 45 minute tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Cave itself. Again we passed impressive stalactites and stalagmites as we made our way down to a large cavern known as The Cathedral which has such good natural acoustics that it has been used for concerts Dame Kiri Te Kanaawa and the Vienna Boys Choir amongst others.

However again it was the glowworms who stloe the show except this time we boarded a boat and floated down the underground river in the pitch black admiring the milky way of blue glowworm lights that adorned the cave's ceiling. Eventually we emerged from the cave and exited using a jetty.

Daylight as our boat emerges from Waitomo Cave

Daylight as our boat emerges from Waitomo Cave


View back into the Cave from our exit jetty

View back into the Cave from our exit jetty


Our guide goes back into the Cave to pick up the next group of tourists

Our guide goes back into the Cave to pick up the next group of tourists


A large trout loitering by the cave exit - apparently he'd been there for days!

A large trout loitering by the cave exit - apparently he'd been there for days!

Posted by FrancisRTW 03:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animals caves nz_north_island external_links

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