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Visiting the Waitomo Caves

A little while back I added another tick to my Great New Zealand Bucket List! I finally visited the incredible Waitomo glow worm caves.

It’s funny how we take things for granted in our own back yard, and this little west coast (well, nearly – more like West Waikato) town is one of those places.

I had seen loads of pictures of the caves twinkling with millions of glow worm lights over the years and I have also seen glow worms before (in a case on my cousin’s farm that my aunty called Fairy Grotto), so I didn’t really prioritise these caves.

Shame on me! The Waitomo caves are breathtaking – before you even see the glow worms! They are filled with stalactites and stalagmites and there is a huge cavern where they even hold acoustic music events.

Then when you’ve roamed through all these nooks, you hop into a tin dingy in the inky black river while your guide pulls you along silently via discrete black ropes strung above (that only she can see).

Waitomo glow worms
The pro shot of the little boat under the city of glow worm lights

Fascinating facts about glow worms!

Did you know that the adult glow worm fly has no mouth so it only lives for up to 2 weeks after coming out of its cocoon, mates, lays eggs then gets eaten by its young?!

The egg hatches into a white larvae (about 2 cm long) which has a little light in its tail to attract bugs in the darkness. They make long sticky saliva strings (see my pic below) and all sorts of little gnats and sandflies get stuck in them – as do their mum and dad, and aunts and uncles and everyone else! They then get sucked up like a spaghetti noodle and eaten. Delicious.

Glow worm saliva
The sticky glow worm saliva strings

Photos of glow worms taken by an amateur are frankly amateurish, so I’ve included some professional ones. And, you’re not allowed to take cameras in there anyway as the flash will upset everyone.

However you ARE allowed your camera in the nearby Ruakuri caves, so I have a few of my favourites (just taken on my iPhone, mind) below.

Waitomo caves
The stunning entrance to Waitomo Caves
Waitomo Caves

There are so many glow worms here that even without the daylight from the tunnel you can make out the people sitting next to you on the boat as you quietly float through the caves.

Then off to Ruakuri Caves, about 5 minutes drive down the road to see the stalactites and mites…

This walkway takes you down 18m into the cave
Ruakuri caves
My iPhone photo – which I’m quite chuffed with!
Ruakuri caves
The bacon formation. Truly, that’s what they call it. Or shawl.

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Wednesday 1st of November 2017

Love your blog!!!

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!