Hamilton & Waikato New Zealand North Island Waitomo

Waitomo & The Glow Worm Caves

One fine long weekend we went to Waitomo to check out the glow worm caves. It’s been on our to-do list for ages but we always thought it was more of a day trip than a weekend away. So on our way to Auckland (via a very roundabout way), we booked in with Spellbound tours and off we went. I’d initially only glanced at the tours on offer and thought we could do one that ran every half an hour for $45 each, but luckily the day before I double checked and the reviews for Spellbound said they only did small tours with a max of 12 people, for $75 over 3 hours. The other one was 50 people max for a total of 45 minutes. It was a no brainer.

We checked in at the Waitomo Caves General Store in the morning and had a coffee while we waited for the tour group to get together.
Waitomo 01 Coffee

There was only 10 of us on the tour which was nice. Our tour guide Norm drove the 20 minutes to the cave in a van so we could see a bit of the countryside as well. Waitomo actually means water holes – “Wai” = water; “Tomo” = hole; in Maori. Hence the Waitomo area is dotted with caves. Some of them join up and become one long cave.
Waitomo 01 Sheep

When we arrived at the cave location, which was privately owned by the Spellbound tour company, a few of us in the van opted to get dropped off at the top of the hill and walk our way down to the cave.
Waitomo 02 Nina step down

Waitomo 03 Nina walk

Looking cool AF in our helmets:
Waitomo 04 helmets

Then we entered the glow worm cave where we found out that they are actually not worms…. they are the maggots of a particular fly! It was a really cool experience, the caves were super damp and at first Norm shone his lights onto the glow worms so we could see them better, they were threaded all over the ceilings as we walked through the caves.

Waitomo 05 worm strands

Waitomo 06 worm strands

Waitomo 07 worm strands

Then our helmet lights got turned off so that we could get used to the dark and see the glow worms better. It was hard to take photos of in the pitch black but the blue glow dotted all over the ceilings were ethereal!

Waitomo 08 glow worms

Waitomo 09 glow worms

Then Norm took us for a silent raft ride through the cave full of glow worms on the ceiling. They almost looked fake, like they were LEDs someone had wired up and we were on a Disney ride. It was just the glow worms in the dark and the deafening roar of a cave waterfall nearby.

Waitomo 10 glow worms

After a quick break where we had tea and biscuits camping style, we went into a second cave which didn’t have many glow worms but it was cool to see what the caves around the area were like.

Waitomo 22 cave walkway

Waitomo 13 Cave 2

Waitomo 12 cave walk

Waitomo 16 cave side

Waitomo 25 walkway

Waitomo 11 pool

Waitomo 23 cracked ground

There were bones of a goat:
Waitomo 21 moa bones
And even Moa (long extinct big NZ native bird) bones:
Waitomo 24 goat bones

Looking up to ground level:
Waitomo 17 cave look up

Waitomo 18 cave light shaft

Waitomo 19 light shaft 2

Looking at these gross big creepy crawlies that are a cross between a prawn and a spider.
Waitomo 26 cave end

Waitomo 27 end of cave

Definitely recommend checking out the caves, and some tours offer black water rafting (rafting through the caves) which I think would be super fun too!

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