Waitomo Glowworm Caves

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10,000 luminescent worms perform a spectacular light show in New Zealand

An absolute top post on the “must see” list on New Zealand’s North is the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Waitomo is a Maori word and can be divided into “wai” = water and “tomo” = hole or entrance. Some of the caves were discovered back in 1887 by a Maori and an Englishman who in the next few years explored the caves with candles as a sole light source. They built a boat and sailed into the dark, where to their surprise they discovered thousands of glowworms, luminescent worms. Anxious to show the outside world this place, they opened a few years later for visitors. When you arrive you are greeted by the “Waitomo Visitor Center”, which was rebuilt in 2005 after a violent fire. This impressive architecture has received several awards for its special architecture as a magnificent proof of how architecture can integrate with the surrounding nature. It’s all built in wood and with a very special cover that reminds a bit of a sail where the light can penetrate. June and winter in New Zealand.

Waitomo-Glowworm-Caves

The visit takes place in June – ie winter in New Zealand with sun and approx. 15 degrees – there is no waiting time. You start your visit to Waitomo Glowworm Caves with a real tourist photo with a green background. The guide, a small short and close Maori lady, gives the introductory information in real Maori-English, so it has to be listened to carefully. Along with the remaining visitors, you are now guided through the caves, where you pass the most amazing dripstones. The only light is some weak lights on the floor and the stairs as well as some around the dripstones. The dripstones and all the formations formed over a thousand years are an indescribable sight. After a while, you are asked to go into the dark. Now you can only hear the Maori guide’s voice telling you how dark it was when the caves were explored – very dark!

In the chapel of Rod Stewart – dripstones cave

Suddenly, the light is turned on and an amazing sight opens. We are now in the so-called “Chapel”, where there is high ceilings, and dripstone formations now take the form of a kind of organ pipes, hence the name. There is unique acoustics in the room, and therefore music events are held at Christmas time. As bonus info, our guide tells us that Rod Stewart himself has once sung there. She also says that a drip from one of the stones means luck. Nice information when you have gradually felt more than one water dripping. Then the journey continues through the dark until you are asked to stop and look to the left. In an opening in the rocks, you can observe to the right some luminous dots in a large lake far down. If you turn both body and head, one can now see individual glowworms on the rock wall itself – another impressive sight.

waitomo-glowworms-filaments

Now it is soon time for the highlight: the boat trip. We grope our way down to the boat in the less than dim light. Still, the boat slides through the darkest cave towards the famous Waitomo glowworm caves. Well aboard the boat silently slides in and out into the darkest darkness. And quietly but surely we glide towards today’s big finale. For indeed, you are now greeted by tens of thousands of Glowworms, a totally amazing sight! They are everywhere – on the rocky sides and above us, like a starry sky. No one says anything, and the only sound in the cave is the gentle sound of the boat moving water aside. The guide uses some cords in the ceiling to control the boat. The trip takes about 10-15 min. and you simply take in impressions. Suddenly, there is a weak light ahead and the guide says that images are now allowed. Unfortunately, one should not film inside the cave itself, as flashlights will “turn off” the glowing Glow Worms. The ride to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is over. You are helped off the boat and you are left with the amazing sight of The Glowworms on the retina. One can almost imagine how it must be to float around in space with all the flashing stars in the complete darkness. But fortunately, you don’t need a ride in space to see tens of thousands of sparkling fireballs in the dark – it can be tackled with a twist to New Zealand and Waitomo Glowworm Caves.

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