The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a popular attraction on New Zealand’s North Island, home to a particular species of glowworm, the Arachnocampa luminosa, found exclusively in New Zealand. The legend of Waitomo began over 30 million years ago, with the creation of limestone at the bottom of the ocean. Now, these formations form a part of New Zealand’s most inspiring natural wonders.
Geological activity has created 30 known limestone caves in the Waitomo region, but none compare to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The limestone is composed of fossilised corals, seashells and fish skeletons. The guided tour takes visitors through three levels, starting with catacombs at the top, Banquet Chamber in the middle, and the Cathedral at the bottom.
After exploring the levels on foot, visitors climb into boats to make their way to the Glowworm Grotto on the underground Waitomo river, where the glowworms illuminate the ceiling of the caves, like the stars illuminate the night sky. Expert guides are on hand to provide valuable information on the geological and historical significance of the caves, sharing over 125 years of cultural and natural history.
The story of the Waitomo caves goes back to 1887, when a local Maori Chief, Tane Tinorau and Fred Mace, an English surveyor, explored the caves. Chief Tane opened the caves to the public in 1889, organising tours for a small fee. In 1906, administration of the cave was taken over by the government because of an escalation in vandalism. However, the land and cave were returned to the descendants of Chief Tane Tinorau in 1989, who now receive a percentage of the cave’s revenue and are involved in its management and development.
The Waitomo region is only 2 hours south of Auckland, making it a popular and necessary attraction to anyone who finds themselves in the city or the surrounding region.