Cruise Under a Galaxy of Glowworms in Waitomo

After the black water rafting adventures of yesterday in the Waitomo caves, we’re thinking of taking it down a notch for today’s Waitomo activity – something less wet, because sometimes you just want to see some glowworms. That’s it. So we’re going to be going a relatively short but iconic tour into the no-nonsense-named “Waitomo Glowworm Caves”.

Robin is on it again today when the Juno Hall goat needs feeding again. (This is such a precious sight, every time). As we’re sat in the common area, keeping warm and doing our work, we get a good view of farm animals from all directions: deer, pigs, sheep and goat. We’ve also had a black kitten try to hitch a ride with us in our Jucy van a few times.

We prepare some lunch in the most organised hostel kitchen we’ve seen so far and do some laundry. (Laundry is free at Juno Hall). The before we know it, it’s time to get on this glowworm cave tour. Although you don’t need bookings, as tours run pretty regularly, it’s a good idea to make a booking if you are doing one of the combo packages, such as the Black Water Rafting or Ruakuri Cave, so you can save a bit of dollar.

The beauty of no photography

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves is perhaps a 5-minute drive down the road from Juno Hall, the same place where we departed on the Ruakuri Cave tour the other day. The entrance is a huge modern structure, just after the Waitomo village. We quickly show our tickets at the ticket counter then are whisked away to the cave entrance where 35 other people are waiting for the next tour. (We know that because Robin was listening to the tour guide counting).

Our tour guide then introduces herself and gives a quick rundown of the glowworm cave house rules: no touching the limestone formations and no photography! (How did we get our photos, you ask? Well, we know a guy who knows a guy who allowed us to go get some after hour’s photos). But that no photography thing is well worth mentioning, especially in this day and age where we feel obligated to take photos of everything we do! Not only does the photography thing enhance the view of the glowworms, but it just allows us to relax and enjoy the tour. Especially as it is our jobs to take photos and videos of every crap we take (Ok, not literally), we are actually relieved to go on a tour and enjoy it for what it is. Ahhhhhh *sigh of relief*. (If you are Instagram crazy though, try the Ruakuri Cave tour that we did the other day).

Feeding the baby goat at Juno Hall! Feeding the baby goat at Juno Hall!
The most beautiful cathedral we've ever seen! The most beautiful cathedral we've ever seen!
Loving the limestone Loving the limestone

Singing in Cathedral Cave

The cave entrance opens electronically, (a theme with the Waitomo Caves, they are very advanced), and we follow the tour guide down a paved path instantly surrounded by a milky white walls and ceiling. Stacks and stacks of limestone rise up with a few stalactites hanging on the sides.

Each section we enter, the lights turn on in a dramatic reveal of the next room. The most dramatic of all is the Cathedral Cave. This a huge cave with ancient limestone formations hanging in tube-like formations on the cave wall, a bit like a cathedral organ, some might say. The acoustics in here are meant to be just delightful. The tour guide asks if anyone would like to sing. Laura looks hopingly at Robin who is renowned for his awful voice, but he is still scarred from singing a solo in a school play to an audience who just literally sat in silence at the end with shock and horror on their face. The opportunity is missed when a lady sees it as her time to shine and starts singing Let it Go from Frozen. Oh Gawd, here we go…

Have a look around Cathedral Cave yourself!

A galaxy of glowworms

Moving on swiftly, at the end of Cathedral Cave, we get a closer look at what the glowworms look like in the light. You can see their sticky bead-like strings, like jewellery, hanging from a low ceiling. Now, we are going to see what they look like in the dark in their thousands!

One by one, we get into a boat holding about 20 people. The tour guide begs everyone to be quiet as to not ruin the experience but getting so many people, many of which are non-native English speakers, proves to be a painful task for the tour guide. But, once that boat starts moving from the tour guide standing on the front and pulling the boat in the right direction on ropes hanging across the cavern, everyone’s conversations die as their attention is on the galaxy of glowworms shining above our heads. This is amazing! To see such a dense population of glowworms… We are literally sat there at the front of the boat with our mouths hanging open. We could be catching the flies like the glowworms right here! We’ve seen a fair few glowworm displays during our time in New Zealand, all of which are impressive, but this display is the largest one we have seen.

As the boat leaves the glowworms behind, daylight is spotted at the end of the tunnel. We dock up in a half forested, half constructed area and pile off the boat. On the way to the exit is a cafe, then toilets (to which Robin follows Laura into the ladies’ bathroom because he is not paying attention), then the gift store…

Seizing the moment in this underworld

AAANNNNDDDD, we get to do it all over again tonight with Logan, our guide from yesterday at Black Water Rafting, so we can get some photos for you guys! (We know most of you just look at the photos of these blog posts, instead of reading our ramblings. We don’t blame you!)

How does it feel to be in a cave after hours? For Robin, he is seizing the opportunity and loving every second of it. Although Laura too is seizing the opportunity, she is actually a little creeped out by the echoing cave sounds. It’s such an unusual world down here – it’s easy to let your imagination run wild…

Taking photos of glowworms on a high ceiling is freakin’ hard, we congratulate all those professional photographers who have captured these caves so well to do it justice. It takes us well into the night, so all there is to do when we finish, is collapse into our campervan bed.

Laura and Robin

Just two backpackers under a galaxy of glowworms
Just two backpackers under a galaxy of glowworms Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Who wouldn’t? Check out these Waitomo-tastic articles to help plan your own visit to the magical glowworm kingdom:

Don’t forget to follow our New Zealand travel tips on Facebook, and check out our Waitomo recommendations on HerePin, our new app-session!

See you tomorrow for more Waitomo wonders!

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