Delve With Us into One of New Zealand’s Most Epic Caves

Glowworms! We are going to be spending a LOT of time with these bright and shiny maggots over the next few days, checking out as many of the attractions, both free and paid, as we can! Day and night! There is so much to do here: limestone cave tours, boat tours in glowworm caves, abseiling, caving, black water rafting, tubing, jumping, climbing, bushwalks, waterfall walks, beach strolls… It can be totally overwhelming when trying to choose which activity suits your backpackery self. Keep with us over our next few blog posts (and for the rest of the year too!) and we’ll show you what’s going on in Waitomo! To be honest, we’re pretty pumped!

First on the agenda is the Ruakuri Cave, so we need to drive back to Waitomo where we will be staying at Juno Hall Backpackers from Otorohanga, leaving the Kiwiana craziness of yesterday behind. The drive is only 15 minutes, but we stop at a fruit merchant along the way to pick up some bargains on the healthy stuff. You’ll see fruit merchants very often on the roadside in New Zealand.

Fruit purchased, we prepare ourselves at Juno Halls Backpackers for the day ahead, taking the Ruakuri Cave tour in the afternoon.

Descending into Ruakuri Cave

We drive to the Waitomo Glowworm Cave entrance and ticket office where we are being picked up for the Ruakuri Cave tour. The ticket office is in a grand modern building – something we’ll probably not see in too many of New Zealand’s cave and forest environments. The bus to the cave is a super short journey and we have a bit of a chat with a young English couple at the back of the bus (because we are the coolest). There are 15 of us in our group.

The natural formations don’t start straight out the gate (or straight in the hole) of the Ruakuri Cave tour, but there is a layered concrete cave entrance made to mimic the limestone features. Our guide, Paul, gives us a rundown of the tour, some information on how this cave entrance came to be, and tells local Maori legends surrounding the cave.

Descending into the cave down a huge spiral walkway into the depths of Waitomo, our tour group marvel at the water dripping right through the middle of the room all the way to the barely visible floor below. This is made all the more impressive with orange lights lining the walkway.

Is this the way out?

Look, but don’t touch!

Through the electric cave door entrance, we are now in the natural limestone wonder of the Ruakuri Cave. This first tunnel has many stalactites hanging from the ceiling so close to our heads. The cave is lit up beautifully, so there is no way you cannot get a good photo! (We love it when nature does all the hard work for you).

Something Paul stressed earlier was how important it is no not touch the limestone, as the chemicals from our hands can react with the rock and make it look not so pretty anymore. For this reason, where there are stalactites hanging extremely close to the walkway, the formations are protected with motion sensors, which beep if anyone strays away from the path.

Hellooooo down there!!! Hellooooo down there!!!
Amazing stalactite formations! Amazing stalactite formations!
Checking out the glowing maggots! Checking out the glowing maggots!
Glowworms still looking pretty without the glow Glowworms still looking pretty without the glow

Fossils to bright shiny maggots

Everyone knows stalagmites and stalactites are formed in limestone caves, but there are clear examples of more amazing rock formations. Large shellfish fossils remain in the walls, coral displays from a world long forgotten, underground rivers (where the black water rafters play), and the glowworms! The pinpricks of blue light glow from the ceiling like fairy lights on the Christmas tree. Paul shines a light along the side of a wall of glowworms so we get a closer look at what produces these lights. Black maggots (because they are actually maggots, not worms) stick to the wall and shine the light from their ass to attract insects to the sticky lines they hang from the wall or ceiling. Even in the light, you get a whole new perspective of the glowworms, which looks so fragile and unique. This tour is really about getting a close up inspection of the glowworms indigenous to New Zealand and Australia and learning about their life cycle. There are pockets of glowworm displays throughout the cave tour.

Being chased by ghosts

We’re kneeling through tunnels, trying to not touch any limestone, walking from one large cave to the next. The sounds of the water dripping and echoing off the walls is a little eerie though, which Laura foolishly expresses to Robin. So, in a moment when Laura is getting slightly left behind in the group because she is taking too many photos, Robin runs back towards her gasping: “Run, run! What the f*ck… What the f*ck. Run!” Grabbing her shoulders and dragging her towards the exit. Laura’s imagination is running wild. Is there a flash flood? Cave collapse? The ghosts of Maori tribes coming to kill us all?! The fear is real. She is sh*tting herself.

Robin, the evil son of a b*tch, turns around laughing: “You should have seen your eyes!”

Laura is not impressed. In fact, she is shaken up and wants to throw Robin into the river below!

Laura spends the rest of the tour on edge. With an ending that comes with walking back up the spiral staircase. That water feature dripping from the ceiling is our mark to cleanse ourselves before leaving the cave, to mimic the Maori belief.

Daylight burns our eyes as we emerge and pile into the van for the transport back to the ticket office.

Feeding the animals at Juno Hall

As Laura needs to calm the f*ck down before she kills Robin, we head back to Juno Hall Backpackers where there is a kid! Not, a disgusting human kid but a baby goat kid! (There’s also a kitten, dog, pigs and sheep… but, baby goat!) It’s feeding time for the baby goat and guess who feeds it? We do! The cuteness of this kid makes us want to just melt and die happy. It happily wags its tail as it sucks the milk bottle aggressively. What a perfect end to a perfect day!

Laura and Robin

Check out the 360 view of Ruakuri Cave
Check out the 360 view of Ruakuri Cave Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

New Zealand is the best country in the world to see these awesome glowworms (and feed baby goats). Check out these articles for more glowworm gatherings:

We went nuts taking photos in the Ruakuri Cave, so get some more visuals on our Instagram. Check out HerePin for our recommendations in the Waitomo area. (There will be heaps!)

See you tomorrow, where we’ll be checking out the boat tour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.

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