Visiting the Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves is a popular attraction located in Waitomo on the North Island of New Zealand. A glowworm is also known as Arachnocampa Luminosa, its a worm species that are only found in New Zealand. Glowworm cave is a part of Waitomo caves, the Ruakuri and Aranaui caves belong to the same cave system. Glowworm caves are a famous tourist attraction, with a modern visitor center. There are many organized tours to visit this phenomenon, the tours also include a boat ride under the glowworms.

Glowworm, an exclusive specie from New Zealand

Only in New Zealand, Waitomo caves you will be able to experience this natural phenomenon of thousands of blue lights shining above your head. Glowworm also called Arachnocampa Luminosa or New Zealand glowworm. It is a species of fungus gnat that originates in New Zealand. Its structure and purpose are in some ways similar to a spider’s net. The fungus gnat egg hatches all over the cave walls and ceiling, the larva creates a long straw of mucus. It may move around the surface to find the best spot to create her silk nest. 

The larva spins a net out of silk strings on the ceiling and then hangs down around 30 threads. Then it frequently places small glue drops all along those threads. The glue is made of 99 parts of water, so to survive glowworm needs humidity. Once the arrival of tourists caused a temperature change and humidity drop in the caves, as a consequence glowworms disappeared and did not return for approximately 50 years, they are back now, so make sure to visit it!

The glowworm illuminates its net of reflective droplets to attract its prey. Its victim mostly consists of mayflies and other small insects, however, it may trap spiders as well. When pray is stuck in the glue, the larva pulls it up and begins to ingest its victim alive. Each string can hold more or less three mayflies before it cracks, which prevents the net from falling down.

Seeing the glowworms in Waitomo Caves

Seeing glowworms in Waitomo caves should be a must-visit place on your list of things to do while in New Zealand. You may have seen thousands of photos on the internet how extraordinary these creatures are, however it is even more impressive to see it live. There are three main Glowworm caves to visit: Waitomo Glowworm caves, Ruakuri and Aranui cave

Waitomo Caves – are the most popular and the largest in space, floating underneath the Glowworm Grotto. 

Ruakuri Cave – is the most modern, it takes you through an underground river and makes it a totally accessible cave experience.

Aranui Cave – is the smallest one and makes this experience a bit more private, allows you to avoid huge crowds.

There are many tours available online to visit Glowworm caves. You can purchase a ticket to visit one cave or you can book a combined tour to visit several Glowworm caves for a lower price. It is important to note that these tours are not entirely suitable for the little ones under 9, to elderly people, or any individuals having trouble walking. Glowworm cave tours require walking on an uneven and slippery surface. One tour usually takes around 1 hour. 

How to visit the Waitomo Caves?

The Waitomo Glowworm caves are located in King County, which is in the North Island’s west part. The caves are located three hours drive from Auckland or two hours away from Rotorua.

To visit the Waitomo caves you can book an organized tour coach, which will allow you to learn more about the King County region as well as take you to the caves. Some coach tours will take you directly to the Glowworm caves while the others offer to take you to some other local tourist attractions as well. You can also get to the Glowworm caves by a New Zealand bus network that will take you directly to the caves from Auckland or Rotorua. If you have decided to travel on your own you can as well rent a car. 

If you are one of those independent travelers who try to avoid group tours, we have a piece of great news! You do not have to book a tour to see the famous New Zealand Glowworms, you can make your own tour by driving to Aranui Caves at night. You will be able to enjoy the views in silence as long as you wish and moreover free of charge!

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing as it might get chilly in the caves. Note, that it is mostly not permitted to take photos in the caves during the tours.