on January 19, 2012
On a spare day in Auckland we heard about the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and thought that it might be worth the drive. It turns out that it takes a little bit over 2 hours to drive there from Auckland. The drive is very straightforward and the scenery is worth the trip alone. But the Glowworm caves are something else, being from the U.K. I have seen caves with stalagtites and stalagmites before, but have never seen glowworms. When you arrive there are lots of different options and several different caves that you can visit. I would suggest going to the iSite, which is on the way in to find out about all of these options because it's quite bewildering when trying to search on your own. The two main options that I know about are the Blackwater Rafting company, who offer extreme options for exploring the caves or you can go with the standard tour and boat ride. We didn't really want to spend the time or money doing one of the more extreme options (think abseiling, weaving, jumping and floating through pitch black caves that cost in the region of £50-£60 and take 3+ hours) and so choice the latter and waited for the next tour to start. The tours run every half hour from 9am-5pm, so you really can just rock up and get the next one going down. We bought our tickets from the desk near the entrance, so didn't have to pre-book and there was a huge car park just outside, that was free.When visiting the caves remember that you'll be walking through a rocky natural environment, so wear sturdy shoes and have a jacket or jumper because it gets a bit chilly down there. We met our Maori guide at the entrance and after introductions we were led down into the caves. We explored the various areas on the way down to the Cathedral, which is an amazing area with great acoustics that is sometimes used for concerts. You explore around 250m of cave before you get to the glowworms, which you catch a few glimpses at. Our guide gave us quite a lot of biological information about the glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, which I won't spoil by repeating here, but we did get to see their gooey lures, that help them capture their food. The tour ends with a magical boat ride, that takes you through the grotto with literally thousands of glowworms. The guides ask you to be silent on the boat trip and this really adds the atmosphere, all you can hear is the drip of water and the movement of the boat. As you look up you can see all of the glowworms, well glowing, and it looks like you're looking up at stars. Strangely your eyes play tricks on you and you think you can see depth, which isn't there at all!The boat ride was over after 15 minutes and we were out at the bottom of the caves, so the only thing left to do was walk back up the hill and have a look in the gift shop. As gift shops go it wasn't that badly priced and did have some nice souvenirs. Personally I bought a few postcards because you cannot take pictures while you're in the caves because it damages the glowworms.All in all an amazing natural wonder that is well worth the trip out from Auckland......I can't recommend it enough!
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