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Looking for an ultra cool, unique activity to do on your upcoming New Zealand trip? The Waitomo Glowworm Caves is a New Zealand must-do. This is the only place in the world where you can see real life glowworms in their natural environment. This was one of the top 5 greatest things I have ever done in my travels! It was like a religious experience for me. I can’t even describe to you how blown away I was by visiting these caves! The Waitomo Glowworm Caves will be the highlight of your trip to New Zealand. This is one of those ultimate bucket list experiences! You have to check it out!
What to Expect at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
After buying your tickets and reserving your tour time, you make your way over to the waiting area. Here, you will find places to sit, as well as a snack bar. Stairs lead down to a lower level which houses a restaurant and gift shop. When your tour time arrives, your guide (who are all Maori descendants) will lead you to the entrance of the cave. Here, you will stop for a brief history of the caves and some safety instructions. Then, you and your group descend down stairs into the caves, stopping periodically to hear more about the caves, how they formed, and their history. Towards the end of the tour, you will board a rowboat and slowly, silently move through the dark waters until you are sitting below thousands of glowworms. You will have several minutes to sit in total darkness and silence and admire these wonderful creatures before being taken to the exit.
Unfortunately, unless you take the Ruakuri Cave tour, you are not allowed to take photos in the caves or of the glowworms! Because of this, I don’t have any photos of the glowworms to show you. You will have to wait and see them for yourself at the caves!
Visiting With Kids
Is this a good experience for kids? To be honest, it all depends on the age, adventure level, and personality of your kids. We took our son with no problems. He wasn’t as awestruck as I was, but he enjoyed it.
Taking young children (under 5) or those who have trouble being still and quiet is a bad idea. This just isn’t the type of tour where kids can run around and be loud. There are several places along the tour where the tour guide specifically asks you to not make any noise at all. Additionally, if your child is scared of the dark, this might not be a good tour for them either. It is pretty dark once you get in the boat and float towards the glowworms.
On the other hand, older children and those interested in nature and biology will love the caves! This is an excellent activity for all those young adventure seekers too.
Where to Find the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are located on New Zealand’s North Island just outside of Otorohanga on Highway 3. The caves are about 125 miles south of Auckland and 90 miles west of Rotorua. There are plenty of signs marking the turnoff to the caves, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding them. Even if you are planning on staying in the Auckland area for your whole trip, it is worth it to rent a car and take a day trip to visit the caves.
The Cave Tours
There are three different caves to explore at Waitomo with different tour options, depending on the level of adventure you are seeking. Each tour takes a different amount of time and has different prices. They also offer a few combo tours, if you are interested in exploring more than one of the caves. All of the tours are guided. For more information on the various tour options, you can visit the Waitomo website at www.waitomo.com.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves is the shortest cave tour available. It will take 45 minutes to complete. This is the tour we took. I wish we could have done one of the longer ones, but we were short on time. This was an amazing tour however. It is $51 NZD for adults and $23 for children. On this tour, you go down into the caves, learn about the history and formation of them, and see the glowworms. Because of its length, this is the perfect tour if you have younger children or are not very adventurous. The only drawback to this tour was that you are not allowed to take photos inside the caves.
The Aranui Cave tour takes approximately one hour. This tour will take you through a forest before entering the cave for more exploration. There are no glowworms on this tour, but you will see some interesting cave formations. You are allowed to take photos on this tour. The cost for the Aranui Cave tour is $50 NZD for adults and $23 for children.
The longest cave tour available is the Ruakuri Cave. It is two hours long and is handicap accessible. This is the only tour where you are allowed to take photos of the glowworms. This tour will allow you to get much closer to the glowworms than the Glowworm Cave tour will. The cost for this tour is $74 NZD for adults and $29 for children.
Black Water Rafting
If a walking tour through a cave isn’t adventurous enough for you, then black water rafting may fit the bill! These tours, which last between 3-5 hours, involve tubing, ziplining, and climbing waterfalls deep within Ruakuri Cave. Nothing like rafting in the dark past thousands of glowworms to get the heart pumping, right? Depending on the length, these tours will cost you $142 or $246 NZD per person.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves is one of the most unique experiences you will find anywhere on earth. It is the only place to find glowworms in their natural environment. While not an ideal activity for all children, older or more adventurous kids will love exploring the caves and seeing the glowworms. This was so mesmerizing and awesome! If you are looking for one-of-a-kind items for your bucket list, this needs to be on it! If you ever find yourself on the North Island of New Zealand, you must take time to go visit the glowworms! You will not regret it. For more amazing things to do in New Zealand, see free things to do with kids, things to do on the North Island, Te Papa, and Auckland Aquarium. Happy travels!