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Nature and Landscapes

Sunday 11th October 2015

sunny 17 °C

We were booked in to do a glowworm tour this morning, our sole reason really for coming to Waitomo. We needed to be in the village by about 9:45am so we were able to have quite a leisurely breakfast. It didn't take us long to check out and we had time to look in the visitor centre in the town briefly before we needed to meet our local Maori guide Mangu. There should have been twelve of us but half the group hadn't arrived just after the departure time so sadly for them they were left behind. On the journey up to the cave we were given information about the local area and Mangu also explained about the legislation/ case law stating that farmers own the rights the the cave systems that open onto their land. That meant that Spellbound the company that we were with and one other were able to have exclusive rights to the caves that we were going into.

The drive was about twenty minutes or so up a gravel track and gave us great views of the surrounding countryside. The landscape was very hilly, with lots of steep dips filled with trees and it was explained to us that this was created by the collapse of cave systems. We were dropped of and the six of us made the short walk to the cave entrance whilst Mangu parked the minibus.


Once there we put on helmets with head torches and entered the cave. A short way in, we stopped and switched off our lights and took a look a some glowworms. It took a few seconds for our eyes to adjust to the dark but once they did it was amazing how many of the small blueish specks of light we could see. Mangu told us quite a bit about the life cycle of the larvae who spend nine to twelve months in this stage, in contrast to the two or three days as a fly during which time they mate. We were also told how they make the silk threads that they use to catch their prey.


We then walked deeper into the cave and boarded a small inflate able raft. This was propelled by Mangu using a simple rope system which made the journey very quiet.

Both photographs courtesy of Spellbound Tours

By this time our eyes were really getting accustomed to the dark and we were encouraged to leave our cameras and torches off for the time being. In order to stimulate the light producing quality of the worms, Mangu clapped to create the vibrations that make them believe food is present. Sure enough even more glowed, and the older the glowworms the brighter the light.

Photograph courtesy of Spellbound Tours

He manoeuvred up and down the stream so that we could get a really good look at them and then we were able to get our cameras out and take some photographs. My ones of the glowworms were not very successful but the pictures we took of the silk webs more so. As we moved downstream the sound of a waterfall nearby became very loud which was quite disconcerting given that it was completely dark apart from the light from the glowworms. In order to keep our eyes adjusted to the dark once we got off the boat we kept our head torches off and relied solely on the light from our cameras. This meant that once we got back to the first main cave area we were able to see many more glowworms than when we first entered the cave system. Once out we walked to the field where Mangu had parked the minibus and we had tea or coffee and biscuits.

It was then only a short walk to a second cave. This was a more traditional set of chambers with rock formations such as stalagmites and stalactites. Mangu pointed out places where a cave had collapsed or a stream diverted. We also saw the skeleton of a now extinct Moa bird with its large dangerous looking talons.


Once we had finished exploring this cave system we went back in the minibus to Waitomo. It was interesting looking at the scenery and at one point we saw some men on quad bikes moving a few cattle, there must have been more people than animals which amused me. When we got back to the village we had a meal in one of the local cafes and then got on our way towards Tongariro.

As we approached the National Park we got tantalising glimpses of Mount Tangariro (6,453ft), Mount Ngauruhoe (7,503ft) and Mount Ruapehu (9,176ft) the more traditional cone shaped of the three volcanic peaks. At one point they were clearly outlined against a blue sky.


When we arrived at our accommodation we went up to the owners house first, which was a few hundred metres away from The Tree House where we would be staying. Tim directed us back explaining that our house was unlocked, so back we went. There were about 60 steps from the parking area, so it was a bit of a struggle getting our bags in, but once we did we poured ourselves a gin and tonic and started to relax. Tim joined us and he explained how things worked. After he left we finished exploring the house and admired the views of the two most northward peaks and then made our supper and settled in for a relaxed and peaceful evening.


Posted by Gill's Travels 22:50 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains new_zealand waitomo glowworms

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