You’ll remember we tried to visit a couple of glow worm caves near Whangarei but were thwarted by high water underground. We knew we wanted to see the famous New Zealand glow worms and with time running out we turned the rental car toward Waitomo, a concession cave that guaranteed we’d get to see the worms without getting wet. It would just cost money but we’d done our best to travel economically so we squeezed the cave tour into the meager budget.
“Stop the car!” I called out as we drove down a country road toward the caves. You don’t see that every day, we agreed. There were three ostriches that we could see from the road, and a promise of more in the field over the hill. We walked up a narrow lane to where the largest, fluffiest bird we’ve ever seen was grazing near the fence. We slowly approached and he came closer, as interested in us as we were in him. We figured he’s used to being petted and rewarded for it but we kept our distance as we quietly observed each other for about 20 minutes. He was huge and powerfully built and we thought it wouldn’t be so pleasant having those muscular legs stomping on us, or whatever they do when attacking. This fellow seemed nice enough though.
By afternoon we reached the caves and booked an early morning tour. The Waitomo Caves is a well-run operation with a modern shelter over the cafe and gift shop.
They offer various levels of tours but we’ve both been in plenty of caves and didn’t need to spend much time on stalagmites and stalactites, but were more interested in the glow worms. Our tour took us into the dark caves past the usual limestone formations and our guide told us about the Maoris who lived here and about the glow worms and their life cycle. It was all very interesting, but the best part was when we piled into boats and floated on an underground river through a tall pitch black cave where overhead a gazillion glow worms mimicked the galaxies of deep space. We were not allowed to photograph in the caves at all, but if you do a google image search for glow worms you’ll see how spectacular the vision is. We know we could have seen the glow worms for free in undeveloped caves near Whangarei, but lying back in a boat, staring up in silence at what looks like the night sky was worth every penny.
We came out of the cave at the bottom of a ravine, disembarked to a small dock and made our way back up through the woods to the car park. It’s a nice exit from the underground world.