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"We have just returned from New Zealand, arranged through yourselves. I would just like to say we had a wonderful time and hope it won't be too long before we can return." - Mr & Mrs P Radcliffe (UK)

Waitomo Caves

World renowned and a magnet for both local and overseas visitors, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occupy a high placing in almost everyones New Zealand vacation wish-list.

The Waitomo glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is unique to New Zealand. Thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light as our expert guides provide informative commentary on the Caves' historical and geological significance.

Over your 45 minute guided tour, you'll take in the spectacular Glowworm Cave with its majestic and ornate cave decorations, the deep limestone shaft known as the Tomo and the equally magnificent Cathedral cavern where New Zealands own opera diva Kiri Te Kanawa once performed. Your tour guide will deliver an informative and entertaining commentary, sharing stories, cultural legends and the natural wonders of this living masterpiece.

Your visit concludes with a brief, yet remarkably moving, boat trip through the Glowworm Grotto.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Guided Tour

Your guided tour will take you through over 250 metres of stunning underground scenery commencing with the impressive Cathedral. The acoustics in this particular cavern are world-renowned. Acclaimed New Zealand Diva, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, has sung here and was delighted with the purity of the sound. Your tour begins at the upper entrance of the cave and proceeds along a low narrow passage to the Tomo, a deep limestone shaft. Your experienced tour guide will deliver a highly informative commentary about the formations and the history of the area. The highlight of your tour is an unrivalled boat trip through the spectacular Glowworm Grotto.

The Boat Ride

Waitomo Caves Boat Ride

Marvel at Mother Nature's light display as you glide silently through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto. Meander underground along the Waitomo River and gaze in silence at the myriad of glowworm lights that make up the Glowworm Grotto. As you enter this galaxy of tiny living lights, you'll immediately experience a serene ambience and be fascinated and intrigued by tiny glowworms that light your way.

Additional Tour Information:

Bring comfortable walking shoes and a warm jacket. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are accessible to those with reasonable mobility, with good handrails and paths.

History

Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves were first explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau accompanied by an English surveyor Fred Mace. Local Maori people knew of the Caves existence, but the subterranean caverns had never been extensively explored until Fred and Tane went to investigate. They built a raft of flax stems and with candles as their only lighting, floated into the cave where the stream goes underground.

As they entered the caves, their first discovery was the Glowworm Grotto with its myriad of tiny bright lights dotting the cave ceiling. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they saw a multitude of lights reflecting off the water. Looking up, they discovered that the ceilings were dotted with the lights of thousands of glowworms. Debris and logs littered the waterway, but by poling themselves toward the embankment they were able to leave the raft and explore the lower levels of the cave. Here they found themselves surrounded by the glorious cave decorations.

Jubilant at their discovery, they returned many times to explore further, and on an independent trip Chief Tane discovered the upper level of the cave and an easier access. Only after many subsequent visits did they discover an entry point on land. This is the same entry point used today by thousands of visitors annually. By 1889 Tane Tinorau had opened the cave to tourists. Visitor numbers soared and Chief Tane and his wife Huti escorted groups through the cave for a small fee. In 1906 the administration of the cave was taken over by the government.

The Caves Today - 100 years later

In 1989, almost 100 years later, the land and the cave was returned to the descendants of the original owners. Many staff employed at the caves today are direct descendants of Chief Tane Tinorau and his wife Huti.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves Quick Facts

  • Location: North Island, New Zealand
  • Nearby Towns: Hamilton, Rotorua.
  • Known Locally For:The Caves, Glowworms
  • Distance From Auckland: Waitomo Caves is 2 hours south of Auckland, 1 hour south of Hamilton, and 2 hours west of Rotorua. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are situated 8km along Waitomo Caves Road, off State Highway 3.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves Touring

Many of the 200 tours we have listed on our website stop off at the Waitomo or Ruakuri Caves. If you are only interested in a short trip to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves fro either Auckland or Rotorua, then please click on the link below.

Waitomo Caves Sightseeing Day Tours

Waitomo Caves Tours

Rotorua & Waitomo Caves Tours (10)

Departing from Auckland or Rotorua we off the full compliment of day tours that take in the Waitomo experience. Travel throug lush rolling farm landscape to the mystical Waitomo Glowworm Caves for a guided tour through the galleries and lofty chambers of the caves. Your tour culminates with a boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto.