waitomo caves new zealand

Two days ago, I was:

  • In the weird, quiet little town of Waitomo, New Zealand
  • Unaware that such a huge, underground cave system existed beneath the surface
  • Curious as to what a Glow Worm was
  • and a little nervous about submerging myself into a dark cave for 2 hours
waitomo caving abseiling

However I am so proud of myself for 'taking the plunge' and taking on this strange, yet once in a lifetime experience.

Waitomo is located in the north island of New Zealand and is a stop on both the Stray and Kiwi Experience bus. The town sits on top of a HUGE underground cave system which is home to the New Zealand Glow Worm - amazing little creatures that light up the caves!

You and your group are geared up with a helmet, wet suit and gumboots before taking a ladder through a narrow hole in the ground. You reach the 'cavern' at the bottom of the ladder and notice the sudden darkness and silence that surrounds you. Your guide then leads you through the cave tunnels - you begin to revert to your 6 year old self who loved nothing more than to explore playgrounds.

The further into the cave you walk - the more water you come across. Soon enough you are walking waist deep in pools of water. You then reach a small tunnel - the only way to get through is to crawl. The tunnel is pitch black and you can barely see the gumboots worn by the person in front of you. The crawl tests your sanity but as you reach the light you feel a sense of accomplishment.

waitomo canyoning

Your guide then asks you to switch off your head lights - and at this point you are blown away. The roof of the cave is lit up by hundreds of tiny Glow Worms. They emit a bright, green and sparkly light that reflects in the water that surrounds your knees. This is one natural wonder that must actually be experienced - photos do not do it justice!

As you continue through the cave your guide then asks you to lay in a pool of water and float on your back. Horrified - the water slides you through a tiny tunnel! You are then given a black inflatable tube. You and your group each jump into the pool of water and float through the caves- amazed at the Glow Worms above you.

The Waitomo Caves are like underground playgrounds for adults that have you swimming, sliding, climbing and tubing through the tunnels, rapids and pools.

Waitomo Adventures offer a number of tours depending on how you want to explore the cave: Abseil into it, Black Water Raft, Climb through, Swim through or Take a Firefox (or Zipline) through it. I opted for the Tumu Tumu Toobing Tour.