The ceilings of these caves are full of worms. While the worms that I know are busy excavating around tree roots, these guys are just hanging out, making their butts glow and attracting bugs into their lair to feast on.
I had heard about New Zealand’s infamous glowworms years ago, and I finally had my chance to see them.
The town of Waitomo doesn’t have a whole lot going on (except for a pretty sweet wood-chopping competition in the park) so they don’t let you forget about their glowing pride and joy. With pretty much every version of glowworm experience covered, you will be spoiled with choices for seeing them.
If you want in on the glowworm action, there are plenty of ways to do it, but here is how it went for us.
Where To Stay In Waitomo
Just on the outskirts of town is the Waitomo Farmstay and just as you would expect, it’s a farm that lets you stay there overnight. It’s open to camper vans and tent camping, costs 10 NZ dollars per person and looks like a DIY haven of reused wood and perfectly placed knick knacks.
I chased after a bunny that actually let me pet it, welcomed a cat right into my camper van and took my chances sticking my hand into the sheep and goat pen just to see what would happen.
The communal space was made out of an old truck, a whole lot of wood and a décor that made me feel as if I was in some sort of woodland, fairy tale dream. Plus, it was pretty neat to brush my teeth to cow moos in the early morning.
Choosing A Tour
Somewhere along our journey, we have lost the ability to plan. We just can’t bring ourselves to do it anymore. The day that we intended to see the caves, we woke up early, drove into town and tried our luck, hoping that every tour wouldn’t be booked.
There are ALL kinds of tours available to see the glowworms, all run by various companies. There are walking tours, canyoning jaunts, black water rafting, boat rides and zip lining. There is even a five hour tour on offer that lets you do pretty much all of it in one go.
In the center of Waitomo town, you will find a main information office that will have pamphlets and knowledgeable staff available to help you choose a tour that suites you best. If you do happen to be a fantastic planner, it would be useful to visit the center a day or two before you plan to see the caves to make sure you get on the tour that you want.
Our Experience On The Spellbound Tour
We went for the Spellbound tour which is a more turned down, factual and laid back way of seeing the caves. Due to a cancelation, we snagged a spot on the 1 o’clock run and got paired with a small group of 11 others and an awesome tour guide named Peter.
The ride to the caves took us through some farm land, down to an eel infested river and into a cave that we had all to ourselves. Peter showed us the worms up close, letting us in on all of the juicy info on how they live and why they glow.
He made sure we had plenty of time to take photos and then took us down to the river. After fitting snuggly onto the raft, he had us all turn off our headlamps to experience exactly what we had come to see.
It was silence and a ceiling of stars. It seemed like stars anyway and if we didn’t already know where we were, we would have thought it was the night sky. Everyone was quiet and Peter took us up and down the river multiple times so that our eyes could adjust enough to see the lights properly.
It reminded me of one of the virtual rides I went on in Universal Studios, except every bit of it was Earth.
After a tea and coffee break in the fields, Peter took us into another cave, this one had a lot less glowworms but was heavy on the cave Weta bugs and even had a pile of bones from the extinct Moa bird, thought to have fallen in years ago.
Don’t quote me on this but New Zealand may just be the only place that you can see glowworms quite like this. Get to Waitomo, see these guys in action. It’s going to be awesome.