New Zealand,  Oceania,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Waitomo Glowworm Caves (New Zealand): thousands of glowworms

From Rotorua, we make a big detour to Waitomo Caves which is only 1h30 away. This route isn’t at all optimal, but I will explain it later in the article about Hobbiton

Part 1: Travel Diary

The information offices of private companies appear before the i-center information office. The prices are the same, but the interest of going to the real i-center is to choose among all the activities offered in the area. Visiting a cellar, two caves, caving or boating etc

We choose the most popular activity: Waitomo Glowworm Cave with boat tour at the end. With 2000 visitors per day in the summer, reservation is necessary, but this will not be the case for us today. We only have to wait 1h30. We take the opportunity to cook at the picnic tables just in front of i-center

When we parked our car in front of the famous Waitomo Glowworm Cave, it started to rain. We run towards the building, which looks very much like a glowworm by the way, and as soon as we are sheltered, trunks of water fall down on the city. Here is New Zealand in spring, the weather changes every minute

It’s forbidden to take pictures during this tour so I show you the official Photoshoped picture, in reality, that’s exactly how it goes


To enter the cellar, you must wear shoes and preferably a small jacket. We went there with our fleeces and coats and we were still cold. Everything is done to guarantee the safety of all. One often reproaches the cellars of Halong Bay (Vietnam) to be illuminated, to be less natural. But frankly here it is 100 times worse. The floor has been completely redone, they put tiles please! There are a lot of stairs, very secure. The cellar is very beautiful, but we don’t have much time to contemplate it so much the guide goes quickly

Then comes the “glow-worm” part. After observing a few of them, without light, the guide turns on a small light and you can see the glow-worm filaments. The light they produce is used to attract insects, and the filaments to capture them. All this to become a butterfly that lives only 5 days. The purpose of their existence is simply reproduction

We all take a boat, in the dark, to go and see a “starry sky” formed by thousands of glow worms. It is the guide who steers the boat by pulling on ropes already present in the cellar. It is super beautiful! We are in the dark so I have no idea of the height of the cellar, but it looks like the glowworms are very close, I would say 2m away from us. There are thousands of them, some are brighter than others (surely the older worms). At one point, we pass in a lower part and it seems that the worms are just 50cm away from us. The guide explains us that it rains a lot these last hours what makes the level of the river rise. Usually, we cannot be so close. We leave by the river and it is the end of the tour


NZ$50/person is expensive, but it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in New Zealand. Other tourists seem to feel the same because they have all the stars in their eyes

We make a small detour to see Marokopa Falls, visible from the platform located at 50m, but the fall is so high that the water comes to us and whips us in the face



On the way, two other stops are interesting but not essential (it is indicated on the signs along the way): a “natural bridge” thing (another place to see glowworms at night) and a very black cellar (you have to come with a torch), with a wall covered with fossilized oysters

Photo: path leading to the natural bridge


On the way to Hobbiton, we see a sign “Real Fruit Ice Cream” and we stop sharply. I advise you the huge Real Fruit Mixed Berry at 5,5$NZ, a delight!


Part 2: Practical Tips

  • On the road to i-center, there will be many stores marked “cave tickets”. These are stores owned by private companies. If you don’t know what to take, it’s better to go first to the i-center, they have a catalog listing all the activities in the area. The most popular activity is obviously the visit to Waitomo Glowworm Caves. This visit costs NZ$50/person for 1h30
  • There are plenty of other places where you can watch glowworms for free in New Zealand, but you have to go there in the evening, or be prepared to venture into a muddy cellar with water up to your knees. There won’t be as many as in Waitomo. One very safe and accessible place is Glowworm Dell in Hokitika. It is recommended to come with a flashlight, to light the way, and turn it off when you arrive, otherwise it will not be possible to see glowworms



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