Glowworm hunting in Waitomo

Hello all, apologies for the recent radio silence…have been settling into life in New Zealand. Over New Year, I went on a two week road trip in the campervan (now called “Tink”) with Alex. We had an absolutely epic time and I didn’t want it to end. Anyway, I’m going to do a few mini posts about some of the things we did on that trip plus some great hikes I’ve done since.

This is something that I’d been keen to do for ages. Unfortunately when I was here before, Kim and I simply couldn’t fit it into our month’s visit in 2014 but¬†fortunately, Alex was up for it!

As part of our North Island road-trip, we made our way down to Waitomo and stayed in a “Top 10 Holiday Park”. After we pitched Alex’s tent and set up the camper, we went for a little explore of the area. ‘Little’ being the operative word…there really isn’t anything else in the area except for the Glowworm caves, some hiking trails, a pub, a cafe/convenience store, a backpackers, a museum and a holiday park. Everyone was there, it seemed, to check out the glowworms.

On the day we’d booked to go and see the glowworms, it was absolutely chucking it down with rain. Not a problem except the fact that our caving experience wasn’t until 3pm and as previously mentioned, there wasn’t a lot to do nearby. We drove out to do a short walking route that we’d been recommended, which was great – although a bit soggy! I also discovered that Alex cannot resist a cave or a rock in the middle of a stream.

After the walk, we then procrastinated in the cafe with the free Wi-Fi for a bit before making our way to the Waitomo Museum of Caves. Usually $5 per person, if you’re doing any kind of caving experience, it’s only $2.50. It was a pretty interesting museum really, filled with loads of information about how the caves were discovered, glowworms, cave life, multimedia shows and more. There’s also a crawl-through bit at the end, which Alex did very successfully!

Then it was just a case of killing time for us really. Finally it was time for our caving to begin. We headed to the meeting point and then clambered into a minibus with about 10 other people. Next, wetsuits. Did I mention we were doing the caving where you sit in a tube and float along? Yes, wetsuits. Now I’ve never been a fan of the whole ‘putting a wetsuit on’ malarkey, I’m sure I’m not alone. But my goodness, this was horrendous. At first, the other girls were slower than me (I already had my bikini on under my clothes) but soon, they were all zipping themselves up and making their way outside while I tried and tried to get this ridiculous garment on. I ended up being the last person ready with fingers shredded raw from trying to hoist the bastard up. Not a great start to the adventure for me but I persevered. Then after a few photos, we made our way to the caves.

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We made our way over a hill and down what felt like hundreds of steps (when your wetsuit doesn’t fit properly and walking is tricky…) to the caves. Then we began winding our way down, carrying the tubes over our shoulders. Soon the water was high enough for us to get into the tubes and we were all linked up with our feet under the person in front’s shoulders (and so on), we switched our headlights off and started to float along in the darkness. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the glowworms, the only way I can even begin is to say it’s like a really intense, starry night. They seemed to go on for miles!

After a while, we reached a ladder. Everyone had to take off their tube and make their way to the top. Then, hold the tube around your bum and on “three!”, fall backwards into the darkness. I kid you not. I think Alex and I were pretty pleased that a couple of keen beans pushed in front of us a while back…It probably wasn’t a huge drop but in the darkness, it was pretty terrifying! Plus, you land in freezing cold water, which shoots up your nose when you land. It was so invigorating! I’m pretty pleased that the photo didn’t come out properly though, god knows what kind of face I was pulling!

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Then we floated along again for a while, it was so peaceful – though it was getting a little chilly! The next obstacle was a slide…after a quick photo at the top, we plunged down this slide (quickly followed by our tubes) and continued to make our way through the caves.

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At times, it was really deep so we had to swim through – a little difficult when you’re manoeuvring a large tube and are losing the feeling in your toes but great fun!

What I hadn’t really thought about was how we’d get back to the surface. We had journeyed pretty deep into the caves! Unfortunately it was steps, lots and lots of steps, which with my aforementioned ill-fitting wetsuit, was quite the challenge I can tell you!

Despite my wetsuit woes and poor, raw fingers, it was an incredible experience and I didn’t want it to end! I highly recommend it, just as it was recommended to me by friends. You don’t have to do the tubing experience to see the glowworms, but it is so SO much fun!

One tip: check out Bookme.co.nz and you might be able to get the experience cheaper than if you buy directly from the Waitomo website. This is what we did and we saved loads!

What do you think? Do you fancy the tubing???

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2 responses to “Glowworm hunting in Waitomo

  1. Hi Laura – done it, loved it, recommend it and agree about the wet suit. Mine smelt ! Yes it’s hard to describe but a wonderful way to spend a few hours in the cold and dark …….. not for the faint-hearted the jumping bit. Lynn (now back in NZ)

    • Hi Auntie Lynn, thanks for the comment! I definitely agree about the jumping…am just pleased that I wasn’t the first person to do it! x

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