Two hours south of Auckland are the world renown Waitomo (from the Maori meaning “water hole” or “shaft”) Glowworm caves. The bioluminescent Glowworms ( which are really insects , about the size of mosquitos, and not worms) are a species unique to New Zealand; known as arachnocampa luminosa. The caves’ limestone formations were created over thirty million years ago. By the time English explorers Laurence Cussen and Fred Mace were shown the caves by Maori Chief Tane Tinorau, they had been known by the local tribe for about a century. The two Englishmen did extensive explorations of the caves between 1887 and 1888, during which they discovered the amazing Glowworm Grotto. Chief Tinorau opened the caves to visitors in 1889. By 1906, administration of the caves had been taken over by the New Zealand Government. Chief Tinorau’s descendants regained administrative control over the caves in 1989. Tours of the caves today encompass three levels; (1) the top level, known as the catacombs; (2) the “Banquet Chamber” where early visitors stopped to eat (as evidenced by smoke residue on the chamber’s ceiling); (3) the Cathedral, which is noted for its acoustics (several professional singers have recorded albums here). The tours end with a boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto. While admission to the caves is a bit pricey, it is worth the visit. It should be noted that the local Maori consider the caves as a sacred place, so photographs by visitors are not allowed. What are presented below are photos taken by professional photographer Shaun Jeffers, who, at the request of the Maori, spent a year chronicling the wonders within.
Visitors to the Waitimo Glowworm Caves enter through this upper level building.
Once inside, the amazing limestone formations, formed nearly thirty million years ago, are stunning.
Known as “The Cathedral”, this chamber’s excellent acoustics have seen a number of musical recordings created here.
All of this was created over centuries by the flow of water through the limestone.
Nature’s incredible creations never cease to amaze us.
It is easy to see why the Maori consider this a sacred place.
Imagine. These are simple bioluminescent insects!
Even as we were starting to exit the Glowworm Grotto, the illuminations remained spectacular.
Outside the caves, we felt we were in a primeval forest, expecting dinosaurs to appear around the next bend. What a fantastic place!
Carl and Lorraine Aveni are two retirees planning on traveling through Europe for at least one year.