If you have never visited a glowworm cave before, there’s really no other word to describe the experience than otherworldly.
There are a few Glowworm Caves in New Zealand but we only ventured into one of them: the Waitomo Glowworm Cave. It’s a pretty well-known attraction so if you are hoping to check this off your bucket list, Waitomo Glowworm Caves would be a good one to choose.
I thought it interesting to know this cave has been in the same family for over a hundred years and has been giving tours since the late 1800’s.
It was pretty neat to learn our guide is also a descendant of the original owners. In fact, most of the employees are family.
If you haven’t figured it out already, it’s been a family run business for quite a while and they are very knowledgeable about their piece of land and its “occupants”.
Everything in New Zealand is on the pricier side but this attraction wasn’t badly priced.
If you are traveling through New Zealand by bus, you will probably make this stop as part of a tour package and may receive a discount, depending on what that tour company has pre-arranged.
The prices at the door vary only a little bit, I’m talking a dollar or so. (These prices are average for 2018)
Adults (15+): $36 USD
Children (4-14): $16 USD
Infants (0-3): Free (with adult) USD
What to expect
When you arrive, you will pay or check-in, then line up according to which tour time they put you in. You should have time to use the restrooms which are conveniently located at the entrance.
When your tour begins, you will walk a little way along a boardwalk until you reach the cave. Your tour guide will usually stop here to allow your group to catch up and to introduce themselves.
From this point on, there are no electronics allowed. Nothing. They are very strict about this. Even if you do not have a flash, you are not allowed to take pictures or video. You are not even allowed to use your phone to light your path. (The path is decently lit, but takes time for your eyes to adjust.)
Most of your tour will be spent in the cave. You will learn about glowworms, their lifecycle, etc. It’s an interesting biology lesson, at the very least. You will learn some history of the caves and the family who owns them. I’m sure your guide will even tell you of a few famous people who have visited there.
There is one neat room called the Cathedral Cave where you can sing and the acoustics are pretty incredible. No, I did not sing, but someone else graced us with their voice and I agree, the cave is accurately named.
Just off the Cathedral Cave you will start to hear the water and can even catch glimpses of the glowworms under some of the large rock faces.
Your path will finally end at a small dock with a boat where you will squeeze in with your fellow tour mates and the guide will turn out her light. After a brief few moments of complete darkness, you will feel the boat push away from the dock and make its way into an adjoining room.
Just as you realize your guide is pulling your boat along by ropes strung along just below the ceiling, you are instantly mesmerized by the little galaxy above your head. It’s really quite breathtaking! You feel totally transported for the brief time you are there.
And I do mean brief. This is where the website is a bit misleading. You are with the glowworms literally five minutes. The tour guide pulls you through a tunnel, does a little pirouette and then out you go into the light to disembark. This is the only time they let you take out your camera.
The gift shop is nice with plenty of options for your list of people you want to bring something home for. You will probably want to buy a postcard as it is the only photo of the caves you will walk away with unless you buy one of their souvenir photos which we didn’t. It was much cheaper to just get a postcard.
If you toured with a bus, you will most likely have a boxed meal waiting for you. Or you can purchase food at the cafe. But I have to say, the sandwich that came with our boxed meal was SO good! I would never have combined all those ingredients together in a sandwich before but I’m so glad they did!
I was pretty disappointed that we weren’t allowed to document the trip inside the caves and that the main event was only minutes long. But overall, it was a neat experience, one I’m glad we took the time to do.
For the price, as a first timer through the caves, it was worth the money for the experience. Would I pay it again for a second trip? Probably not, unless we had more time under the “stars”.
With that said, we hope to bring our girls with us to New Zealand the next time we go and will most likely take them to see the glowworms. 🙂
Looking for more things to do in New Zealand? Check out these posts: