Our Own 1000: Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

waitomo cave
Us at the amazing Ruakuri Cave

Today I like to present you with another fabulous place in this world: The Waitomo Caves on the north island of New Zealand. I don’t feel like writing too much about them, because you just have to see it for yourself. However, I’ll try to give you enough information about the caves that makes you want to go there for your next vacation.

The Waitomo Caves are a network of hundreds of limestone caves which are believed to be about 2 million years old. Of course you won’t be able to see all caves (they aren’t even all completely explored). If you want to see the best part of these caves, you can focus on the 3 main caves: the Waitomo Cave, Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave.

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Interesting stalactites

These caves are limestone caves with amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations which leave every visitor with a mix of fascination and admiration of the wonders of the world. Like all limestone formations, they have formed over thousands of years and let you gain some perspective on the duration of our own lives on this planet.

Each cave has its own character and is famous for something else. We got to see the Waitomo Cave, which is famous for its glowworms, and the Ruakuri Cave, which is one of the largest and also the only wheelchair accessible cave in the southern hemisphere.

Fishing lines glow worms
Glowworms’ fishing lines

These caves have been formed by underground rivers that run through the limestome and carve out the caves tiny pieces at a time. If you are the more adventurous type, you might want enjoy one of the many adventure tours, like abseiling or black water rafting, which are offered at the Waitomo Caves.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

The most famous cave is probably the Waitomo Glowworm Cave, even though the glowworms in Waitomo aren’t actually worms, but rather are fascinating maggots with a glowing tail. They are only found in New Zealand in dark caves with water running through them.

waitomo glow worm cave
Wonderful “stars” in the Glowworm Cave

These glowworm use “fishing lines” of some sticky material to catch insects for them. In the darkness the insects that are washed into the darkness by the river see the bright tails, fly towards them and get caught in the sticky fishing lines.

For us visitors it is quite a thing to see. You get to see the glowworms in other caves as well, but there aren’t as many in one spot as there are in the Waitomo Glowworm cave. To really get to experience the glowworms, you get to take a boat ride in the complete darkness with the glowworms right over your head.

If you wouldn’t know any better, you would think that you are outside on a summer night watching the stars.

Why Are They On Our List of 1000 Places To See Before You Die?

stalagtites waitomo cave
Breathtaking formations

There are many beautiful limestone caves all over the world and it is so hard to differentiate which one is more beautiful than the other because the forms of the stalactites and stalagmites are so unique wherever you go. In our opinion, it is the glowworms that really make the difference.

Not only do you get to see beautiful caves which are very easily accessible or tourists (even younger and older ones), but also you get to see the amazing glowworms which are very, very special.

Therefore, the Waitomo Caves are a must see in New Zealand and also in our top 1000 worldwide.

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