Sightseeing in New Zealand: Spellbound Waitomo Glowworm Cave - Vikingess Voyages

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sightseeing in New Zealand: Spellbound Waitomo Glowworm Cave

New Zealand is known worldwide for its magnificent nature, and one of the unique natural experiences you can make while in the country is a visit to the famous glowworm caves in Waitomo. Waitomo is a Māori word that means "water enters", and in the area you'll find many caves that has been formed by the rivers digging into the ground made of limestone.
At the Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre you can learn more about the glowworms in their little museum.
There are various caves in the area that have glowworms in them, but Spellbound boosts of having access to a cave where the number of glowworms are larger, and where you can get closer to the worms than in the other caves in the area. When Sir David Attenborough visited the area with BBC to film for their 'Planet Earth' series they chose Spellbound to take them around. We inquired about some of the other tours at the local Discovery Centre before making our desicion, but as the other tours didn't allow photos and gave tours for groups of up to 50 people the choice was pretty easy to make.
If you have the time and money the choice is pretty easy to make..
We departed from Waitomo in a bus with other excited tourists, and after a twenty-minute drive we arrived at the area where the first cave was located. This was the cave where we would see the glowworms, known as titiwai in Māori or arachnocampa luminosa in Latin.
The cave entrance
 Their Latin name comes from the fact that the glowworm (which actually is a maggot) hunts for its prey using a slimy net, just like spiders. When flying insects get lost and end up in the cave they'll see what they believe is a shimmering starry night. But what they don't know, is that the light comes from thousands of glowworms fishing for a delicious meal. As you probably know, insects are attracted to light, and they'll soon find themselves stuck in the sticky net that covers the ceiling.

Interesting fact: Although the glowworm produces light during its time as a larva only 5-10% of its energy is lost as heat. In comparison, 40% of the energy in fluorescent bulbs are lost as heat.

A glowworm can live 10-11 months, and 6-9 of these months it spends as a larva. Once the glowworm has "turned into" a fly it can no longer eat, and it thus needs to consume as much as possible in the larva stage. This can ensure that the adult glowworm fly has enough energy to reproduce before it dies.

A single visible glowworm
Glowworms on the ceiling
After having seen the glowworms up close we had the pleasure of enjoying a river cruise in the cave with literarily thousands of glowing bugs above our heads. It reminded me of how you can take romantic cruises in amusement parks with pretty light ups along the ride. Except this one was made 100% naturally just by the force of some shiny maggots!! The rides in the adventure parks will never be the same again..
River cruise in the cave
After the ride we did get some opportunity to take photos of the glowworms. Unfortunately it is quite hard to get good pictures in the dark. But thanks to the generosity of the Spellbound staff we got some photos mailed to us the very same day.

As you can see, my photos did not turn out too well. However, if you write down your mail address when you check in for the Spellbound tour they'll send you some photos from the cave for free! The three following photos show how it actually looks like in the cave:
Thanks to Spellbound for the picture!
photo credit: Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours
Thanks to Spellbound for the picture!
photo credit: Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours
Thanks to Spellbound for the picture!
photo credit: Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours
Lunch break!
After the trip to the first cave was over we had a short break with beverages and cookies before continuing to cave number two. Our guide was by the way a cave expert who had with 14 years of experience working as a guide. He had been growing up playing in the caves himself as a kid, and could tell us everything we needed to know about the caves and more.

Reflections in the water

We did also see some fossils inside the cave. These included a goat, a bull and a moa. The moa is a huge struts that was native to New Zealand, but which went extinct due to over-hunting by the first human settlers about 600 years ago.
Some insects also live in the cave
The Spellbound trip takes about 3 1/4 hours so you'll have to spend more time on the trip than with other companies that offer similar tours. However, if you want to experience the caves to their fullest this is probably the tour you should choose. It takes time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, and by spending more time in the cave you can ensure that you'll see the glowworms more brightly.

Other pages:

All blogposts from New Zealand

Hotel Booking:

Hotels in Waitomo
Hotels in Auckland
Hotels in Wellington

Visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata

The Hobbiton movie set is part of a 1250 acre sheep farm outside of Matamata, and the place is a must-visit for anyone with a slight interest in Tolkien's Middle Earth Universe. It is also the movie set to visit for people who generally don't like movie sets, simply because the surroundings are so amazingly beautiful and extraordinary that you wouldn't want to miss them.

Bungee Jumping from the Auckland Harbour Bridge

New Zealand is definitely a country to visit if you're interested in trying out extreme sports, as the country is known worldwide for its adventure tourism activities. If you still have not had the chance to try bungee(/bungy) jumping you have the opportunity to make your first jump at the place where it all started; the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Or at least, this is where you find the world's first organized commercial bungee jumping company, AJ Hackett Bungy. The man behind the company was AJ Hacket, who made his first amateur jump back in 1986. His company is still going strong, offering bungee jumping and bridge climbing to anybody up for a real challenge.

A Day in Wellington with John's Hop On Hop Off City Tour

Wellington is New Zealand's capital and the country's third largest city. It is also home to the famous movie director Peter Jackson, and has gain increased attention from the international community after he filmed parts of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in the city. These movies were also very much in focus during our trip around the city with John's Hop On Hop Off City Tour. Actually, our driver's name wasn't John, but Todd. He could tell us that his main job was being an actor, and that he had starred in the third Lord of the Rings movie. He showed us the scene he was in, and that was one of the most epic scenes of the movie if you ask me. Can you imagine having a Harad Leader as your bus driver for the day? Pretty awesome!

Traveling from Christchurch to Wellington via Picton
One way to travel from Christchurch to Wellington is by driving to a small town called Picton on the northern edge of New Zealand's southern island and catch a ferry to Wellington from there. The drive to Picton takes about five hours if you travel none-stop, but there are of course places along the way where you might want to take a break or two.
About half-way to Picton the road takes you down to the ocean, and you can enjoy the beautiful sight of the endless water and the steep mountains. There are also many animals to see along the way, and the coolest part of our road trip was definitely getting close contact with a group of sea lions.

The Edwin Fox Maritime Museum in Picton
If you are spending a day or two in Picton you might be interested in visiting the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum situated by the city's harbor. This museum tells the amazing story about the ship Edwin Fox, the world's oldest surviving merchant sailing ship. After she was built in Calcutta in 1853 she was used for a wide range of purposes such as carrying troops during the Crimean War, and later she also carried prisoners from Britain to Australia. On her older days she was used as a floating freezer hulk in New Zealand, and she first came to Picton in 1897 where she was utilized as a coal store hulk.

Earthquake recovery in Christchurch

Our first stop in New Zealand was Christchurch, a small city on NZ's southern island. Back in 2011 the city experienced a terrible earthquake (on February 22, under a month before the earthquake in Japan), and the place is still recovering from the inflicted damage. Things are however moving forward, and Lonely Planet even rated Christchurch as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit in 2013.

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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