This is a must see in NZ due to the glowworms uniqueness, a species found only in NZ, and because of the limestone features of the area. The glow comes from , not worms but the larva of the fungus gnat, hanging down a sticky glowing tail to attract its food.
A slight detour on our way to Rotorua from Auckland, about 2 and a half hours drive from the capital and well signposted from Hamilton, the road took us to Waitomo, just in the Scenic Nature Reserve. We just went to the Glowworm Caves but you can take combo of the 3 various caves if you want to stay for 3 hours or so . We descended down and looked at the stalacmites and stalactites in the caverns. The guide told us a bit about the history and that the name comes form wai – meaning water and tomo meaning sinkhole. He then proceeded to horrify me with the fact that the caves flood 10 times a year (gulp). When I poked my head into one small cavern, I could smell sulphur (again, gulp) but the beauty of these limestone caverns far outweighed my own nervousness. One thing I found is that light levels are quite low so it is not easy for those that may have an issue with sight or who suffer from proprioception after a motor stroke leading to vertigo.
We then proceeded to the riverside and boat ride. You are helped into the boat but you travel in darkness , the guide propelling the boat by current and along ropes and you have to be very quiet. Be warned, the advertisement leaflets have light levels to show the wonder on peoples faces but that is from the photographer's flash and does not represent the actual light levels in the caves. The only way to see the glowworms is in pitch darkness. Photographs are not allowed till the end when you are emerging into daylight.
I must admit I was a bit underwhelmed by the luminescence but I suppose I did have my eyes tightly shut most of the time to overcome the, erm, blackness. You do not get caught in the slimy tails as I was half expecting (too many white knuckle rides in Alton Towers) Then the guide said in a monotonic voice " in this water, there are blind eels and trout, some 6 feet long…." by which time I was almost hyperventilating.
The tour lasted about 45 minutes and cost about £22 per person. Outside the cafeteria, shop and toilet facilities were very good.