– FEBRUARY 28, 2015
Today we travelled to Waitomo to check out the famous Waitomo Caves & their glow worms. We are going underground and into the caves in full wet suit gear to brave the unknown. When we arrived at the meeting site, the tour company gathered our group into a van and took as 10 minute drive to the site. In New Zealand, if you own the farm land then you also own the caves under them. This company has leased the commercial rights from the land owner, so the company takes on the risk and liability and the land owner makes some decent money…everyone wins.
These caves were formed when limestone deposits were pushed up from down below the surface many, many years ago. The water from the surface made its way to the limestone and then forced through some cracks. These cracks eventually became much larger and the limestone then gave way to create the caves we know today. It’s a long process, but the end result is amazing.
The picture below shows the brave group of six to embark on this journey.
After that group photo we had to walk about 10 minutes to reach the cave entrance. During this time I was chatting with our tour guide, Shawn, who just happened to be from Saskatchewan! What are the chances? She was from ? and acquired her degree in Adventure Tourism, but of course Saskatchewan doesn’t offer much in the way of adventure tourism opportunities. It then made me think that all of our guides thus far were all from countries other than New Zealand.
The cave entrance starts with a ladder that goes into a very small opening in the ground. The picture does this justice…it is just as small as it looks in the picture. See the entrance picture below.
Once we all got inside the cave then the fun began. The cave started getting smaller and smaller, so the tour guide made sure to snap some pictures to ensure people were still happy and focused on the tour. See our pics below as the cave got tighter.
As we proceeded further, we came to a large pool of water which they had inner tubes ready for us to use in the water. We sat in the inner tubes and looped our feet with the armpits of the person next to us to make a train. Then we cruised along the underground river and turned off our headlamps. The place went pitch black, but then we came across the glow worms. These little guys have three stages in their lives: the egg stage, glow worm infant stage, and the adult “mosquito on steroids” stage. See the picture below for the glow worm with its stringy strands (approx 14 per glow worm).
The glow worm doesn’t have an anus, so it keeps its “rubbish” contained within itself and it burns it off to generate the glowing light. This light attracts the insects in the cave (the insect eggs were washed into the cave via the river) as the insects instinctively think the light is the way out of the cave. The insects fly into the stringy strands, which are sticky and have a paralyzing chemical on them to freeze the insects so they can’t escape. The glow worm then slides down the strand and has a nice little lunch.
Here is another picture of the glow worm…its entire length is equivalent to a matchstick.
Further into the caves we came across stalagmites and stalactites, which are typical in a cave. The stalactites are formed from the ceiling down, which the stalagmites are formed from the ground upward. The picture below shows some of these nice formations.
This caving experience lasted about two hours and included two areas of inner tubing cruising, 3-4 areas of glow worms, and multiple areas of formations and tight squeezes. It was a good time and rates very highly on my scale of activities done thus far. Tomorrow we are entering the Lost World tour that contains a 100m (300ft) abseiling adventure down into a much larger cave. More to come on that in the next post.
And that wraps up the month of February, 2015…10 days down.
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.