Every year hundreds of people visit the Waitomo Caves. If you’ve never been, you’re probably wondering why people bother!
Well, as we’ve gone to the Waitomo Caves plenty of times, we can tell you the answer. Let’s delve right into the appeal of this popular tourist spot!
What is special about the Waitomo Caves?
The Waitomo Caves are special because of the hundreds upon hundreds of glowworms lighting up the dark caves with an enchanting glow. Moreover, the Waitomo Caves have unique geological cave formations and hold cultural significance among the Maori.
The glowworms, or Arachnocampa luminosa larvae, are one of the things that make the Waitomo Caves so special because of their unique bioluminescence.
Most people go to the Waitomo Caves to see these little creatures glow in the dark and light up the caves in a way that’s difficult to describe. The light these glowworms produce is a soft, blue-green glow, which is very beautiful to see.
From afar, it looks like stars twinkling in the night sky. If you go up close, though, you’ll see the glowworms hanging from the cave ceiling in what look to be strings of crystalline beads.
Fun fact, by the way: the glowworms at the Waitomo Caves are among the largest glowworm species in the world, with their larvae reaching up to 1 cm in length.
Unique Geological Formations
You don’t have to be a geology geek to appreciate the uniqueness of the cave formations at Waitomo Caves. These cave formations are remarkable because the stalactites, stalagmites and other limestone formations look like abstract sculptures created by the elements over time.
The cave formations’ strange shapes, grooves and ridges also provide the perfect environment for the glowworms to thrive.
The first time we went to the Waitomo Caves, we took plenty of pictures of the cave formations, and many others did the same.
Cultural Significance Among the Maori
The Waitomo Caves are also special because of their cultural significance to the Maori. The Maori believe that the gods created the Waitomo Caves and that the glowworms are the tears of the gods, making the caves sacred.
In the past, the Maori used the Waitomo caves for various purposes, including as shelter, a burial ground, and a source of food and medicine.
Interestingly, although the Maori people knew about the Waitomo Caves, the area wasn’t fully explored until 1887, when local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau and English surveyor Fred Mace went to investigate. They built a raft and floated into the cave across the underground river.
So, thanks to Maori Chief Tane Tinorau and Fred Mace, the Waitomo Caves became a popular tourist spot. Hence, many today can see how special the Waitomo Caves are for themselves.