Home | New Zealand Travel | The Hauntingly Beautiful Glow Worm Caves of Waitomo

The Hauntingly Beautiful Glow Worm Caves of Waitomo

Around the small town of Waitomo, population 50 and close to Hobbiton, hundreds of thousands of tiny brilliant blue lights illuminate the walls and ceilings of the many caves that dot the countryside.

This award worthy production is created by the spectacular glowing worms.

However, don’t be fooled by their daunting and eerie beauty for these lights are deadly!


My journey began mildly enough, creeping down a dark, damp tunnel, my head lamp peering into the enveloping darkness.

As we made our way through Waitomo Glowworm Caves, I notice skinny strands that looked like mini flytraps hanging from the roof of the cave.

Our guide happily informed me that the glowworm strands were covered with an acid that continuously oozes and was strong enough to do damage to even the lens of our cameras if a single drop fell upon it.

As I continued to listen to his tales, the rhythmic dripping of water from the stalactites grew stronger and louder until we came to an underground river.

We continued our journey as I wondered just what I had gotten myself into and if I could possibly end up as the “catch of the day”.

After going another 20 feet in, our guide signaled us to group together and turn off our head lamps. Darkness surrounded us.

Then as our eyes slowly adjusted, dim blue lights began to pop up everywhere one after another.

I gazed, stunned by the simple beauty, watching the glowing worms outline every bump and crevice in the walls.

We followed the electric blue light trail deeper into the tunnel until finally we reached the mouth of an underground river.

Our guide told us to wait as he sprang onto a plastic raft, jumping up and down to check if it had enough air.

He seemingly decided it didn’t and quickly pulled a rusty bicycle pump from behind a rock and started filling the raft.

Now I have to be honest, the thought of getting into this deflated raft in a dark cave over eel infested waters surrounded by poisonous glowworms wasn’t helping my previous vision of being on the menu, but hell, what is a cave adventure without risk?

I’m an adventure travel blogger after all….right?

Plus, what other choice did I have?

So we all crammed into the raft and continued our journey, floating up and down the river.

The most gorgeous sight was the light of the glowworms reflecting off the water.


It is almost intoxicating and gives the illusion of being surrounded by thousands of stars (like there was with no light population when I was lost in Mongolia). As I was lost in the stillness and sheer beauty of this spectacular sight, our guide, without warning, slammed down his hand on the back of the boat.

Instantly, I jumped and wrestled to latch on to the sides of our flimsy raft as I was jarred back to reality .

“Just wait and see”, our guide whispered.

As the sound of the slap echoed through the cave, the worms suddenly started to glow brighter and brighter almost as if in a wave of flowing light.


Then seconds later, as the echo died down, they returned to their normal brilliance.

“They think the vibrations are nearby bugs, and each of them try to out glow the other,” our guide informed us as I struggled to still my heart.

Forty minutes later, we arrived back at the dock and disembarked. Now it was time to get ready to jump out of a pink plane.

It was a sight I had longed to see and happily can say, surpassed my exceptions, and I can’t wait to visit the Glow worm caves of Waitomo next time I am backpacking New Zealand.

Have you seen Glow Worms? What was your experience? 

26 thoughts on “The Hauntingly Beautiful Glow Worm Caves of Waitomo”

  1. Nice to read your thoughts about the glowworm cave. To be honest though I was slightly disappointed with the whole experience – the boat ride seemed very short and it was just the guy spinning us around in one part of the cave. Nice to see the glow worms but not sure its worth the dollars paid to get in.

  2. I’ve never been in a cave period let alone a glowworm cave. It looks amazing – thanks for sharing all your pictures.

  3. Janelle Dangerfield Shank

    how cool is that! im a bit claustrophobic, so i am not sure i could do this. but it looks like a lot of fun

  4. Wow, that is simply amazing! I’m glad you didn’t become glow worm food. Just to be funny, my two sons have glowworms they sleep with in bed as a sort of personal nightlight when they need them. 😉

  5. A Small Village

    I have always loved caves, this sounds like an awesome one that I will have to experience myself!!!

  6. Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell

    That is astonishing! I have never heard of this before and I have GOT to get there one day to see it myself. Awesome!

  7. This is amazing! I’ve never heard of this, and now it is on my list of must see things! Beautiful, just beautiful.

  8. I have never seen anything more beautiful than this. If you havnt told me these were glowing worms, I would have never recognized. They look like glowing water beads.. so beautiful!

    1. Yea it’s really cool and pretty cheap compared to many other things in NZ (As you know)

      It’s really hard to get photos. I just told them I was writing a blog post and they sent me photos to use which as most of them in this post. However I did get a couple good ones. Long exposure….bring a tripod if you have one.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *