Waitomo Caves is a quiet little village in the Northern King County. It’s surrounded by hillsides of green grass and native forests, all fairly typical at first glance, though anything but typical when you begin to explore more carefully. Our region is riddled with caves, gorges and rivers that unexpectedly disappear underground. Glowworms inhabit the 200 or more caves known in the area and also forests and stream banks. Waitomo is a glowworm paradise and glowworms are the main attraction drawing visitors to our village.
In 2005, Waitomo became the focus of two BBC film crews, one for the Sir David Attenborough’s Life in the Undergrowth series and the other, for the Planet Earth – ‘Caves’ documentary. Glowworms were the subject both crews wished to capture as never before. After checking their options they requested permission to film in the Spellbound Glowworm Cave. Consequently Spellbound’s glowworm display is featured in documentaries placing it among some of the most wonderous caves in the world.
To take an in depth look at our fascinating region, spend some time here and go beyond the beat of the average day tripper. This is not hard to do. Intriguing back roads and beautifully built walkways lead you into unexpected corners everywhere. Everything is explained in the Waitomo Discovery Centre. There’s a great range of accommodation and good food in Waitomo and for the most memorable glowworm experience available, we have wonderful guides to take you underground with Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours.
New Zealand Glowworm (Arachnocampa luminosa) are closely related to Australian glowworms which have very similar appearance and behaviour. New Zealand glowworms are larger and have bigger lights. They seem to also thrive in much larger colonies. On a Spellbound glowworm tour in New Zealand, you will not only find out more about these fascinating and almost magical little creatures, but you will view them up close in their natural habitat. We will be able to show you all their life cycle stages and explain the adaptations they use to live in a cave.
New Zealand glowworms live all over New Zealand; they’re found in forest settings, often on damp overhanging stream banks and very commonly in caves which seem to give the glowworms the best habitat of all.
The “worm” you see on the ceiling of the Spellbound Glowworm Cave is the larval or maggot stage of a fungus gnat fly. The adult fly looks a little like a mosquito, you may see one in the cave but it is so non-descript you might hardly notice it. Cave life is so good for glowworms they usually complete their entire life cycle within the cave.
Glowworm light is made from a biochemical reaction called bioluminescence which takes place at the terminal end of the renal glands or malphigian tubules of the larval glowworm. Energy to make the light is sourced from an energy rich protein, ATP which is manufactured there. Glowworms produce ‘cold’ light, a pure light with almost no associated heat.
Glowworms can turn off their lights. They may do this when there is too much bright light (from the sun or a torch) or to ‘hide’ if disturbed. Sudden loud noises often make them glow brighter.
Glowworm larva lying in a silk hammock. Sticky silk threads hang from ceiling nearby.
Tour duration is 3 ¼ hours. Group size is small – up to 12 people.
Our tour visits 2 different caves, the first is a cave with a boat ride, and the second is a walk-through cave. We take you on an inflatable raft to view glowworms – there are no rapids in the cave, it’s very gentle and serene. The caves are presented very naturally, we’ve modified them as little as possible and they are located on a very beautiful, backcountry farm. You will encounter few other visitors – if any at all. Our tour is worth doing just for the drive out there!
Tours are suitable for people of all ages and average fitness. Our scenic walks are short and optional. Please let our guide know at check in if you have any fitness concerns. We stay dry – the tour does not involve using a wet suit or abseiling or river rapids, it’s very easy. The tour takes place in the outdoors and cave temperatures are cool even in summer (10°C/50°F) so we do recommend bringing a jacket and comfortable walking shoes.
You are welcome to bring your camera to snap some memories.
Hot drinks and biscuits are provided, and there are toilets available.
We drive out to private caves on scenic country roads, and commentary is given along the way.
During times of flooding the raft may not operate for safety reasons.
"Definitely the best!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 17 September 2015
My first visit to New Zealand and I really want to see Glowworm Cave. Did lots of research and found Spellbound Glowworm Cave Tours. I did compare with other Glowworm Cave in Waitomo I did not want to join a coach bus tour or I am not too adventure to do tubing. Spellbound was an excellent chose take you 2 caves and my tour guide Norman (which we both share the same name) was very detail and lots of information about everything inside the cave. We even have a short bring after first cave with some coffee and cookies. I was with a 12 people group which I think the best with small group tour. You will have some walking to do but very easy walk and I enjoy every moment!!
The tour I join was 11am tour I stay in Auckland wake up early in the morning catch a coach bus by Intercity to Waitomo Township. Make sure email them in advance that you bus might arrive at 11am. At the end of my tour I schedule a pick with a company Waitomo Shuttle Operate by Otorohanga Taxi Bill and Irene (Bill was very nice and friendly) take you to Otorohanga Station. From Otorohanga Station you can take the Northern Explorer Kiwi Rail back to Auckland.
I highly recommend anyone with this tour if you planning to do a day trip spend longer hour with Glowworm Cave.
Visited September 2015
“Brilliant! Great value!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 17 September 2015 NEW
Very well organised with small groups. Our guide was amazing and a current caver, who actually created one of the tours with his mates into one of two caves we went into. The gentle raft ride through the tunnels showed the amazing glowworms.
Visited September 2015
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 13 September 2015
Book it. Do it. It was really relaxed and breathtaking. Our guide was fantastic and funny. Kept the whole thing entertaining. Thanks for the experience!
Visited September 2015