From Tongariro, it was a short drive over to the Waitomo Caves area, a small village famous for its series of dramatic underwater caves carved through limestone by the Waitomo Stream.
The caves are popular with explorers of all types, and for the “glow worms” that light up the walls of caves and nearby stone walls bordering the stream at night by emitting a bright green bioluminescent light. We had heard that the best way to experience the caves was to don a wet suit and inflatable tube and cruise down into the caves to get an up-front view (thanks Sharon & Eddie!), so headed to a local guiding company, suited up, and jumped in.
(OK, so it’s possible Lee may not have fully realized what he was getting into, but he looks happy, doesn’t he?).
After getting over the initial shock of the very cold water, and the entry into the caves through a very small hole (yes, that’s it below)…
… we were treated to an incredible floating tour through an amazing world of spectacular underground caves, including an phenomenal light show with the glow worms lighting the way.
The “worm” (according to our trusty tour guide) is actually the larval stage of a fungus gnat fly, technically making it a maggot (but apparently “Glow Maggot Cave” tours didn’t go over so well). Thanks to our trusty guide, we managed to make our way back to daylight, and happily, to hot showers. We were so intrigued that we went back out after dark to a nearby park and enjoyed another incredible show of glow worms and stars filling the night sky. No photos of that one, unfortunately – but incredible memories!