New Zealand glow worms (Arachnocampa luminosa) can be found up and down the country - in famous locations such as the Waitomo Caves near Hamilton, and in off-the-beaten track places such as the Kawiti Caves 45 minutes north of Whangarei. You may even be lucky enough to spot them while camping out in the wilderness. If you’re heading into caves, it always pays to wear footwear suitable for hiking, as well as take another layer of clothing since it gets cold in there!
Check out our insider tips below for an unforgettable glow worm experience.
Smaller groups make the experience more magical. When you’re surrounded by large numbers of people, the hustle and bustle takes away from the beauty of the glow worms. In contrast, standing there in intimate silence while observing the soft glow can leave you with an out-of-this world feeling.
Local kiwi guides
Ensure your guide is a local for a more authentic kiwi experience – they’ll know the cave and its quirks inside out, and will naturally be enthusiastic to share with you everything that makes their world so special. In addition to learning about the glow worms’ fascinating life cycles and the intricate webs these creatures spin, local guides may be able to point out hard-to-spot features such as fossils or hidden chambers that only locals would know about.
Fascinating history & legends
Try to choose a glow worm location with a fascinating history. The Kawiti Caves, for example, were discovered in the 1600s by a Maori woman named Roku who was fleeing her tribe. However, she gave herself away by leaving trodden berries outside and letting woodsmoke drift from the entrance, and she was discovered by the famous chieftainess, Hineamaru. The Kawiti family members, who own the caves and run the tours, are direct descendants of Hineamaru – you can’t get much more of an authentic experience than a family-owned and discovered cave.
Get off the beaten track
Popular isn’t always better – while the Waitomo Caves are famous, off-the-beaten-track caves offer something that not many people get to see. The Kawiti Caves are a limestone cave system located amid rainforest and karst rock formations. Inside the cave there are delicate stalactites and stalagmites crowding the walls, floors and ceilings of the chambers, with thousands upon thousands of glow worms scattered throughout. You’ll be on a boardwalk but you can get up so close to these luminous worms that you’ll be able to see the actual bodies with their blue-green tail lights. And no crowds? Priceless!
Visiting a glow worm cave really is an unmissable New Zealand experience, and with a bit of planning and thinking outside the box, it can be a truly unique one.
MoaTrek visits the Kawiti Caves when in Northland on many of its small group New Zealand Tours. Travelling with MoaTrek is a great way to see the unique sights of NZ, including this awesome, off the beaten track location with a great kiwi guide and a small group of likeminded people. Get in touch – we’d love to chat about your dream New Zealand vacation.