Glow Worms and Underground Wonders

New Zealand is home to a whole array of fascinating wildlife, but few species are as intriguing and beautiful as our native glow worm.

Often found in populations numbering well into the thousands, New Zealand's glow worm 'arachnocampa luminosa' is found nowhere else on earth. A journey into the hidden underground worlds of both the North Island and South Island will reveal the spectacular environments where these unusual creatures thrive. Take a journey of discovery and learn the secrets of these mysterious and alluring insects, amidst dark networks of amazing limestone formations and subterranean waterways.

The NZ Glow worm

Arachnocampa Luminosa is named for its spider-like technique for catching prey. Unique to New Zealand, they can be found in the damp, dark environments of limestone caves, abandoned mining tunnels and under shady, overhanging banks near streams or obscured beneath dense forest. This species is in fact not a worm at all, and is actually an insect from the knat family, closely resembling the mosquito. They are carnivorous and during the larval stage, their luminosity is used to lure prey, including sand flies, moths and mayflies.

During the pupal and adult life stages, the light of the glow worm is used to attract the opposite sex. Total lifespan is said to be in the order of 11-12 months with the predatory larval stage being approximately 9 months in duration. Their stunning bluey-green glow is produced in a chemical reaction by an organ similar in function to the human kidney. It is this gentle illumination that creates spectacular effects in the darkness and when massed in their thousands, the roof and walls of a cave can resemble a galaxy of stars.

Northland's ultimate glow worm experience

The Kawiti glow worm caves are surely one of New Zealand's great natural wonders. Named after the famous Maori chief Kawiti, the tours were first established by his great grandson in the 1950's. Beneath lush rainforest, hidden chambers reveal awesome rock formations, including networks of wonderous stalactites and stalagmites. One chamber, aptly named the 'Waiomio Night Sky' allows visitors to observe glow worms at such close proximity that you can nearly reach out and touch them. The unforgettable and world famous 'Milky Way' cavern showcases staggering glow worm numbers and as far as the eye can see, their enchanting lights resemble the brilliant night sky. To this day, the descendants of the Kawiti family still run the tours. Share in their colourful history, passion and knowledge and experience the magic of Kawiti both above and below ground.

Te Anau glow worm caves; a hidden gem

Te Anau is a stunning South Island town set amongst dramatic scenery. The name Te Anau means 'caves of swirling water' and hints of a place that for many years was lost in legend. It wasn't until 1948 that an explorer by the name of Lawson Burrows finally rediscovered the town's namesake. Hidden beneath the towering mountains on the western shores of Lake Te Anau, he found a breathtaking underground cave network that is home to countless thousands of glow worms. At only 12000 years old, the caves are relatively young and are constantly being shaped by the subterranean river that flows through them. Experience breathtaking limestone formations, whirlpools and even an underground waterfall in what is the home of Southland's best glow worm spectacle.

To experience the best of these fantastic natural wonders at Kawiti or Te Anau, join a small group tour with MoaTrek. Many of our itineraries combine one or both of these magnificent glow worm locations; and seeing the Kawiti Caves or the Te Anau Caves is sure to be one of the many highlights of your holiday in New Zealand. To find out more, please visit our website, or contact us directly.