It was the only day of rain on our tour – but the drizzle steadily progressed to downpour! We arrived at Waitomo Caves and scurried from the van into the ultra modern complex that houses the ticket office, cafe, and gift shop. Here we meet our guide, and started our first Cave adventure. “Wai (water) tomo (hole)” was the first Cave to be fully explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau accompanied by an English surveyor Fred Mace.
From the relatively small door in the rocky hillside, we gradually descended into the underground limestone wonderland. We were guided through the labyrinth of tunnels and caves, all cleverly illuminated to highlight the surreal formations on every wall, floor and ceiling. Waitomo’s hour underground culminated with a blackwater boat ride on the river to view the celestial Glowworm lights.
Our next adventure was Aranui Cave. We trekked the short bushwalk to the entrance, then entered what was to be the most spectacular of the three Cave visit. The formations in this cave were more intricate, more interesting, and more abundant than the other two. Even though a shorter walk, it was here that we spent the most time admiring natures artwork.
Our final Cave experience was Ruakuri. The previous entrance was once very close to Aranui, but due to the discovery of a burial tomb had been sealed, and a new entrance made in 2004. This entrance is a stunning 160m ramp that spirals around and around 12 metres down.
Ruakuri was a fascinating 1.2km walk deep deep underground, with the slightly unnerving sound of the thundering subterranean river concealed by rock walls. Our tour concluded with our young operatically trained guide “Pippin” giving us a stunning rendition of “Hallelujah” that resonated beautifully as we climbed the ramp back to the surface.
Waitomo Caves are definitely a “must see” activity in New Zealand.