W hen visiting New Zealand, The Waitomo Glowworm Caves often come up as a must see on any itinerary, and that is because it is!
There are many different types of tours to see the caves, but if you are looking for something a bit more adventurous than the standard river tour, the Lost World Adventure can’t be missed. I have been to New Zealand a couple times now, and this is by far was the best way to see the caves!
This excursion can be done as a 7 or 4 hour trip. I picked the 4 hour only because it was cold and rainy when I was there--despite the summer season in January, and I didn’t want to get super wet.
The 4 hour tour includes time out on the water and travel and preparation time before the cave. You are actually inside of the cave for just under 3 hours.
People afraid of heights or falling might be intimidated by this but if you want to conquer that fear, what you will see and do while hiking through this cave makes it all worthwhile!
The entire staff has your safety as their utmost concern, so you will have nothing to worry about! The day starts off with a quick safety lesson, and then you’re equipped up and ready to abseil 100 meters (328 feet) down into the entrance of the cave.
The descent takes 20-30 minutes. It is a tough and quite strenuous descent giving you a great arm workout! Once you land at the bottom, the hike begins through the mist and up into the rocks. While the hike has only just begun, I already feel like I am in the Lost World.
The hike takes you up and over some wet rocks and a few steep switch backs. Making your way through rocks and tight spaces, the descent continues where sunlight is now practically gone. Thoughts of how am I going to get out of here continually crossed my mind. Headlamps were a necessity at this stage of the cave, but no glow worms yet!
Eventually you arrive to a place where some would consider the highlight of the cave tour, but for me this came second to the physical part of the trek. I forgot about the glow worms because of the intensity and rigorousness or the terrain. My focus had now turned to finishing the adventure.
Our guide took us to the perfect place to rest, just under the glow worm ceiling.
Here marks about the 2 hour point and by now I’m continually thinking how I am going to get out of here in one piece and what I am going to eat as a reward. The 7 hour tour includes lunch but with this one only water is provided. I didn't think that there was much provided and you can’t bring anything of your own into the cave. As our guide had told us from the beginning, the hardest and most challenging part of the cave is climbing out.
I was dreading this part. A 50 meter (164ft) ladder climb up the rocks! The ladder climb to get outside of the cave was seriously one of the hardest challenges I’ve had in my life. I do not have a lot of upper body strength and that combined with the cold, slippery wetness of the metal made it extremely difficult for me. But don't worry, if worst comes to worst and you can't make it out on your own strength, the guides are able to pull you out.
I however was not about to give up! The thought of falling or being pulled up by the rope freaked me out enough (not to mention the claustrophobia kicking in from being underground so long) that I became super motivated to power through this. Completely shaking and exhilarated, I made it to the top and practically collapse at the top of the ladder.
But, I look back down and am proud of myself for pushing my limits. The glow worms were just a plus on this adventure, if you are just looking to see them this isn’t the best place. There are main glow worm caves that are much easier to get to and have way more viewing options. But for me, pushing myself to take a more extreme view of the caves was the best part of the tour.
At the exit of the cave, you are greeted by a heart shaped opening and beautiful warm sunlight. The Glowworm caves is an adventure for the risky, daring, and for those who want to be physically challenged. And most certainly my Prime Adventure.