In a Cave, Under the Stars…er Worms…

So the next part of our Trilogy Surpercharged Experience was the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. When I tried to explain this to my German friends, I was met with confusion. In German, the word “glow worm” or “Glühwürmchen” means firefly. But in New Zealand, it’s definitely a horse of a different color.

Arachnocampa luminosa is a species of Fungus Gnat with a predatory larvae stage that uses light to attract its prey. The most popular places to find them in New Zealand is at the Waitomo Caves in the North Island and Te Ana-au Caves in the South. The larvae stage lasts about 6 to 12 months depending on the availability of food and said larvae produce a bioluminensce that trick other insects into thinking it is sunlight. They fly towards the light and get snagged on the threads of silk that hang from its nest. The adult stage lasts only a few days – because somehow they evolved to not have a mouth or anus. So they do what they can only do in such a short time – mate – with the female capable of laying up to about 200 eggs before dying. The first egg to hatch apparently will eat all of its brothers and sisters which helps it obtain its initial glow and the cycle starts over again.

The whole thing sounds nasty but the effect is feeling like you are seeing starlight even when you’re so deep underground.


There are quite a few ways to experience the glow worm caves, the most common is to take the tour at the caves themselves and ending with a leasurely boat ride around the grotto. But there are other companies down the street that offer something that can also raise your pulse a little bit.

We recommend the company: The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. There they give you two more adventurous options:

The package we got came with the Black Labyrinth tour. Even if you’re not an adrenaline junkie, the Black Labyrinth is quite tame. If I had a chance to do it again – I would probably check the Black Abyss. But we still had a lot of fun. The caves are quite big – bigger than we were able to see since we were mostly in the dark. T was concerned about being too tall in case we had to do some crawling, but that wasn’t the case. We also had to jump off some waterfalls! Like really small ones. Maybe 1 meter or 1.5. Still – at least I can say I jumped off some waterfalls!

If you want to have an idea of what we did – here’s the promotional video for the Black Labyrinth as well as this other video from BEEP:

Trust me, it’s quite fun 😀 The idea of jumping off waterfalls was a little scary at first. Vertigo + darkness + jumping backwards  into said darkness = eh…….heart palpitating. But they were little baby falls, it was very fun and quite safe. The best part was the human chain that we created so that our guides could drag us through complete darkness, allowing us to really see the glow worms. That was awesome; it felt like I was traveling down a lazy river by starlight….instead of creepy cannibilistic larvae – whatever, I am a romantic!

I am going to come out and say that pretty much everything we did in New Zealand falls under my “new favorite thing” category and this activity was no different. Sure you can walk through the caves and take a nice (ahem boring) ride on a boat, but if you like to be a little more interactive, I suggest doing this. If you are wanting even more – then go for the Black Abyss. Sure it’s wet and fucking cold (especially when you get the water into the sleeves of your wet suit), but you are treated to a nice hot soup and bagel at the end. Delightful.

Have you ever done water rafting like this? If so, where?

Tune in next week when I talk about the geysers and Maoris! Until then, here are some photos taken by our guides as well as the professional, promotional photos from the company.

Bis nächste Woche!


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