Summer Season Departure Times:
- Last tour at 5.30pm from 01 November - 31 March.
- Last tour on Christmas Day is 4pm.
Additional tours at 6pm and 7pm from 26 December to 31 January.
- Tour is approx 45 minutes in duration
Cave Combo tours are available with the most popular Waitomo Glowworm Caves & Ruakuri Cave, or Waitomo Glowworm Caves & Aranui Cave, or the Triple Cave Combo.
Regular Departure Times:
- Tours depart every half hour daily from 9am-5pm daily from 01 April - 31 October.
Hours of Operation
- Open from 9am daily, 365 days a year.
- Summer Hours: 9.00am - 5.30pm (01 November - 31 March)
- Winter Hours: 9.00am - 5.00pm
Additional Tour Information
- Bring comfortable walking shoes and a warm jacket.
- The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are accessible to those with reasonable mobility, with good handrails and paths.
- Please note: the Waitomo Glowworm Caves do not have wheelchair access. However
Ruakuri Cave is wheelchair friendly.
HISTORY OF THE WAITOMO GLOWWORM CAVES
DISCOVER NEW ZEALAND'S NATURAL HIGHLIGHTS
Chief Tane Tinorau
The massed delicacy of the millions of stalactites in Aranui Cave is probably without equal in the world. The cave was formed on an earthquake fault, which means the rain water that creates the limestone crystals enters more readily. As a result, almost every corner of the roof and walls is adorned with fragile, sparkling forms in pale brown, pink and white. There is very little of the ceiling that has not been decorated by the dripping water.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves were first explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau accompanied by an English surveyor Fred Mace. Local Maori people knew of the Caves existence, but the subterranean caverns had never been extensively explored until Fred and Tane went to investigate. They built a raft of flax stems and with candles as their only lighting, floated into the cave where the stream goes underground.
As they entered the caves, their first discovery was the Glowworm Grotto with its myriad of tiny bright lights dotting the cave ceiling. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they saw a multitude of lights reflecting off the water. Looking up, they discovered that the ceilings were dotted with the lights of thousands of glowworms. Debris and logs littered the waterway, but by poling themselves toward the embankment they were able to leave the raft and explore the lower levels of the cave. Here they found themselves surrounded by the glorious cave decorations.
Jubilant at their discovery, they returned many times to explore further, and on an independent trip Chief Tane discovered the upper level of the cave and an easier access. Only after many subsequent visits did they discover an entry point on land. This is the same entry point used today by thousands of visitors annually. By 1889 Tane Tinorau had opened the cave to tourists. Visitor numbers soared and Chief Tane and his wife Huti escorted groups through the cave for a small fee. In 1906 the administration of the cave was taken over by the government.
The Caves Today - 100 years later
In 1989, almost 100 years later, the land and the cave was returned to the descendants of the original owners. Many staff employed at the caves today are direct descendants of Chief Tane Tinorau and his wife Huti.
WAITOMO GLOWWORM CAVES VIDEO
DISCOVER NEW ZEALAND'S NATURAL HIGHLIGHTS
Find out more about the Waitomo Glowworm Caves from the first exploration over 120 years ago to its magical glowworms that continue to mesmerize visitors!
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT WAITOMO GLOWWORM CAVES
Knowledgeable guides, many of whom are local people whose parents and grandparents have guided in the caves, lead each tour group. Through their story telling the history, features and legends of the cave are brought to life.
TWO CAVE LEVELS
Formed over 30 million years ago there are two levels to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves which are 16 metres apart. The upper level is dry and includes the entrance to the cave, and formations known as the Catacombs, the Pipe Organ and the Banquet Chamber. The lower level consists of stream passages and the Cathedral.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
The Cathedral is on the lower level of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and, at 18 metres in height, this is the largest cavern. It is world-renowned for its superb acoustics, which are due to the enclosed shape and rough surface. Many famous singers and choirs have performed here and have been delighted with the purity of the sound.
The Tomo is one of the wonders of Waitomo, it is a 16 metre vertical limestone shaft which marks the course of an ancient waterfall which today on flows during heavy rains. The dramatic vertical drop is carefully lighted to show the scalloped walls and the layers of limestone. The Tomo was the last feature of the cave to be formed and links the upper level to the Waitomo River below.
A special Scientific Advisory Group protects the many hundreds of thousands of little glowworms at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
Sophisticated automated monitoring systems check air quality, rock and air temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide. Data is downloaded to a central computer, analysed by specialist staff throughout the day and then reviewed. Using this information, the advisory group determines the management of the cave environment including deciding when air flows should be altered and the number of people who can visit each day.
GUIDELINES FOR YOUR VISIT
It is our aim to provide the best service possible to all cave visitors. We seek your co-operation fulfilling these aims and ask that you follow the guidelines listed below.
- Please do not touch formations. Stalactites and stalagmites take a long time to form. They are easily discoloured by people touching them and the more fragile formations can break. Please help us protect the beauty of the cave.
- To protect the cave atmosphere and for the enjoyment and consideration of others, we ask that you do not smoke in the cave.
- All photography is strictly forbidden. This includes non-flash photography and video.
- Keep quiet at all times, especially in the boat and on the jetties.