"A major attraction with minor appeal to me" Top 5 Page for this destination Waitomo Caves by Kakapo2

Waitomo Caves Travel Guide: 65 reviews and 210 photos

The Waitomo Caves are one of New Zealand's main tourist attractions - and the one of this list of must-see places I have been most underwhelmed.

Perhaps I have to distinguish between people who have never been in old caves and those who have visited such underground marvels in Europe where the thousands of years old stalactites and stalagmites take your breath away.

If you are one of the latter, the only reason to spend time and money at the Waitomo Caves are the truly fantastic glow worms. But again, I found the glow worm caves at Lake Te Anau in the South Island more impressive, as the caves were more interesting, and the boat trip into the part of the caves with high glow worm concentration was more appealing and longer as well.

I love to be positively surprised, and hoped so after a former guide telling me there is nothing more beautiful and spectacular and amazing in the world than the Waitomo Caves. But sorry to say, they have not done it for me.

If you still want to visit, make sure you go as early in the day as possible (or in the late afternoon) in order to avoid the bus loads of tourists arriving from Auckland before lunchtime.

A handy place to stay for the night is Te Kuiti which is twelve kilometres northwest of the Waitomo Caves.

The Maori word Waitomo means "water passing through a hole", with "wai" meaning water and "tomo" meaning a doline or sinkhole.

It is said the caves are probably more than two million years old - but, of course, this includes the entire process from the land being under the sea and the formation of the thick limestone layers which later cracked and eroded into rocks and caves.

The caves as you see them now should not be older than 12,000 years, which is the age of the caves at Lake Te Anau. This is young in geological terms.

Speaking about Te Anau, the tour down there in Fiordland takes nearly 2.5 hours while the tour of Glowworm Cave at Waitomo takes 40 minutes. The Te Anau experience costs NZ$ 67 including the boat trip across the lake, at Waitomo you pay NZ$ 46. To me, this is close to a rip-off.

I had much more enjoyed a visit to Binghöhle in Franconian Switzerland in Germany two months earlier. The admission was 3.50 Euro.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Fantastic glow worms
  • Cons:Not very impressive caves
  • In a nutshell:Save your money for something else
  • Last visit to Waitomo Caves: Oct 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (19)

Comments (1)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    May 4, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Strange that the visitor centre is more impressive than the cave, but from your photo of the visitor centre I can see why -- it's astounding. Are glow worms the same as fireflies or lightning bugs? We used to have fireflies in Illinois in the summer.


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