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Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand

No, these lights overhead in the caves are neither stars, nor electric lamps, but actually bioluminescent worms!

Best time: November–April

Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Waitomo Glowworm Caves

When you find yourself in Waitomo Glowworm Caves and see blue lights above, at the first sight, you might think that you view cosmos through the telescope or that this is a kind of Christmas illumination. But in fact, these are bioluminescent larvae of various kinds hanging from cave's ceiling. They are commonly named glowworms. These larvae​ lure insects using blue glow which literally shines from the end of the worm's tale.

Actually, this blue light is a result of a chemical reaction which takes place in the capsule of a larvae's tale. Glittering silver-like threads are made of sticky mucus also produced by glowworms to trap the insects. They feed on various flies who are lured by the blue lights and eventually get trapped into the sticky strings.

The glowworms were discovered in 1887 by an Englishman Fred Mace and Maori Chief Tane Tinorau. Two years later Tinorau's wife started guiding tours through the Waitomo Caves. Many of today's guides of Glowworm Caves Tours are descendants of Tinorau and his wife.

The best time to visit the caves is during the summer months, namely between November and April. In other months it can get rather cold in the actual caves. Summer is more likely to be both warm and humid.

Practical info

When is the most suitable time to visit Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are best visited during New Zealand's summer months between November and April. The cooler months can be quite chilly inside the caves; therefore it's important to bundle up and dress accordingly. Warmer months provide higher temperatures in the caves and provide guests with a more comfortable visit. Show more

What are the sources of the blue lights in Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are illuminated by the blue bioluminescent larvae commonly known as glowworms. These glowworms hang from the cave roofs, producing a blue light that results from a chemical reaction in their tails. The light produced from their glow attracts insects that then become stuck in their threads and provide the glowworms with their food source. Show more

What is the process responsible for the production of the blue lights by the glowworms?

Glowworms generate a blue light resulting from a chemical reaction that occurs within a capsule located at the end of their tails. They produce a mix of luciferin and luciferase that triggers bioluminescence. Bioluminescence protects the glowworms since no heat is produced during the reaction, making it difficult for potential predators to find them. The glowworms' blue light is also a form of communication among themselves. Show more

What do the glowworms feed on in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves?

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are home to glowworms that feed on various insects, including flies. They use their bioluminescence to lure insects into their threads, where the insects become stuck in their sticky mucus. The trapped insects provide the glowworms with a source of food. Visitors to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves can witness these insects in large numbers. Show more

Who first discovered the glowworms in Waitomo Glowworm Caves, and who currently guides the tours?

In 1887, a collaboration between an Englishman named Fred Mace and Maori Chief Tane Tinorau led to the discovery of the glowworms at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Two years after the discovery, Tane Tinorau's wife started guiding guests through the caves, and the family tradition has continued. Today, many of the guides that lead tours of the Glowworm Caves are Tinorau's family descendants, keeping the family's legacy alive. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin