Visiting the Glowworm Caves in New Zealand is a magical experience.
That was the cute sign that we saw during our glowworm tour with Real Journeys in Te Anau, New Zealand. We wanted to see the glowworm phenomenon while we were traveling New Zealand and Te Anau seemed like the perfect place to do it.
We booked with Real Journeys, a very large corporation that leads many different trips in the area. They run a slick and well-tuned operation with very reasonable prices. We hopped on our boat for a scenic cruise across the beautiful Lake Te Anau from the downtown waterfront office in Te Anau town. The cruise was a pleasant scenic trip taking in the views of the Fiord Land National Park surrounding us.
After about 20 minutes we were on the opposite side of New Zealand’s second largest lake where we were met by our guide and learned about the glowworms.
Glowworms never leave the cave and they spend their lives in there feeding on insects that make their way into the deep caverns. Their bioluminescent lights attract the bugs where they are trapped in their gooey string to await their slow death. One glowworm hangs hundreds of threads to catch their prey and then makes it's way down through the tube to feat upon their dinner.
We are split into small groups and we only have 7 people on our tour of the caves.
We started the tour with a walk through the most phenomenal underground caves system we have ever witnessed. Rushing water has carved a beautiful labyrinth of passageways creating whirlpools, waterfalls, impressive rock formations and a strong underground river. I would hate to fall into that water; you would never be seen or heard from again.
We weren’t allowed to take photographs once we entered the glowworm caves so as to not disrupt the worms and we had to be very silent. Any noise or light will make the worms “turn off” and we would therefore be stuck sitting in a pitch-dark cavern rather than a recreation of a starlit night.
I didn’t know what to expect, but was dazzled by the sparkling display taking place over our heads. It looked as if we were sitting under a very clear starry night. Millions of glowworms clung to the ceiling creating a twinkling in the darkness above.
Photo Credit – My new life in New Zealand – we borrowed this photo because we didnt' take any. We're a stickler for the rules especially if it means turning off the glowworms.
We couldn’t see anything but the glow from the worms and had to keep our arms and legs in the boat at all times. You never know when you may bump into a rock or the jagged wall of the cave. Our guide pulled the boat along a rope while we looked up to the ceiling of the cave to watch the glowworms do their thing.
We spent about 20 minutes in the cave and felt completely satisfied with our glowworm experience.
The tour began with a 15 minute walk through the cave system to the final stop where we boarded our boats just above a small waterfall. We climbed carefully in and received our instructions once again to not take photographs or speak. The glowworms will turn off their lights if they feel threatened at all. We were then pulled along a rope by our guide into the the darkness.
Inside the Cave was Dead Quiet
There was no motor or paddle on this boat. Our guide stood at the front of our vessel and pulled us silently through the cave. Here the water was still and silent and all I could hear was our breathing. It wasn't long until we came across the cavern filled with glowworms. It had been raining hard for a few days here in Southern New Zealand bringing in many insects for the glowworms to feast upon. Because of this, the glowworms were shining brightly for us. Little did they know they were entertaining a group of people, they were simply trying to attract their meal for the evening.
Photo Credit – Jolanta Sketch – There are some great photos of glowworms and slime on this site.
Glowworms have a very short lifespan of about 6 months. Once they have lived out their purpose, the larva transform into a fly. As a fly it only lives for a few short days and spends it's time reproducing. The fully grown fly does not have a mouth as it is meant to live for only a short time. Once it lays its eggs, the glowworm lifespan starts all over again and continues to will continue to satisfy New Zealand tourists for years to come.
- Bookings can be made in Te Anau at Real Journeys located on the waterfront.
- Glowworm Tour and Scenic Cruise costs $67
- 1 NZD = .7 CAD and .7 USD
- 1NZD = .5 Euro and .5 British Pound