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The Waitomo Caves have been drawing tourists since the late 1800s after the subterranean network was discovered by a local Maori chief Tane Tinorau. The name Waitomo comes from the Maori word 'Wai' for water and ‘tomo’ meaning hole in the ground.
The caves were first opened to tourists in 1889, with local Māori acting as guides. In fact many of the staff working at the caves today are direct descendants of Chief Tane Tinorau, as the cave and its lands were returned to his family in 1989.
The Waitomo Caves Glowworms (Arachnocampa luminosa) are the larvae of a fungus gnat unique to New Zealand. The larvae have an organ that creates a glowing light and they make sticky threads, which hang down to trap tiny flying insects.
You can visit Waitomo Caves on a day tour from Auckland or Rotorua and take a 45-minute guided tour of the caves, including a short but beautiful boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto.
Blackwater rafting and canyoning tours are also available.
The Waitomo Caves are located in the King Country, a region located in the west of the central North Island. Getting to Waitomo Caves is easy and can be reached in just under three hours from Auckland, or around two hours from Rotorua and your journey will take you through some of New Zealand's prime farming country.
Tours to Waitomo Caves depart daily with GreatSights New Zealand or use the fare finder opposite to book your bus trip to Waitomo Caves.