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The Waitomo Cave system is one of New Zealand's most popular attractions.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves Family Looking up at formations - image courtesy waitomo.com

Located on New Zealand's North Island, the stunning Waitomo Cave system is around 1 hours drive from Hamilton, and 2-2.5 hours drive from Auckland and Rotorua.

The word Waitomo comes from the Maori words, Wai (meaning water) and Tomo (meaning sinkhole). Together they translate to "water running through a hole".

First explored by local Maori chief Tane Tinorau, and surveyor Fred Mace in 1887, the caves were opened to the public in 1889.

The system comprises three main caves. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Ruakuri Caves, and Aranui Caves. 

Attracting thousands of visitors from around the world each year, the caves offer visitors a unique glimpse of life underground.

Read on for information on each:

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves have been one of New Zealand's most popular attractions for many years, and are a "must see" on your North Island holiday.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves boat group - image courtesy waitomo.com

The Glowworm Caves stretch for over 250 metres, covering two levels. In addition to the stream and glowworms, the caves include features such as the 18 metre high Cathedral, and the Tomo, a 16 metre deep shaft which links the upper and lower levels of the cave.

Experience the amazing sight of thousands of tiny glowworms as you glide silently beneath them on the iconic boat ride.

Listen as your guide details the history and features of this unique attraction, and be amazed by the subtle glow of these beautiful little creatures.

This really is a special attraction, and you can see from the picture that the glowworms give the effect of looking up at the stars on a cloudless night.

We have several Glowworm Caves tours operating from Auckland and Rotorua. These are amongst our most popular New Zealand tours.

Check them out here.

Ruakuri Cave

Also located within the Waitomo Cave system is Ruakuri Cave. Home to New Zealand's longest guided cave walking tour, Ruakuri Cave is indeed a special place.

Waitomo Ruakuri Cave 2 Girls Looking at formations - image courtesy waitomo.com

The caves name comes from the Maori words rua (meaning den) and kuri (meaning dog). Maori legend has it that around four or five hundred years ago, the caves were discovered by a young Maori man who was out hunting, and was attacked by wild dogs near the caves original entrance.

After renovations, the caves were opened again in 2005, and offer visitors the chance to see many amazing subterranean features.

Waitomo Ruakuri Cave Girl Looking at glowworms - image courtesy waitomo.com

The journey starts in the spectacular spiral entry. Limestone shawls and crystal features adorn the cave, and off in the distance the sound of waterfalls beckon. Glowworms are a feature of Ruakuri Cave, and this majestic cave will leave you in awe of nature's beauty.

In addition to being New Zealand's longest guided underground walk, Ruakuri also has the honor of being the only wheelchair accessible cave in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ruakuri Cave is also home to the Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. adventure. Join New Zealand's first black water adventure company as they take you on a thrilling journey through the glowworm decorated waterway deep within Ruakuri Cave.

Check out our range of cave tours here.

Aranui Cave

The third cave within the Waitomo Cave system is Aranui Cave. Aranui is located around five minutes drive from the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, and is located within the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve.

One of Aranui Cave's unique Wetas - image courtesy waitomo.com

The cave was discoverd in 1910 by a local Maori, Ruruku Aranui.

Aranui is the smallest of the three caves in the Waitomo system, and because it is a dry cave, with no water flow through it, there is very little life within the cave. It is home however to a small colony of the unique New Zealand cave weta, a small grasshopper like creature.

Visitors to Aranui Cave will also be treated to a variety of formations including stalactites (coming down from the roof), stalagmites (rising up from the ground), and flowstones.

Aranui Cave is well worth a visit if you are visiting the complex.

Check out our range of cave tours here.

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