18.01.2014 - 18.01.2014
Today was going to be a big one with both the Waitomo Caves and a Maori village experience and it meant we would need to leave Raglan early.
The Waitomo Caves were the first stop, which are famous for adventure activities that involve going underground and climbing through caves, swimming and tubing through pools that run throughout the caves (also known as black water rafting) and the opportunity to witness the glow worms in the darkness. The name "Waitomo" comes from the Māori words "wai" which means water and "tomo" which means hole or shaft.
8 of us were dropped off at Waitomo Adventures as we had chosen to do the the Tuma Tuma Toobing which included 2hours of being underground. We were really excited to be able to witness the glow worms with a little adventure to spice it up having seen David Attenborough feature it in one of his many wildlife programs.
After meeting our guides Josh and Flynn we headed on a bus to the caves. The road was a bit windy but it offered great views of the rolling hills across the southern Waikato region. After getting geared up in our wetsuits and hard hats we started our walk to the cave entrance. From this point the photo responsibilities were left with the guides as you weren't allowed to take your own cameras.
We walked across the fields that run over the caves to the entrance and Flynn told us that the caving would stretch across 1km. The caves began to form when earth movement caused the hard limestone to bend and buckle under the ocean and rise above the sea floor. As the rock was exposed to air, it separated and created cracks and weaknesses that allowed for water to flow through them dissolving the limestone and over millions of years large caves were formed.
Reaching our entrance we went down the ladder one by one and got our before shot, could this be the moment when you ask yourself, 'should I be going underground for 2hours?' and 'will my bum fit through this hole!' For me, I was like 'let it begin, let it begin!, despite the look on my face.
As we headed further underground we would stop and different points for the guides to give us a bit of safety awareness in the caves as well as geological lessons. What was really cool about the set up was that each time we moved on a new leader chosen from the group would be the one that ventured into the caves first and led the rest of the team, and the guides would find a way to manoeuvre around us. At certain points the way we chose would be the wrong one, one of which was led by me where we ended up walking in a large pool of water! Soon out of our depth the group had to swim only to find a dead end! It didn't matter because we all got a chance to acclimatise to the cold water also in the darkness we got to witness the incredible glowworms that covered literally all of the cave ceiling giving the impression that you were looking up to the stars!
The name glowworm is the generally given to insect larvae because of the bioluminescence that occurs inside the larvae's bodies which they produce from a chemical reaction. It is this light that emits from their bodies which attracts the insects they feed on. We also learnt that the glowworms are cannibalistic and will eat their kin to stay alive. They choose to be inside the caves because of the insects that travel within them, however if a flood occurs and washes away all possible food, the larvae will eat each other.
After witnessing the larvae we went further and further through the caves, going though small gaps and big ones trying to find our way through the darkness. It wasn't long before we came to a large pool of water and the guides encouraged us to jump into it backwards onto our tubes. It was great fun jumping in and once all of us had got into the water we linked up and floated backwards down the cave. It was so amazing as the cave ceiling was completely covered with glowworms, despite the guides encouraging us to sing we were all were speechless.
There was more ducking and diving through the caves and there were stop off points where the guides explained about the stalactites and stalagmites, some of which you could hit and make a tune out!
The finale to our intrepid expedition was a dive bomb into a pool which we all had a go at including the obligatory silly pose.
It was an incredible experience and we were so pleased we had done so much and it wasn't even lunchtime!
Stay tuned for more tales!