Havey’s Australia & New Zealand Adventure Part 15 – Waitomo Caves & Rotorua, North Island NZ

The Day I Became Chief

Yep, that’s right, I shall henceforth refer to myself in the third person as “The Chief” and suggest you do the same otherwise I’ll set my tribe on you! Haha, just kidding, The Chief wouldn’t do such a thing 😛

This part of my New Zealand tour was a mixed back of experiences as we started off at the world famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves for a morning of marvel before making our way over to the “pleasant” smells of Rotorua where chiefdom chose me. How on Earth do I explain this one?! Read on and find out 😀

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

I was recommended to go to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves by my brother’s fiancee so I booked myself on a guided excursion through them to see what they were all about. To get to the caves from Raglan (which is where we were in the previous post) head east along Highway 23, then south down Highways 39, 3 and 37 to get to the “metropolis” that is Waitomo. Metropolis as in, it has a couple of cafes, hostels and a visitor centre…Yep. Seriously!

The tour we went on took us to two different caves via a lovely long drive across the countryside. We walked through the first cave and then rafted through the second one as we travelled down the underground river in pitch black conditions. Don’t worry, you get head torches, you won’t get wet (other than a bit of water dripping down from the top of the cave) and your eyes will adjust to the darkness. When they do, you’ll be amazed by what you see. It’s like looking up at the night sky as you just see thousands upon thousands of glowing greenish light emitted from the glowworms. They glow either to attract a mate, scare off predators or lure prey to their sticky webs [Source}.

The views from the drive out to the caves are pretty awesome.
You can say hello to the locals as well!

In the first cave, we learnt about the dos and don’ts of walking in this subterranean world. They have kept the modification to the caves as minimal as possible so you can experience it in all it’s natural glory, which means NO TOUCHING! Please don’t touch anything with your fingers because the oil from your skin will affect the natural growth and ecosystem of the cave.

What you’ll notice in pretty much any cave you walk into are the rock formations and they are amazing here too. However, the most important thing I took away was how to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites 😛 Stalactites hang from the ceiling because they hang on TIGHT! Stalagmites grow up from the bottom because they MIGHT trip you up! Now you know 🙂 Let’s have a walk around this first cave shall we?

Time to enter the first cave and take a little walk through
The true nature of the cave starts taking shape with stalactite and stalagmite formations
Remains from one of the members of the last group that didn’t make it out 😛

One of the skeletons we saw was from an extinct bird called the “Moa”. This was a huge species of bird when they were still amongst us, reaching heights of over 3.5 metres (12 feet) and 220kg (500lb) which was a lot bigger than ostriches are now! Sadly, they were over-hunted by the Maoris and entered the history books around 1300-1400AD [Source].

The remains of a Moa bird skeleton
The reflections from this pool of water adds to the eeriness

In between the cave walks, we had a break outside with some cookies and hot drinks (no prizes for guessing I had hot chocolate 😉 ) before entering our second cave but not before we saw one of our eel friends who possibly escaped from the farm we were at yesterday 😛 Who wants to dive in and give him a little hug then?

We had to negotiate with the cave gatekeeper to see the glowworms

Once we paid the cave gatekeeper (don’t worry, we took the hit so you won’t have to pay him when you visit) we could feel the magic as we entered the magnificent glow worm caves. Smartphones are not much use here for taking pictures and if you’re a keen photographer, you’ll have to go on the special photography tour with your tripods and gear because you’ll need a long exposure time (30 minutes) to capture the glowworms in all their glory. Thankfully the guide sent us pictures of the caves via email after the tour, which were taken with decent camera equipment so we could remember this amazing moment.

Entrance to the glow worm caves
Gooey strings from the ceiling help glowworms catch their prey
This is the best my smartphone could do… rubbish!
A closer representation of what it’s like in there – thanks to Spellbound Waitomo for sending this to us after the tour

To illustrate just how awesome it was, there wasn’t a single word said by anyone as soon as we got on the raft that took us up and down the cave river. We just took it all in as it was like looking in to a green tinted night sky.

The raft inside the cave – thanks to Spellbound Waitomo for sending this to us after the tour

We booked the tour with Spellbound Waitomo which is basically the only company that has access to give tours in these caves as they are on private land. It turns out these caves have been visited not once but twice from the nature legend that is David Attenborough, which should tell you something! For about a 3 hour tour, it will cost around $75NZD which is a bargain in my opinion!


It was hard to leave the caves but we needed to head east along Highways 28 and 5 to get to my inauguration, I mean, Rotorua! I liken this place to the “Yellowstone” of New Zealand with all of the hot springs that are around. The streets are lined with steam coming out of every orifice on the pavements and roads and you’ll notice a strong smell of rotten eggs due to sulphur dioxide. However, it is a smell you get used to pretty quickly and we needed to as we had a Moari cultural experience lined up!

The geothermal activity underneath the surface causes the water to be at boiling point when it gets to the surface so absolutely DO NOT jump in here! The locals use this to good effect though and have the most energy efficient central heating systems seeing as they just run a series of pipes around their house to keep it warm AND they all have naturally heated baths in their back gardens because why not?!

The centre of Rotorua with steam coming out of the ground

As we were being shown around, there was a cold wind in the air but the good news was that the ground was lovely and warm and our Maori guide told us that we could just sit or lie down to heat ourselves up! We were taken to the outside of the Te Papaiouru Marae (Gathering Place), around the Anglican Church which was set up by European settlers and then to the War Memorial around the back of it.

Memorial at the back of the Anglican Church

During the tour we were told about the 3 main reasons for the cannibalistic culture of Maoris, which lasted up until European settlement in the 1830s. The first is religion, the second is taking your revenge on those who wronged you and the third was one I questioned which was the “spiritual” side of cannibalism. This was based on killing your enemies in battle, eating them and taking their “mana” or life energy. By eating them, you’d acquire their accumulated mana making you a super beast in battle… but you’d also be on the hit list with your increased mana. Thankfully our guide didn’t eat us 🙂

Lake Rotorua with Mokoia Island

And then it was time for me to become chief! In Maori culture the females have the say as to which male is to be their chief and the tour guide decided it would be me! Thanks Bex 😛 So once I found out the great news of my newly acquired tribe, I needed to come up with a speech of how I’d show our gratitude to our Moari guide for welcoming us in to his home and neighbourhood. All within an hour! It required an element of “flying by the seat of my pants” but I came through and we then sung a song for him which was the first 4 lines of the Irish National Anthem (if memory serves right).

Of course, we needed a name for the tribe and this is where we really threw off our Maori guide because I (under the influence from Bex) decided to name us the “Dobblers” tribe. “The…D…Dob…Dobblers?” Yes, that’s right! Dobblers! Whyyyy?! Well I brought a game with me on this trip called “Dobble” which is a picture matching card game that a few people took a liiiiittle bit too seriously haha! The most passive of people turned into aggressively competitive maniacs (me included)! Nonetheless, here is my Dobbler tribe 🙂

The Dobbler Tribe!

That’s all for today folks, in the next blog, myself and some of the Dobbler tribe embark on one of the most outrageous white water rafting trips I’ve ever done and we get to live a day in the life of a hobbit 🙂

Until then, take it easy.

Nicky (The Chief)

PHC Top 3 – A Chance To Win From A Growing Prize Pool

Well, whilst I’m here, I might as well take the chance to tell you about a new contest that I’ve been a part of with the Power House Creatives called @phctop3. All you need to do is tell us what your top 3 favourites for a chance to win from a growing prize pool – more info here.

Electronic Music Alliance (EMA)

EMA is a growing electronic music community run by electronic musicians FOR electronic musicians. We have weekly playlists on a variety of platforms to cater for all streaming preferences – make sure you follow our blog for your weekly dose here. We’re also launching a new community run label called Electronic Alliance Records which aims to spread the word even more for our artists – check the latest developments and what music is coming up here

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