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Tom O'Leary Oct 10

Having done quite a bit of caving during my time with Glasgow University Potholing Club, I’ve usually been disappointed with a commercial operation and the lack of “real” caving experience.

Glowing Adventures though, takes things up a notch and doesn’t disappoint.

Set amongst rolling hills with spectacular Te Kuiti farmland backdrop, it’s a great spot to meet others in the tour and begin your adventures.

Off the beaten track, far from the crush of the “main” Waitomo Cave tours, it’s pleasant to only have a few others coming along for the adventure.

Our tour with Glowing Adventures, wasn’t the typical experience as it had been raining “just a bit”.

So much so, that the stream in the main cave was a raging river gushing wildly through the cave tunnel. So instead of doing the usual exploring through the main cave, we had a shortened high tour.

We all clicked our carabineers onto the ropes, ensuring at least one was hooked on at all times.

Our journey into the bowels of the Earth began to the cacophony of water and rocks blundering below.

We soaked up the views along the higher route, grappling along ledges, giving us a much more personal and closer observation of the glow worms twinkling diligently down at us.

There were some pretty impressive examples of flowstone formations, and a number of waterfalls to have a shower under if desired.

Turning off our headlamps at the turnaround point, the river’s path was clearly highlighted by the glowworms, following along it for their food source.



On the way out (or in), keep an eye by the entrance to the main cave as I noted some fossils. The second part of our tour was truly special.

Inadequately named the Lime Cave, the “cave of wonderment”, gave examples of many different speleothems.

A muddy entrance greeted us and I happily squelched my way through it, relishing the high quality spa feeling the mud gave my skin.

Shortly after a cool dip in some high risen water, it was into the dry part of the cave. There is truly a stark contrast between a dry and wet cave (the previous cave being a wet one).

Though it may have been a dry cave there were the odd leaky holes initially, raining in pure water that quenched any thirst that I had developed from the clambering around.

As already alluded to, this cave is full of amazing speleothem examples with some thick columns and terrace displays to be marveled at along the route; to a little squeeze.

Even though I’m not a fan of tight spaces, I had absolutely no hassles crawling through, and the rewards for doing so are absolutely remarkable.

Another quick dip in some very clear water and just around the bend, everyone let out a sigh of exclamation, as our eyes took in this marvel.

We were wowed, with the clear water pool reflecting some of the longest and highest density of straw formations I’ve ever seen.


The length of some of these would be in excess of a meter, which doing the math of usual growth of 1cm every 100 years, really makes you ponder about your place in a geological timeframe.

I can only hope that you are “unfortunate” enough to not get the standard tour due to weather conditions, as the unconventional tour of this cave is truly breathtaking.

A quick walk back and we are taking turns showering, regaling each other with our favourite part of the tour, over tea with yummy biscuits.

All too soon, it is time to part ways from what has truly been a Glowing Adventures! In addition to the standard tour, Glowing Adventures also offer a private version of the standard tour, giving you and your chosen companions some serious bonding time in a special place.

Another unique tour on offer for those budding photographers (or professional ones) out there, is their Photography tour.

Spend the time you need capturing the glow worms or other cave features in all their glory.

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