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Glowworm Cave Tour



blog-0900072001393335751.jpgGlowworms are found throughout New Zealand. There are numerous glowworm caves. We chose this one partly because of the sightseeing and partly out of curiosity. I didn’t know what to expect. I think the mystery is part of the sales pitch. So if you don’t like people spoiling your suspense and surprise, turn off the sound right now. We were in Te Anau at the TOP 10 Holiday Park and made reservations as we checked in at the desk. The tour left from the Real Journeys tour office in Te Anau, just a few blocks from the holiday park. Departure was at a very civilized 9:00 a.m. which Louise appreciates. We arrived, presented our receipt and were issued boarding passes. Our boat was a very nice catamaran which whisked us across Lake Te Anau at a brisk 25 knots. There was a display on the TV screens showing the route, our speed, direction of travel and location.

They took the scenic route on the way out, between several islands and around the lake shore. The weather was perfect, warm clothes for a cave tour fit perfectly with the breezy cool on the deck as I took pictures of the passing scenery. There was a running narrative as we traveled, significant points were described and information about the lake was presented. Lake Te Anau is a huge glacial lake. It stretches from Te Anau to just west of Queenstown. It is 45 kilometers in length and has numerous arms that stretch back into eastern side of the mountains of Fiordland National Park.

Arriving at the cave location, we disembarked and were divided into three groups of approximately equal size, about a dozen people in each group. Our group was the second to enter the cave. The entry was low so we had to stoop down to get through the first 20 yards. A small river flows through the cave though it didn’t look that small when viewed underground. There was a very nice waterfall of about 20 feet and above that a small lake which had been formed by damming the river. We were loaded into boats that hold a dozen people and then the guide took across this small lake. All lights were turned out and the guide moved the boat by pulling on a chain anchored in the ceiling. This chain then guided the boat on its journey to avoid getting stuck against a rock or against a wall. When we started I could see a glow in the distance that I assumed was light coming from another part of the cave. It wasn’t, the glow was from the glow worms. Their light in the darkness was noticeable at quite a distance. That was the indirect light, it wasn’t until we reached that section that we could actually see the spot of light from the worms themselves. Obviously, their collective light was enough to attract insects toward their location.

The cave was relatively small but it is loaded with glowworms. These worms inhabit the cave roof and have a luminescent spot like lightening bugs but theirs is bright blue and is a single steady tiny light. They use the light to attract insects to them and then they eat the insects. As they get hungrier their light glows more brightly. Each worm has a number of strands that are sticky and contain a paralyzing chemical. So when bugs fly close to the light they run into these strands and are caught just like in a spider web.

In the darkness of the cave, all you can see is the tiny blue lights. Looking at a cave roof loaded with these glowworms is like looking at the night sky. It reminded me of the interior of the alien spacecraft in the movie, Independence Day.

After the cave experience we got some additional information on the glowworms and then returned to Te Anau on the boat. The return route was direct, taking about half the time it took to get to the cave. We returned to the campervan and shed our warm clothes. Now all we needed were shorts and T-shirts. A quick lunch and we were off to do some shopping. The holiday park is about three blocks from the downtown shopping district. We hadn’t done any serious shopping since arriving, not souvenir and browsing, just the essentials, groceries, miscellaneous items we needed. We were out to enjoy the local shops and stores. We returned with several sacks. It looks like we may have to pay for an additional piece of baggage or ship some goods via UPS on the return trip!


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