New Zealand’s famed Waitomo Caves system continues to reveal new wonders with new adventure tours adding to the line-up of experiences from Waitomo Adventures.
After 125 years on the New Zealand tourist trail, Waitomo Caves – one of New Zealand’s original and most visited tourism destinations – continues to reveal new wonders with two new tours added to the line-up of experiences from Waitomo Adventures.
Lost World Through the Window
In the incomparable Lost World setting, Lost World Through the Window – launching on 2 May – has been heralded as a cross between a bridge climb and a super-elevated eco-zip tour.
‘Through the Window’ into the Lost World allows visitors access right down into the deepest levels of the cave system. Much less physically demanding than the original Lost World tour – which includes a dramatic 100-metre abseil into darkenss– the newest option will open the cave to a much wider audience.
After donning regulation overalls, harnesses and helmets, there’s just a short stroll through native forest to ‘The Window’ – a spectacular tomo (or sinkhole) which serves as a gateway into the underworld. Visitors walk in on a staircase attached to a sheer cliff face and, when the stairs run out in thin air, there are two tyroleans (similar to a zip line) to continue the journey through the cave’s upper levels.
Troll Cave for family fun
In September, Waitomo Adventures will open the new Troll Cave, a fantasy experience aimed at families with younger children.
This will be an adventure experience tailored to children but, the developers say, “definitely not sugar-coated” and incorporating the kind of fantasy phenomena often associated with caves.
Children on the troll hunt will negotiate an underground labyrinth as they search for the troll they’re trying to help – and anything can happen along the way.
Parents will chaperone their children and can select the “appropriate level of fear” for their child, for example anything from ‘Please wrap my baby in cotton wool’ to ‘Do what you like’.
Construction of this artificial cave is underway. The concrete building will be completely underground and includes familiar cave features such as waterfalls and amazing rock formations.
Despite the ‘rickety bridge’, ‘troll stepping stones’, ‘dodgy boat’ and other obstacles, it will be completely adaptable for wheelchairs and strollers.
More than 400 caves lie underneath the lush, green surface at Waitomo, although only a relatively small number of those identified are accessible to visitors.
Waitomo - meaning water hole in Māori - is a small rural settlement in the King Country / Te Rohe Potae district where underground limestone formations are evidence of the land rising from the ocean floor 30 million years ago.
For 126 years the unique caves have been attracting visitors from all over the world. A short drive from Hamilton - Waikato, the caves offer a series of fascinating eco-adventures ranging from glow-worm viewing to black water rafting.
From the small settlement of Waitomo, there are a number of tourism operators proposing a wide range of adventure and sight-seeing tours to experience glow-worm grottos, limestone formations, black water rafting, swimming and abseiling into the depths.
The main glow-worm grotto is one of the most popular attractions where visitors travel by boat into the spectacular cave guided by the light from thousands of Waitomo glow-worms (Arachnocampa luminosa), which are unique to New Zealand. Ornate cave decorations, the deep limestone shaft known as the Tomo and the dramatic Cathedral cavern - where New Zealand opera diva Kiri Te Kanawa once performed - are highlights of this tour.
Waitomo Caves is a one-hour drive from the city of Hamilton, on New Zealand’s North Island. Via SH1, Hamilton is a two-hour drive south of Auckland, within an hour of Hobbiton and an easy two hours from Rotorua and Lake Taupo. Nearby Hairy Feet Waitomo at Mangaotaki Rocks Piopio has impressive limestone cliff formations set on a 690-hectare family farm that was used in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Farm owners Warrick and Suzie Denize operate Hairy Feet Waitomo tours hosting visitors on a 90-minute tour along the paths that were once frequented by 13 dwarves and a Hobbit.