September 2017: As part of a larger two-week trip across the South Pacific, my wife and I spent two days on New Zealand with one goal to visit one of the wild glow worm caves. I knew that there were several caves and some of the bests were commercial show caves, but I wanted to visit one with no tourist infrastructure where you enter at your own risk, and I found this in the Waipu Cave system. The drive was approx. 5 hours from Auckland, so we rented a car as soon as we arrived and headed north of Auckland. Half of the fun of every adventure was the drive in our rental car, stopping whenever we wanted to and visiting local parks, waterfalls and protected forest reserves with lush ferns adorning the undergrowth.



Waipu Caves

This visit to Auckland was my 2nd. I first visited for a few days when I was 20 years old in 1997. it was good to be back after all of these years and I remembered how exotic I thought Auckland was back then. 



Auckland 1997

Landscapes from the backroads

A small forest reserve with waterfalls we hiked to along the way to Waipu cave

Waipu Glow Worm Cave

We arrived at Waipu early in the morning and we slept in our car for a few hours until sunrise. Then in the freezing winter cold, we started hiking to the caves with our flashlights. I chose Waipu because it was the closest wild glow worm cave to Auckland, and it had zero tourist infrastructure. We were free to explore the cave on our own terms. The Waipu cave network was extensive, surrounded by forest and had a healthy and abundant population of glow worms. The worm’s glow to attract insects that become ensnared in their glowing treads that overtime dissolve and digest them alive.



Me at the entrance

A month before our trip the caves were closed due to heavy rains and flash floods so I watched the forecast carefully since a river does run through the cave and with little warning a flashflood can and has swept people away to their death in the caves.



Paula in Waipu

Paula in Waipu

Paula in Waipu

Paula and I were the only visitors to the cave. We hiked for a few hours into the cave, but the best part was the glow worm section 30 minutes inside and this is where we spent most of our time in the darkness just being mesmerized by the blue dots glowing in the dark all around us in the silence of the cave. My biggest regret was not taking a batter photo of the glow worms. I wish I spent more time setting up a photo in the cave, but my skills and patience are lacking so I am stuck with a stalactite photo that barely shows some blue dots.



Glow worms on a stalagtite. 

Fron New Zealand, Paula and I continued our trip to Tonga to swim with Humpback whales.


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