This is the most "genteel" of the cave tours. The cave takes the first part of its name from the words wai (water) and tomo (cave), since the Waitomo River vanishes into the hillside here. Glowworm refers to the 1- to 2-inch larvae of Arachnocampa luminosa, which live on cave ceilings. They snare prey by dangling sticky filaments, trapping insects attracted to the light the worms emit. A single glowworm produces far less light than any firefly, but when they are massed in great numbers in the dark, their effect can be like looking at the night sky in miniature. The Waitomo Glowworm Cave was first officially explored in 1887 by local Chief Tane Tinorau, accompanied by the English surveyor Fred Mace. They built a raft of flax stems and, with candles as their light source, floated into the cave where the stream goes underground. Today's cave explorers walk into the cave on high-quality pathways to explore features such as the limestone cathedral (and, like opera diva
Kiri Te Kanawa, are invited to sing to make best use of the amazing acoustics here). They then board a boat for a magical cruise beneath the "starry" glowworm-lit cave ceiling, floating out of the cave on the Waitomo River. Tours are 45 minutes and start at the magnificent Waitomo Glowworm Cave Visitor Centre, about 100 meters (300 feet) beyond Waitomo Caves i-SITE Visitor Centre.