|The dramatic tourist centre at the entry to the caves|
|Postcard views of The Cathedral (photography is not permitted)|
In order to comply with health and safety requirements the main cave, Waitomo, is paved with tiles and heavily railed stairways to take visitors down into the depths. This rather detracts from the cave's natural features but, I suppose, "needs must" and that aside, the limestone formations are spectacular and beautiful. It is rather humbling to realise that it has taken hundreds of thousands of years for these formations to develop in cool undisturbed serenity. The stalagtites grow by about 1 centimetre every hundred years. The most spectacular part of the Waitomo cave is The Cathedral, a soaring space complete with an organ shaped limestone formation. The acoustics here are reputed to be near perfect and many famous singers have sung in the cave, including New Zealand's own Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Visitors are invited to sing but everyone in my group shuffled their feet and looked at their shoes when offered the chance. Fortunately someone in a nearby group sang and it was a truly pure sound.
|Postcard photo of the glow worm grotto...it is not lit like this normally.|
|All smiles as I exit the cave|
My recommendation if you are going to Waitomo is to either drive there yourself or take a coach but plan to stay overnight. That way you can get to see all three caves including the Aranui and Ruakuri caves which each have their own special features. Aranui has some stunning formations and also houses giant wetas. Wetas are a scary looking but harmless New Zealand insect. The Aranui cave wetas are about the size of the palm of your hand. The Ruakuri cave is the one tourists love the most, has the longest underground walk in the dark with a thundering river flowing through....very dramatic. I have visited all three caves on previous occasions and think that visiting all three makes for a much more satisfying experience.
For the adventurous there is a company called Black Water Rafting which takes groups on the river through the dark caves on inflated inner tubes. Leaping into the river in the dark is surely a leap of faith but I think it would be thrilling and just might do it sometime!