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The island nation of New Zealand is comprised mainly of two large landmasses, with several smaller ones surrounding them. On its most northern region, appropriately called North Island, is a cave system known as the Waitomo Caves. A small village but a major tourist attraction, this system’s namesake glowworm caves are a stunning and surreal natural phenomena that demands the attention of all self-respecting travelers.
The Waitomo Caves were first explored in the year 1887 by a local Maori leader, Chief Tan Tinorau. The discovery of the cave system itself occurred about 500 years previous but they hadn’t been extensively explored by the natives, who simply used the underground labyrinth as a burial ground. But when the Chief made the bold decision to venture into the darkness generations later, equipped with nothing more than a few candles, what he found proved to be more incredible than what anybody could have possibly imagined. Hanging from the ceiling of the small grotto were thousand of glowing creatures, casting a strange and mystical light all around the interior of cavern. These creatures turned out to be glowworms, or Arachnocampa luminosa. In their larva stage, the glowworms are bioluminsecent, which means they are living organisms capable of producing and emitting light. The blue-green hue of their glow reflects off the water that floods the cave floor and dances around the damp walls, giving the whole cave a dream-like appearance.
Every year, thousands of people flock to this small region to tour the glowing underground caverns. It’s a sight that is impossible to appreciate in any other way except in person. So add the Waitomo Glowworm Caves to your travel bucket list ASAP because trust me, they’re nothing you want to miss.