One activity we knew we couldn’t miss on our brief New Zealand trip was a visit to Waitomo Caves to see the amazing caves and the resident Glow worm population.

We didn’t have a car on our trip so we arranged transport with Travel Head First who offer a convenient return shuttle from Rotorua or Auckland to the Waitomo Caves (and Hobbiton if you wish.

We were collected by Travel Head First from our Rotorua hotel bright and early. The vehicle was a comfortable mini bus and there were us and around 6 other people on the trip. Our driver was friendly and pointed out some interesting sights on the way. The drive takes around 2 hours though it didn’t feel that long. We arrived at Waitomo and everyone split off for their varying tours and we arranged to meet our driver later on.

The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company look after the tours and activities at Waitomo Caves and they offer a bunch of different options for different age groups, abilities and adventure seeking levels. You can raft or climb, get soaked or stay dry. Many of the adventure activities are only available to tweens and up so we opted for a Glow Worm tour and a walk through of Ruakuri cave which are open to all ages and abilities. We have definite plans to come back once the little guy is old enough for some of the tubing and adventure activities.

First up we headed to the Glow Worm Caves. We were very excited to see this cave and had heard so much about it. The tour begins with a walk through of the cave descending lower and lower into the cave until we reach the river. There are stairs in the Glow Worm cave so not one for prams or strollers (choose baby wearing in this cave.) The walk is not very difficult though and could be managed  by even young kids with a little help from mum or dad. There is no photography in the Glow Worm Cave at all to add to the magic of the experience.

Once we reached the river we lined up to get on the boats to take us to the glow worm grotto. From this point on the tour is totally silent there is no talking and no light allowed.

The boat tour is magical. You look up and are surrounded by little twinkling blue stars. Its hard to describe how wonderful the scene it but its almost like Walt Disney designed nature. The Image below will give you a glimpse of the scene but it doesn’t do justice to how special this experience is, being there and star gazing up at these little bugs glowing their hearts out.

Waitomo Caves
image courtesy of Discover Waitomo and Legendary Black Water Rafting Company

We float around in the dark for around 10 minutes in awe before going back to the dock, out of the cave and back to reality.

Next up we had a short coffee break at the onsite café before our tour of Ruakuri Cave.

Ruakuri Cave tour spends around an hour and a half exploring the cave. Our guide ‘Scuba’ was great, he was very knowledgeable about the area, the history, the cave and was awesome with kids. My son was given the very important job of chief button pusher to open doors within the cave and it made his day!

The Ruakuri tour is suitable for prams and wheelchairs, there are no steps at all.

We explored the huge cave, checking out stalactites and stalagmites, the river below us (where we could spy those tubing through the cave) and of course the glow worms which we could see much closer and in much more detail than we had in the Glow Worm cave. Photography is permitted in Ruakuri at certain points in the tour but no flash photography at any point.

The walk through Ruakuri is not at all strenuous so even small kids will manage fine. There are a few moments of darkness but not lasting long, not enough to freak out my little darkness hater.

When I asked my son which cave was his favourite I expected him to say the Glow Worm cave but was surprised when he answered with ‘Ruakuri’. He said he loved exploring (and button pushing) the most, he really enjoyed our guide Scuba teaching him about how the formations of the cave grow and seeing the glow worms up nice and close. I loved both caves but found the Glow Worm grotto in the Glow Worm cave to be just spectacular. Scuba was a sensational guide and really made the experience all the more awesome for my son, he is fab with kids. Overall we both came away really impressed with both caves and our experience.

Soon enough it was time for us to leave Waitomo so we met up with our Travel Head First guide and made the journey back to Rotorua, I was really glad I wasn’t driving and was able to just sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery.

We’d highly recommend this trip with The Black Water Rafting Co. and Travel Head First. I was a fabulous part of our NZ trip and one that wont be forgotten. We will be back as soon as the little guy is old enough for tubing, see you then Scuba.

Thanks so much to The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company and Travel Head First for hosting our trip, and to Scuba for making our Ruakuri experience so great. As always all opinions are my own.




  1. Cant wait to see the glow worms.My bigger boys will certainly be into the tubing.

    • The Wandering Mum Reply

      We really loved it Tracey such a great experience for kids and really educational also, we learned a lot about glow worms, caves and geology

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