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The Waitomo Caves is an extensive underground cave system in the Waikato region of New Zealand consisting of over 300 caves. Most caves are not open for visitors, but tours of some caves are available. Tours of Ruakuri Cave, Aranui Cave, and the famous Waitomo Glowworm Cave can be organised at I Site Visitor Centres including the modern visitor centre at the Waitomo Glow Worm cave itself.
Small towns next to Waitomo include: Te Kuiti and Otorohanga which both are good stopping off points for amenities and supplies. The larger town of Taupo is two hours away by car and the city of Hamilton is a mere one hour drive away. Driving from Auckland takes around 2.5 hours.
The most popular cave for visitors is the Waitomo Glowworm Cave due to its spectacular glowworm grotto which resembles the night sky. A tour of the cave offers a short walk then a boat ride under the glowworms.
Aranui Cave is arguably the most scenic. It has stunning limestone caverns with great examples of stalactites and stalagmites and many other delicate features. The entrance is accessed through a temperate rainforest walk and the cave itself has a colony of cave wetas near the entrance. Weta are giant ancient insects endemic to New Zealand. This cave is dry meaning it has no river running through it.
Ruakuri Cave is the longest underground cave in Waitomo. It is accessed by an entrance cut into some pancake rocks that lead to a giant spiral staircase from where you descend. A tour here takes about 2 hours to complete. The cave has glowworms, limestone formations, fossils, and crystaline surfaces. An underwater river runs through the cave and you can optionally black water raft through this subterranean enviromnent. Using an inflated innertube, you float down the river and also get to abseil, climb, and jump off waterfalls.