Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

28.04.2015 |

Episode #7 of the course “Natural Wonders of the World”

The Waitomo Caves on the North Island of New Zealand are an ecological and geological wonder, and they contain deep spiritual and cultural significance. The caves have been dated as old as 30 million years. “Waitomo” is a combination of two Māori words, “water” and “hole;” it is translated as “water passing through a hole.”

The Waitomo Caves are a popular tourist attraction for tens of thousands of visitors from around the world, who often spend time in all three caves. The Waitomo Caves are comprised of the Cathedral, a large, acoustically amazing natural wonder, the Glowworm Cave, featuring hundreds of glow-in-the-dark insects, and the Ruakuri Cave, which is home to an ancient burial ground.

The Waitomo Caves became a popular natural attraction in the 1900s and have increasingly attracted more visitors every year over more than 80 years. The limestone in the Waitomo region has layers over 600 feet thick, although the amazing stalactite formations may grow as slowly as one inch per year.

 

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Today’s visitors to the cave enjoy the glow worms, limestone stalactite formations, and more extreme cave rappelling activities. The Glowworm Cave alone attracts thousands of people to see this species that is unique to New Zealand. Local tourist companies offer a variety of tour options, and visitors should be prepared for an hour-long hike, a boat ride, and climbing up a spiral staircase. The Ruakuri Cave installed the spiral staircase so that visitors would no longer have to walk through the ancient Maori burial ground at the cave’s entrance.


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