Millions of years in the making, the Hamilton and Waikato regions caves, including the world-famous ones at Waitomo, provide a playground unlike any other.
As if its not enough that nature has carved out a glowworm-studded underground marvel, enterprising locals have added adventure activities to enhance the experience further.
Rising from the sea about 30 million years ago Waitomo Caves have continued to evolve thanks to the constant action of water seeping through the earth. The name comes from the Maori words wai (water) and tomo (hole or shaft) and there are around 300 known caves in the area.
Their dramatic formations of limestone including stalactites, stalagmites, columns and natural caverns are threaded through with the lights of New Zealands native glowworm, the arachnocampa luminosa which give the caves their spectacular starry ceilings.
Spirit Cave Waitomo
Weird and wonderful limestone formations emerge from the underground darkness which is also punctuated by the twinkling lights of thousands of glowworms.
Simply stand and admire, or if you are feeling more adventurous try the myriad of abseiling, climbing, cave exploration and black water rafting.
The Waitomo Caves are one of New Zealands original tourist attractions and everyone who visits can see just why that is, Waitomo Caves has the largest range of activities on offer providing something to suit everyone regardless of ability or adrenalin level.
For the adventurous, there are plenty of adrenalin-fuelled options for exploring the cave system. Guided tours range in duration up to seven hours and include black water rafting (on inflated rubber tubes) through the caves streams and spectacular abseiling and zip-lining as well as walking, squeezing and climbing through caves with names like TumuTumu and The Lost World.
While they may sound extreme, a moderate fitness level and a sense of adventure is all that is needed for most of these exciting tours. Above ground the highlight of Mangapohue Natural Bridge walk near Waitomo is the impressive 17 m high limestone arch which is all that remains of an ancient cave system.
At night the track lights up with glowworms and visitors may also catch a glimpse of the elusive long-tailed bat. Glowworms can also be seen on serene night tours through natural canyons on Lake Karapiro, near Cambridge, with Boatshed Kayaks.
For more information visit: http://www.hamiltonwaikato.com/things-to-do/articles/underground-adventure
Editors note words and pictures courtesy of Hamilton Waikato Tourism.