If you stumbled into Waitomo Cave in New Zealand, you might think the ceiling was peppered with thousands of tiny stars. In reality, though, they are actually glowworms!
The caves are part of a system that includes Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave, but only in Waitomo will you find "Glowworm Grotto." The indigenous Māori people knew about the caves for decades before they were extensively explored by a local Maori chief and an English surveyor in 1887. Just two years later, the area became a prime tourist destination, and it wasn't long before it was visited by thousands of people every year.
There are many stalactites, stalagmites, and fossils in the cave, but glowworms are the real attraction.
The larvae survive by spinning luminescent threads, which dangle from the ceiling into the cave's abyss. Ants, crickets, and other insects are attracted to the light and become entangled in the threads, allowing the glowworms to feed much like a spider.
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Descending into the cave is no easy feat. Depending on the route, you may use the stairs in the video below or rappel through a larger opening.
Once inside the cave, inner tubes are inflated for "black water rafting."
Other areas of the cave are large enough for small boats to maneuver. However, a scientific advisory group monitors the cave closely. Only a specific number of visitors are allowed in each day. Any more could disrupt the natural ecology.
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Learn more about the 30,000 glowworms and their unique home.video-player-present
You don't need to understand how it all works to appreciate the stunning beauty, though. The spectacular views in the time-lapse video below say it all.video-player-present
Who else is ready to hop on a plane to New Zealand and explore this awesome cave? It's definitely at the top of my bucket list.
If you've visited Waitomo Cave in person, let us know all about your trip in the comments below. And be sure to share these incredible images with your friends and family!