Havey’s Australia & New Zealand Adventure Part 15 – Waitomo Caves & Rotorua, North Island NZ

Nicky Havey @nickyhaveyJuly 2019 · 9 min read

The Day I Became Chief

Yep, that's right, I shall henceforth refer to myself in the third person as "The Chief" and suggest you do the same otherwise I'll set my tribe on you! Haha, just kidding, The Chief wouldn't do such a thing :P

This part of my New Zealand tour was a mixed back of experiences as we started off at the world famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves for a morning of marvel before making our way over to the "pleasant" smells of Rotorua where chiefdom chose me. How on Earth do I explain this one?! Read on and find out :D

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

I was recommended to go to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves by my brother's fiancee so I booked myself on a guided excursion through them to see what they were all about. To get to the caves from Raglan (which is where we were in the previous post) head east along Highway 23, then south down Highways 39, 3 and 37 to get to the "metropolis" that is Waitomo. Metropolis as in, it has a couple of cafes, hostels and a visitor centre...Yep. Seriously!

The tour we went on took us to two different caves via a lovely long drive across the countryside. We walked through the first cave and then rafted through the second one as we travelled down the underground river in pitch black conditions. Don't worry, you get head torches, you won't get wet (other than a bit of water dripping down from the top of the cave) and your eyes will adjust to the darkness. When they do, you'll be amazed by what you see. It's like looking up at the night sky as you just see thousands upon thousands of glowing greenish light emitted from the glowworms. They glow either to attract a mate, scare off predators or lure prey to their sticky webs [Source}.

The views from the drive out to the caves are pretty awesome.

You can say hello to the locals as well!

In the first cave, we learnt about the dos and don'ts of walking in this subterranean world. They have kept the modification to the caves as minimal as possible so you can experience it in all it's natural glory, which means NO TOUCHING! Please don't touch anything with your fingers because the oil from your skin will affect the natural growth and ecosystem of the cave.

What you'll notice in pretty much any cave you walk into are the rock formations and they are amazing here too. However, the most important thing I took away was how to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites :P Stalactites hang from the ceiling because they hang on TIGHT! Stalagmites grow up from the bottom because they MIGHT trip you up! Now you know :) Let's have a walk around this first cave shall we?

Time to enter the first cave and take a little walk through

The true nature of the cave starts taking shape with stalactite and stalagmite formations

Remains from one of the members of the last group that didn't make it out :P

One of the skeletons we saw was from an extinct bird called the "Moa". This was a huge species of bird when they were still amongst us, reaching heights of over 3.5 metres (12 feet) and 220kg (500lb) which was a lot bigger than ostriches are now! Sadly, they were over-hunted by the Maoris and entered the history books around 1300-1400AD [Source].

The remains of a Moa bird skeleton

The reflections from this pool of water adds to the eeriness

In between the cave walks, we had a break outside with some cookies and hot drinks (no prizes for guessing I had hot chocolate ;) ) before entering our second cave but not before we saw one of our eel friends who possibly escaped from the farm we were at yesterday :P Who wants to dive in and give him a little hug then?

We had to negotiate with the cave gatekeeper to see the glowworms

Once we paid the cave gatekeeper (don't worry, we took the hit so you won't have to pay him when you visit) we could feel the magic as we entered the magnificent glow worm caves. Smartphones are not much use here for taking pictures and if you're a keen photographer, you'll have to go on the special photography tour with your tripods and gear because you'll need a long exposure time (30 minutes) to capture the glowworms in all their glory. Thankfully the guide sent us pictures of the caves via email after the tour, which were taken with decent camera equipment so we could remember this amazing moment.

Entrance to the glow worm caves

Gooey strings from the ceiling help glowworms catch their prey

This is the best my smartphone could do... rubbish!

A closer representation of what it's like in there - thanks to Spellbound Waitomo for sending this to us after the tour

To illustrate just how awesome it was, there wasn't a single word said by anyone as soon as we got on the raft that took us up and down the cave river. We just took it all in as it was like looking in to a green tinted night sky.

The raft inside the cave - thanks to Spellbound Waitomo for sending this to us after the tour

We booked the tour with Spellbound Waitomo which is basically the only company that has access to give tours in these caves as they are on private land. It turns out these caves have been visited not once but twice from the nature legend that is David Attenborough, which should tell you something! For about a 3 hour tour, it will cost around $75NZD which is a bargain in my opinion!


It was hard to leave the caves but we needed to head east along Highways 28 and 5 to get to my inauguration, I mean, Rotorua! I liken this place to the "Yellowstone" of New Zealand with all of the hot springs that are around. The streets are lined with steam coming out of every orifice on the pavements and roads and you'll notice a strong smell of rotten eggs due to sulphur dioxide. However, it is a smell you get used to pretty quickly and we needed to as we had a Moari cultural experience lined up!

The geothermal activity underneath the surface causes the water to be at boiling point when it gets to the surface so absolutely DO NOT jump in here! The locals use this to good effect though and have the most energy efficient central heating systems seeing as they just run a series of pipes around their house to keep it warm AND they all have naturally heated baths in their back gardens because why not?!

The centre of Rotorua with steam coming out of the ground

As we were being shown around, there was a cold wind in the air but the good news was that the ground was lovely and warm and our Maori guide told us that we could just sit or lie down to heat ourselves up! We were taken to the outside of the Te Papaiouru Marae (Gathering Place), around the Anglican Church which was set up by European settlers and then to the War Memorial around the back of it.

Memorial at the back of the Anglican Church

During the tour we were told about the 3 main reasons for the cannibalistic culture of Maoris, which lasted up until European settlement in the 1830s. The first is religion, the second is taking your revenge on those who wronged you and the third was one I questioned which was the "spiritual" side of cannibalism. This was based on killing your enemies in battle, eating them and taking their "mana" or life energy. By eating them, you'd acquire their accumulated mana making you a super beast in battle... but you'd also be on the hit list with your increased mana. Thankfully our guide didn't eat us :)

Lake Rotorua with Mokoia Island

And then it was time for me to become chief! In Maori culture the females have the say as to which male is to be their chief and the tour guide decided it would be me! Thanks Bex :P So once I found out the great news of my newly acquired tribe, I needed to come up with a speech of how I'd show our gratitude to our Moari guide for welcoming us in to his home and neighbourhood. All within an hour! It required an element of "flying by the seat of my pants" but I came through and we then sung a song for him which was the first 4 lines of the Irish National Anthem (if memory serves right).

Of course, we needed a name for the tribe and this is where we really threw off our Maori guide because I (under the influence from Bex) decided to name us the "Dobblers" tribe. "The...D...Dob...Dobblers?" Yes, that's right! Dobblers! Whyyyy?! Well I brought a game with me on this trip called "Dobble" which is a picture matching card game that a few people took a liiiiittle bit too seriously haha! The most passive of people turned into aggressively competitive maniacs (me included)! Nonetheless, here is my Dobbler tribe :)

The Dobbler Tribe!

That's all for today folks, in the next blog, myself and some of the Dobbler tribe embark on one of the most outrageous white water rafting trips I've ever done and we get to live a day in the life of a hobbit :)

Until then, take it easy.

Nicky (The Chief)

PHC Top 3 - A Chance To Win From A Growing Prize Pool

Well, whilst I'm here, I might as well take the chance to tell you about a new contest that I've been a part of with the Power House Creatives called @phctop3. All you need to do is tell us what your top 3 favourites for a chance to win from a growing prize pool - more info here.

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We went to those caves on our honeymoon (and rotorua too). Still think the bra fence on the south island is the best attraction, although never did find the time to visit Prawn Park, so possibly missed out there...


Ah man that's an awesome way to spend your honeymoon hey! We did drive past the bra fence on the south Island but didn't stop there as we had to get to our next place but it was completely covered haha!


Yeah... it wasn't a great honeymoon, believe it or not.

I'd read an article on the bra fence a few weeks before we went out (2002). When I saw it I had to slam the brakes on and reverse back. Sadly, my wife wouldn't part with a bra for the fence.

We'd had a miserable few days before then. My wife ended up in hospital when we landed in Christchurch - actually the nursing staff were the only ones who wished us a happy honeymoon the whole time we were there, the hotel staff everywhere else in NZ couldn't give a crap - and then when we did start our holiday our campervan side window exploded for no reason - we were parked up at the Franz Josef glacier campsite and no one else around - showering the sleeping area with glass. We had to pay to sleep in a cabin. We had to give the glacier a miss and drive for hours across the moutains in the driving rain - with no side window! - down to wanaka (the nearest place where they could fix the window) on Friday 13th. Oh happy days!

We spent a couple of nights in Wanaka in a cabin while they put a bit of perspex to replace the campervan window (and tried to fly to Milford Sound but the weather - glorious in Wanaka - was too bad to fly to Milford)

We saw the bra fence - I think - just before arriving in Wanaka. It cheered us right up


Ah man that sounds like a honeymoon from hell! At least you have a lot to talk about when you look back on it and know that if you can make it through that you can make it through anything!

Glad the bra fence cheered you both up


That sure looks like a wild trip through the cave with the glowworms overhead. I've never seen them before. Are they only found in (watery) caves? In the photo with the raft in the scene, the glowworms do make it look exactly like the sky. That's a really great photo!


Hey @free-reign, not only in watery caves but they are very prominent here. They live outside as well as we saw them just off the road as we were walking along at night.

Yea that was a great photo they sent over to us and helps to remember the moments!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂


Epic tale of your encounters on a journey you obviously relished every moment of Nicky.

Real life experiences like this stay with you forever one can never put a price to the knowledge gleaned in travel, no matter what you encounter.


Hey @joanstewart thanks for joining in the adventure! Going back through these pictures and remembering what happened... Actually can't believe how much I did!

Traveling is the best education, prefer this method of learning vs my PhD 😁



Love this post, @nickyhavey ! That whole cave seems absolutely magical and I'm glad that the tour sent over some photos that kind of sort of better than the phone camera's mights.... I would like to visit it one day, for sure !

And great narration, too <3 You're always so personable :D But also informative ! Love that bits about the cannibalistic info of the past tribes.... I'm glad you didn't get eaten... XD


Hahaha thanks for the lovely words man!

Yea those caves really were special. My mouth was just open the whole time in awe (thankfully the water didn't drip into it from the roof lol)!

I appreciate the feedback on the style of writing too! It's just the way I do it, we're all human at the end of the day and I think it can be just a bit robotic when everything is kept so neutral. I loved my travels and I'm going to share the emotions too haha! SO glad I didn't get eaten 🤣

Take it easy brother! 🙏

wales @walesJuly 2019

It must have been amazing; unfortunately my internet is too weak to show your images, but I bet they are great...


It was amazing mate. Shame you can't load the images as there's quite a few that you'd enjoy


A cool spelunking trip, Nicky Cavey :)


That's Chief Nicky Cavey 😉 yea it was an amazing day. Can't believe this was over 3 months ago now 🤔


Hey Nick Cave was a singer in a band in the last century, called The Bad Seeds. World famous rock star.


Hmm, that one must have slipped through the net. Not familiar with the name! 🤔


Yeah, I remember watching a Lazarus, Dig Yourself with him.


I'm not claustrophobic by any means, but that cavern/cave would even have me little anxious!


Ahh we had a few claustrophobic people on our tour but they were actually fine. It's a lot more open in there than the pictures look for the walking section. There weren't too many tight sections and the raft was worth it. You'll be fine! It's just a few hours for the memory of a lifetime 😀


Congratulations @nickyhavey! This post was selected by the Power House Creatives as today's Rally Upvote Post :)

You can find the community announcement on Discord :) and it has also been shared on our FB Page and Twitter feed.



Ah thank you so much @steemitbloggers! What an unexpected and awesome surprise 😊


What a great adventure, Nicky...err Chief. 🙇‍♀️ Congrats on becoming chief of the Dobblers.
What an interesting cave with the glow worms. I saw a program about the cave on TV’s Unknown Expedition just the other night.


Haha thank you for correcting yourself @redheadpei 😛 the Dobblers certainly had an adventure!

Those glowworms were amazing and I'd recommend you experience them because it's like nothing else! 😀


The Chief of CryptoLunch ahah😃


Haha don't diss crypto otherwise I'll set my tribe on you 😛


Ahah what?🤣


Haha, if you start saying negative things about crypto then I'll set my tribe on you. Crypto Chief 😁