The caves are beautiful and have a certain otherworldliness to them. There's something in the cool, damp air. Your breath is hushed. You can hear a powerful waterfall somewhere behind the rock, but the echoing makes it impossible to tell exactly where. The torchlight gives eerie illumination to the stalactites and stalagmites. Some of the stalactites, over thousands of years, have formed fascinating structures that ripple like cloaks. They sparkle with minerals and moisture. You want to touch them - to stroke them - but it's forbidden. You just have to look on in awe. And pay attention so you don't bang your head.
In one of the caves, you can see the skeleton of a moa that fell through a hole in the forest floor to its death centuries ago, complete with the gizzard stones it had swallowed. The opportunity to see the bones of an extinct animal - not in a museum, but in the place where the creature fell - is fairly awesome, but what makes Waitomo magical is the glowworms.
Something you absolutely have to do if you come for a holiday in New Zealand is go on a Waitomo glowworm tour by boat. It. Is. AMAZING. You're taken into a cave, down into a tunnel that has a gentle river flowing through it, and helped onto a boat. You are told to be very, very quiet and to take no flash photos. Then the lights go out.
The boat floats away from the side and into the blackness. For a while, all that accompanies you is the breathing of the tourists in the boat, and the soft sloshing of the water. Then your eyes begin to adjust. Above you, and reflected perfectly in the water below you, are thousands of blue stars. You feel as though you are drifting in space, but you suddenly realise that you can't be: you are merely in an enclosed passageway that feels as big as the universe. It's unreal - dreamlike. Each one of those blue lights is a glowworm. You have to be quiet not just to add to the atmosphere, but so you don't scare them. If they feel threatened, their lights go out.
Waitomo Caves are consistently rated among the top tourist attractions in New Zealand and we completely agree. They're one of the top tourist attractions in the world!