We had so much fun in the Fiordland National Park. The first thing I had booked was a tour of the Te Anau Glowworm caves. Neither of us knew what to expect. We’ve experienced a romantic evening in Japan watching fireflies, so I had a feeling glowworms might be something like that…but in a cave. It was actually completely different. Glowworms have a sort of eerie blue-green light and they remain completely still, unlike the dancing fireflies we saw in Japan.
Details if you’d like to go:
Time: The tour is just over 2 hours long
What’s included: A boat trip across Lake Te Anau, a walking tour through the cave, followed by a cave-boat tour…oooh plus plenty of free tea and coffee.
Cost: NZ $83.00 (although we were give 20% off because I booked two tours through the same company)
What to bring: Suncream – because it’s fun to sit outside on the boat! Some sort of sweater as even in summer the caves are pretty cold. I was wearing flipflops, which worked well as the caves are quite wet BUT my feet were chilly.
Getting to Te Anau
We had another early start to drive from Wanaka down to Te Anau. We then drove past Queenstown along an incredibly picturesque route to get to Te Anau. If you don’t hire a car then I think you need to get a bus from Wanaka to Queenstown, and then a second bus to Te Anau.
Te Anau Glowworm Cave Tours
We chose a tour with a local tour company called Real Journeys. My teeny blog is not sponsored in any way, but I did think the tour was good value and totally worth doing if you are in this area. I am not really a fan of tours, but I don’t think it would be possible to see those cool glowing dudes without them.
The tour involves a pretty boat ride across Lake Te Anau, followed by a walking/boat tour through some really cool caves.
How to find Real Journeys:
This part was pretty easy. Te Anau is not a big. If you drive down the Lake Front Drive (the main road close to the lake) you’ll see their building by a small roundabout. If you see a huge statue of a blue takahe bird, you’ve gone too far! We were told to check in 20 minutes before our boats departure, so we did, and then had time to wander across the street for coffee or ice-cream with frozen fruit mashed into it.
The Boat trip across Lake Te Anau
The only way to reach the Glowworm caves is to take a boat from Te Anau, across the sparkling blue lake. I felt like we were getting a free cruise after paying to see the glowing bugs! The Fiordland is incredibly pretty as Glaciers have carved the mountains to leave them with steep sides that reach right into the water.
We were told that Lake Te Anau has three large fiords that are the only inland fiords in New Zealand. We zoomed past the first fiord, peeking in towards the mountains. I learned the difference between Fiords and Sounds, and found out that Milford Sound is actually a fiord, not a sound. I guess someone failed when they named it. Anyway, It takes around half an hour of these pretty views before you reach the Te Anau Glowworm caves.
The Te Anau Glowworm Caves
Once you arrive on the island, the boat full of people is split up into smaller groups, each with their own tour guide. The caves are cool, filled with water and a little maze-like. They have a few different routes through the caves, so you hardly see the other groups.
If you come on this tour, get ready to watch your head! The ceiling gets pretty low at some points, and there is not much light (to adjust your eyes for looking at glowworms…)
I can’t show you any photos of the actual Glowworms. I don’t think they would have come out in that low light anyway BUT I can tell you how pretty they were! As we walked deeper into the cave, our guide pointed out occasional glowworms, the further in you go, the more the ceiling starts to glow!
Once we made it deep inside the cave, it was truly enchanting. We were all guided onto a long thin boat, that took us even further into the cave. This was the perfect way to view the glowworms. You can relax in the boat and just stare up at the ceiling. It is kind of like looking at star constellations from an alien sky. You won’t recognize the patterns in the lights, but they really do seem like starlight. The whole experience is really relaxing. We were asked to keep quiet, so the only sound was the swooshing of the water through the cave.
It turns out glowworms aren’t actually worms. They are larvae (from fungus gnats!) that hang to the ceiling in the cave while dangling lines of sticky spit! They are teeny, pretty predators. Small insects move towards their glow and then get caught on their silk snares. The insects probably think they found a way outside and are flying up towards the stars! I didn’t know anything about fungus gnats, so I found the whole this fascinating. I was only slightly grossed out after feeling a couple of raindrops on my head. Our guide mentioned that it might be dripping water through the rocks above, it also might be glowworm goo. Ah, nice.
Outside the Caves:
Once you exit the cave, you get a short walk through some pretty forest. I spotted a mossy log that looked incredibly like a Kiwi! We never saw a Kiwi in Kiwiland, so this is as close as I got!! The tour finished off in a hut with lots of tea, coffee and information about the glowworm’s life cycle. We could also look out to the pretty Lake Te Anau in the sun. It is a pretty stunning view!
In no time at all we were all ushered back onto the boat to head back to Te Anau. We also got to see a view of another one of NZs Great Walks! The mountain below is Mount Luxmore, which you get to climb on the first day of the epic-sounding Kepler track. People must have been looking down to some amazing views from up there!! These views make me want to return to NZ to do more of these great walks.
So, that was the Real Journeys Te Anau Glowworm Caves tour. It was brilliant, but…
Why I hate Tour Groups
I mentioned above that I am normally not very keen on touristy tours. I had a fantastic time visiting the glowworms but it did remind me *why* I hate tours. It’s because normally polite people often seem to turn into tour-monsters. A tour monster is likely to push in front of everyone to ensure they have the best spot. They elbow folks out the way to get their prefect photo (thank goodness we weren’t allowed cameras in the caves – this part of tour-monster-itis couldn’t happen.) Tour monsters chat loudly when the guide has asked us to stay quiet. Marc and I spent most of the time at the back of the group because we were pushed aside so many times.
I don’t really understand *why* some people act in that way. We could hear just fine from the back and we weren’t in a rush to leave the glowy-worms! I discovered that although I love meeting new people, I don’t want to make friends on tours.