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Heading north from Oakura we made our way to Waitomo for a night’s stay in the Juno Hall Hostel. The main reason was that it was situated just a short drive away from the famous Waitomo Glowworm Cave. Having reserved a slot to visit the caves in the evening we had arrived we only had time for the manager to show us the resident donkey, cow and pigs and to leave our bags in the room before heading out.
A five-minute drive took us to the steep car park at the Waitomo Caves. From here we walked to the ticket booth and picked up our tickets for the caves. There are different entry slots to visit the caves, each were fifteen minutes apart so when we saw the group before us go in we knew we didn’t have too long to wait.
Our guide, China, took us into the caves and explained the history of the caves. Maori Chief Tane Tinorau and an English surveyor called Fred Mace explored the caves back in 1887 and were amazed by the glow-worms they encountered. Today the descendants of Tane Tinorau, including China, own and work at the caves.
The biggest part of the cave was called the Cathedral and had good acoustics. China had us all singing ‘Silent Night’ to test it out. She also explained that at Christmas they have carols by candlelight in the Cathedral and that Santa will emerge from a cave further up, abseil down and give the kids presents! The best part of the cave was saved until last. Up to this point of the tour we had only seen a few glowworms and we wandered around the caves. To finish the tour, we were all loaded onto a boat. China pulled on ropes and we entered dark caves with hundreds of thousands of glow-worms lighting up the roof of the caves. This went on for about 250 metres and both parents and kids were in awe!
After checking out from the hostel we visited the Otorohanga Kiwi House. This would be our chance to show the kids a Kiwi bird. The first exhibit had a couple of kiwi birds housed in a darkened enclosure to simulate the night time. A kiwi ran around and came so close to the glass of the enclosure so the kids got to have a good look them. The guide explained that for a bird, the kiwi has a lot of traits that resemble a mammal.
The rest of the bird park was interesting and kept us entertained all morning. The kids got some ice cream from the gift shop and then we returned to the car. Less than an hours drive away was the town of Cambridge and the Cambridge Motor Park where we had camped for our first time in New Zealand. We were returning to familiar surroundings so we could visit the Hobbinton Movie Set…