The Real Glowworm

Original-glowworm-photoGlowworms are adorable green stuffed toys that I snuggled with as a child.

Only the real version is not green and no one in their right mind would want to snuggle with it!

On the north island of New Zealand I learned more than I ever thought I’d learn about glowworms.

The actual facts about New Zealand glowworms:

  • Waitomo-Glowworm-Caves-New-Zealand-Glowworm-strings-CloseupBrownish-black in color and are the larvae stage of an insect (think maggot)
  • Like a spider, the NZ version catches flying insects in the sticky lines they let down
  • Their bioluminescent glow is a reaction between the O2 in the air and their excrement
  • They use their glow to attract prey to their lines and ward off predators

While this is less than adorable to me, their glow is undeniably beautiful.  While in Raglan, NZ you could walk down the driveway of the hostel and see the ditch lit up as though lined with stars.  In Waitomo, though, a whole tourist industry is set up to see these little guys underground.  There is the original cave one can just walk into, but for the more adventurous there is tubing or rappelling.

The tour I did involved descending a ladder into a cave where we then walked, crawled, swam and tubed underground for hours.  There were areas so tight, mild claustrophobia would set in as my hips would get stuck and the words ‘I’M TOO BIG FOR THIS’ would rise in my throat just as I’d push through.  The guides did good work of making it as cheesy as possible too, including singing Hakuna Matata as we floated along and jumping around corners as a ‘cave monster’ to cause a few heart attacks.  Of course the best part was turning off our headlamps, adjusting to the darkness and being once again blown away by nature.  We only stayed like this, silent and in the pitch black, for a few moments, but it is ingrained in my memory bank.  Special travel moments abound here!

I should note that above ground was beautiful as well.  Rolling, lush green hills covered with sheep.  Straight out of the Hobbit landscape I’ve built in my head (haven’t seen the movie yet, though the film set round door is actually near Waitomo). 

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