Glowworm Caves

It’s like something straight out of a science fiction movie. This glowworm cave in Te Anau was lost for thousands of years. The Maori had simply forgotten or lost track of the site. It wasn’t until 1948 when explorer Lawson Burrows went scuba diving in the caves that he came upon this magnificent site.


These pictures were not taken by me, but they are exactly what we saw. (No photography is allowed inside of the caves… well, except for the guy who took these photos.)

The tour began with a boat cruise past the World Heritage Dome Islands. The lake was clear and fresh and the air had a biting chill. Rain pelted the side of the vessel and the water levels were so high that our entrance into the caves was nearly thwarted.

We were led into a twelve thousand-year-old limestone cave. Our guide pointed out a two-inch stalagmite named Percy, with a slight bit of shame. Maybe in another twelve thousand years he might have something to brag about.

The water echoed in guttural vibrations as it forced its way through the smooth limestone walls. We boarded small boats and were then navigated through the glowworm grotto in complete darkness.

Even though we were inside of a cave, we were looking up at a night sky with thousands of twinkling stars. The ethereal glow transfixed me as the waves softly lapped against the side of the boat—until, I remember that I was staring up at thousands of worms! (They are much more charming in the dark.)

Glowworms are not that pretty in the light. In their larva stage they are little glowing, gooey tubes. Their main function is to eat. They drop down sticky, silky lines to catch other insects. The hungrier they are, the brighter they glow. But, I’m sure this is their happiest stage because well—why wouldn’t you be happy when the sun is shining out of your rear end? Then they spend a few weeks in a cocoon and emerge as adult flies. The adults do not have mouths—their main function is to mate fast and furiously. The females lay eggs and die by being ingested by nearby larvae, which completes this vicious cycle. But, these worms sure brightened up a rainy day!

If you would like to check out my novel about these fun and crazy adventures, visit:


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