Even our guide wondered why photographing is prohibited on these guided tours while it is allowed in the other caves.
One reason could be the huge amount of tour groups being herded through the cave. If everybody tried to get the right angle and would step back and forth, there is an increased risk of people knocking against the stalactites and stalagmites, and holding up the traffic.
Also in European caves photographing often is not allowed because people are too stupid to turn off the flash of their cameras, and in order to sell postcards.
Absolutely no complaint that you cannot photograph in the Glowworm Caves. It would be devastating if someone’s flash lit up the cave, and the noise of shutters and zoom lenses would also disturb the larvae.
Another reason why photographing is forbidden surely is the fact that they want to sell the photos they take of you and your tour group members at the end of the boat ride.
After the boat ride you have the chance to photograph outside the caves, so you get a few views for your photo album which reminds you of your visit to the Waitomo Caves.
Never touch stalactites and stalagmites!!!
Your fingers release grease that seals the limestone, so the lime cannot stick to the stone, and further growth is inhibited.
Fragile young formations can break, others get discoloured.
Several people not sticking to this rule, and the development of the caves is ruined forever.
It is ice-cold in the caves, so get properly dressed.
The temperatures are so low that you need winter clothes, a warm fleece and anorak, and sturdy shoes.
I thought it would also be a good idea to take a towel for the boat trip. The seats were wet and not properly wiped, so everybody hat a wettish bottom – which is not very pleasant in the cold.
To best enjoy the tour you should try to get on the first tour in the morning or one of the tours in the late afternoon.
A former guide where I stayed told me to absolutely get on the first tour in the morning to avoid the crowds that arrive from Auckland and Rotorua or wherever later in the day.
This was very good advice, as my group was relatively small, and went on smoothly, and not a zillion people chit-chatted at the same time, and you could still hear the guide talking.
Despite the vicinity – twelve kilometres only - it takes quite a while to get from Te Kuiti to the Waitomo Caves.
The last few kilometres are on a very winding road, and my speedy approach was also slowed down by roadworks and temporary road blocks.
Once at the carpark, you have to walk from the car to the visitor centre – and if the ladies at the ticket counters keep on chit-chatting, counting money and ignoring you, it takes even longer until you finally hold a ticket in your hand.
If you cannot make it early in the day it might be a good idea to book online.
I was not alone in having a pretty horrible time in Waitomo.
Firstly I felt I was ripped off, with entry to the Waitomo Caves to see the Glow-worms.
Secondly, the hostel located in the village 'Kiwi Paka' was a money pit and lacked character.
Unreasonable rates, plus additional charges for towels was one thing, but the common room being locked really did it for me and the people I was traveling with.
The staff were rude, and very patronising.
Waitomo is a stop for most bus companys (Magic, Stray) but my advice is to carry on, or if you do stop, spend a few hours 'Black Water Rafting'
All in all, we left in at 5am, absolutely desperate to get out of the place.
Keep trekking to Taupo is my advice!
AND AVOID STAYING AT KIWI PAKA. (THERE IS ANOTHER HOSTEL NEAR BY, WHICH HAS GREAT REVIEWS, SO IF YOU DO STAY, STAY THERE!)
You can talk as much as you want in the limestone caves – but you have to be quiet in the glow worm grotto.
The glow worms are easily disturbed by light and noise. To guarantee their survival you have to be quiet for 15 to 20 minutes while the boat glides on the silent Waitomo river.