Waipu Caves

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The entrance to Waipu Caves, as seen from within

Our next stop on the Northland Peninsula in New Zealand are Waipu Caves, one of the few places on the islands where you can see glow worms for free. The glow worms, the larvae from a species of gnat that thrives in dark damp places, are some of the most magical sights in New Zealand. The area around Waipu also hosts quintessential New Zealand beauty – weather-sculpted karst rocks, twisted trees, and every shade of green you can imagine. Here are our photos from visiting Waipu, from hiking the area around it to exploring within the cave itself, to finally figuring out how to capture the magic of the glowworms by camera.

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A rather nondescript sign marks the entrance to the caves.
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There’s also a hiking track around the caves, weaving through woods and karst stone formations.
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A tree forces apart rocks as it grows.
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Anchors embedded at the top of the cliff for rock climbing.
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Into the cave itself, where the last of the light dies away.
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The entrance of the cave seen from deep inside the cave; the foreground light is courtesy of our headlamps.
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Fanciful figures in the darkness: a mushroom grows on a log that washed into the cave, illuminated only when we shine our light on it.

 

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Fantastic formations on the cave walls.
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Signs of damage: here, someone has broken off a stalactite from the cave’s ceiling. If you enter the cave, take care not to touch the formations or lean on them.

 

 

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The celebrity! A glow worm hangs from a wall, but with light shining on it we cannot capture its glow.
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After playing with the camera settings, we switch off our lights for total darkness and take a long exposure shot. We’re rewarded with a constellation of glow worms, scattered across the night sky of the cave’s ceiling.
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