During our family visit to the North Island of New Zealand in August 2016, we visited the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The name Waitomo comes from the Maori words wai meaning water and tomo meaning hole or shaft. I have a bit of a fascination with caves and, as a result, we have visited several other fabulous caves including the Cango Caves in Knysna and Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Mankind in South Africa.
This visit was a unique one for us as the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is famous for its population of Arachnocampa Luminosa, a species of glowworm found exclusively in New Zealand. It was very exciting to enter the cavern known as the glowworm grotto and experience the twinkling glow that emanates from the ceiling when the lighting is off. The glowworms are a species of small, dark flying gnats that glow during the larval and imago (last stage of metamorphosis) stages of their life cycle.
I did find it a bit creepy to be in a dark and damp cave which was completely covered with glowing larvae and luminous pupa, hanging down from the roof of the cave on silken threads. The larvae spin nests out of silk on the ceiling of the cave and then hang down up to seventy threads of silk, each up to thirty or forty centimeters long, from around the nest. The threads thread holds droplets of mucus and are used to catch prey. I am not that keen on walking into web like threads in the dark, I must be honest. I was interested to learn that the larva stage is the longest of the glowworms life cycle, lasting between six and twelve months, depending on the availability of food. Once the adult glowworms emerge from their pupa they don’t feed and only live a few days.
The caves were discovered in the 1800’s by a Maori Chieftan by the name of Tane Tinorau. On 28 December 1887, Tane and his companion, Fred Mace, an English surveyor, explored the cave on a flax raft, using burning torches to light their way. He began offering tours to visitors in 1889. Tane and his wife, Huti, acted as guides to tourists who wanted to visit the glowworm caves.
The cave system also has an exquisite limestone formation which formed when the region was still under the ocean approximately 30 million years ago. The limestone is composed of fossilized coral, seashells, fish skeletons and other small marine organisms that occur on the seabed. Over millions of years the fossilized rocks have layered over each other to form the limestone which is over 200 meters thick in some places in the Waitomo region.
About the author
Robbie Cheadle was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old and her mother immigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl”.
Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.
Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books.
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The Sir Chocolate books are a delightful marriage of story, verse and cookery
… a perfect recipe for sharing with children. Silly Willy goes to Cape Town tells the adventures of two very different brothers…and includes five party cake ideas.
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