Caving and seeking Glow Worms in New Zealand is an established hobby as well as being a part of commercial cave tourism.
Recreational caving is practised by several hundred members of caving associations all over New Zealand, who take advantage of the widespread limestone karst cave systems present in the country, especially in the Waitomo District of the North Island and in the Nelson-Tasman region of the South Island. There are also several hundred thousands of visitors to various tourist caves and glow worms in New Zealand per year, though a majority of these trips would not properly be called caving.
Caving and Glow Worms exploration in New Zealand is thought to have started with a group of Auckland-area people who started to discover the lava caves in the volcanic cones of the area in the 1940s (though commercialised trips through caves at Waitomo Caves had actually already existed for several decades). The caving group quickly progressed to exploring caves in the Waikato and King Country areas, and the New Zealand Speleological Society was founded in 1949 by Henry Lambert, with the first rough facilities at Waitomo being established in 1955.
In 1957, the caving discovery of Harwood's Hole cave in the South Island was to fully establish New Zealand as a country with extremely promising cave systems, and the cave with its 183 metre deep vertical entry shaft, and its passages extending for many hundreds of meters into the depths, was for a long time the deepest and most famous non-commercial cave in New Zealand. The caving area around Nelson also contains most of New Zealand's deepest caves (most discovered in the following decades), including Bulmer Cavern, a 70 km long cave system.
New Zealand's cavers and glow worm enthusiasts are mostly organised in the New Zealand Speleological Society (NZSS), with 9 affiliated caving clubs with a total of 300 members all over the country.
We are members of the new Zealand Speleological Society:
“More is known about the planets than is known about the world beneath our feet.”