Spellbound Glowworm Cave

Te Ana o te Atua - Cave of the Spirit

Useful Information

Location: In Waitomo Caves village.
From Auckland follow State Highway 1 south to Hamilton, then State Highway 3 south to Waitomo. Caves are signposted. 200 km south of Auckland, 70 km from Hamilton, 16 km from Otorohanga.
(-38.312619, 175.079685)
Fee: Adults NZD 47.50, Children (0-5) NZD 5, Children (5-15) NZD 23, Family (2+2) NZD 120.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave. Mangawhitakau/Oparure limestone. BiologyGlowworm
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:  
Address: Spellbound Ltd, P.O. Box 4, Waitomo Caves, Tel: +64-800-773-552 (Toll free, NZ only), Fax: +61-7-8787622. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1952 first known movie images of a New Zealand cave recorded by the caver John Kendrick in Te Ana o te Atua.
2000 area bought by the nearby limestone quarry operator Mc Donald's Lime.
2003 Spellbound Ltd founded by Libby and Pete Chandler.
26-DEC-2004 Te Ana o te Atua opened to the public.
JAN-2005 filming of Sir David Attenborough's wildlife documentary Life in the Undergrowth.


Spellbound Glowworm Cave is not the name of the cave, to be exact, it is the name of the tour operator. The official name of the cave is simply Glow Worm Cave, which is not very spectacular, and rather weird, as there are virtually hundreds of glow-worm caves in New Zealand. Seems to be New Zealandish understatement, like calling the dog in WorldFootrot Flats simply Dog. We think it is a good idea to call it Spellbound Glowworm Cave, just to distinguish it from other glowworm caves.

The owners of this new tour operator are Libby and Pete Chandler, who invented and owned the famous Waitomo Black Water Rafting. It was the first time ever, such underground extreme sport was offered to the public, and thei company name soon become the name of the sport. After they sold this company to The Waitomo Caves Inc, they opened this new company with a different concept. The difference to other tours: the visitors have really a lot of time, at least 30 minutes of silence and darkness under one of the largest ceilings of glowworms in New Zealand. They say it was the most unhurried glowworm tour in New Zealand.

The Spellbound tour is an outdoor experience which takes 3.5 hours. It starts at the Waitomo Information Centre with a minibus ride to a typical sheep and cattle farm, a heavily karstified area with many dolines, loosing streams, springs, and caves. One of those caves is toured. The cave has a fine entrance portal, followed by a huge horizontal passage. The cave is equipped with paths and electric light. Finally the place where most glowworms live is reached, and the participants enter rafts. It takes 10 to 20 minutes for the eyes to adapt to the darkness.

After leaving the cave, a scenic gorge walk brings the participants to the impressive entrance portal of Te Ana o te Atua (Cave of the Spirit). On the way the guides explain the development of the karst landscape and its typical features. The cave has no cave river, but fine formations and numerous remains of both Maori and early British settlers. There are bones of now extinct animals who once died in the cave.

This glowworm cave was chosen by the BBC for filming Sir David Attenborough's wildlife documentary Life in the Undergrowth.