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A cave entrance in the area.
The Waitomo Caves are a village and cave system forming a major tourist attraction in the southern Waikatomarker region of the North Islandmarker of New Zealandmarker, 12 kilometres northwest of Te Kuitimarker. The community of Waitomo Caves itself is very small, though the village has many temporary service workers living there as well. The word Waitomo comes from the Māori language wai meaning water and tomo meaning a doline or sinkhole; it can thus be translated to be water passing through a hole. These Caves are believed to be over two million years old.


Early history

The limestone landscape of the Waitomo Districtmarker area has been the centre of increasingly popular commercial caving tourism from as early as 1900. Initially mostly consisting of impromptu trips guided by local Māori, large sections of cave near Waitomo Caves were later taken over by the Crown and managed as a (relatively genteel) tourism attraction from 1904 onwards.

Modern days

Today, a number of companies, large and small, specialise in leading tourists through the caves of the area, from easily accessible areas with hundreds of tourists per hour in the peak season, to extreme sports-like crawls into cave systems which are only seen by a few tourists each day. A visit to Waitomo Caves made Number 14 amongst a list of 101 "Kiwi must-do's" in an Automobile Association poll of over 20,000 motorists published 2007, and in 2004, around 400,000 visitors entered caves in the area.

Main caves

The main caves in the area are Waitomo Cave, Ruakuri Cave, Aranui Cave and Gardner's Gutmarker. They are noted for their stalactite and stalagmite displays, and for the presence of glowworms (the fungus gnat Arachnocampa luminosa).

See also


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