Waitomo is the area of New Zealand famous for its Gloworm Caves and a key stop off on the Kiwi Experience. One of the activities Charlotte decided to take part in during her visit was the “Legendary Black Water Rafting”; this adventure had you exploring and tubing through the mysterious Ruakuri Cave whilst gliding under magical glow worms and jumping over waterfalls. There are two options offered through the Kiwi Experience; Black Abyss and Black Labyrinth and considering the prices I decided to go for the cheaper option of Black Labyrinth. All this meant was two hours in the caves instead of five which didn’t bother me one bit, to be honest the thought of five hours sounded rather claustrophobic and the water is very cold down there! Along with being a fun, different experience, whilst in the caves you're told all about the glow worms and what I discovered was actually quite interesting. The “worms” that you see on the ceiling of the cave are actually at the maggot stage of a fungus knat fly. Having previously been mesmerised by the magical creatures, I was rather shocked to discover that they pro-create for two days and following this the male dies of exhaustion leaving the female to lay her eggs. When the first glow worm is born he then proceeds to eat all of his brothers and sisters for food, what I thought was a magical glow worm is actually a baby eating monster! Having said that they are a phenomenon worth seeing and for anyone who doesn’t mind small spaces and is looking to do something a little different, I would definitely recommend it.
Along with the visit to Waitomo another experience highly worth doing is the visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set near Rotorua. This filmset is the only remaining movie set in New Zealand and gives visitors the opportunity to see a landscape that has now been recognised around the world. The shire houses 44 hobbit holes, surrounded by gardens and orchids, along with a fake tree intended to preserve the area’s appearance for the film The Hobbit. This tree is an exact replica of the original with hand painted leaves and is truly mesmerising and completely realistic. At the end of this mystical tour you are even offered the chance to have a pint at the Green Dragon, which those who have watched the films will consider a true luxury. There is a real mix of people there; some haven’t even watched the films, I personally had only watched it once, and then of course there are the Lord of the Rings fanatics who have come to New Zealand especially for this. In fact one person in our tour insisted on taking his shoes off to really get into the character of being a Hobbit… Anyhow the opportunity to stroll down idyllic lanes amidst cottage flowers with the scent of honeysuckle lingering in the air is an absolute treat and I believe Hobbiton really is a must do in New Zealand.
Whilst in Rotorua another key activity the Kiwi Experience offers is a visit to the Tamaki Maori Village with the option of a day visit or an overnight stay. We went for the overnight stay, this night involved stepping into a native Tawa forest to learn the rituals, stories and history of the Maori culture. During the overnight stay you witness traditional ceremonies and powerful performances of song and dance. Along with this you are also treated to a traditional Maori feast which included roast lamb followed by pavlova; having not had a roast in so long this was a big treat! We really enjoyed this experience, however having previously spent time in Columbia with the Kuna tribe on this trip, this was a totally different experience. The Maori culture is deeply embedded throughout New Zealand and the people are very proud of it, however in contrast to the more primitive and wildly different lifestyle of the Kuna Yala tribe, Maori culture is more based on traditions surrounding family and performances. The tribesmen and women that we met were far more similar to us and most of them had day jobs and families housed nearby. That said, we would say that if you're looking for an authentic experience then maybe this is the one for you.