Waimarino – a glow worm tour with a difference

Waimarino – a glow worm tour with a difference

When people think of New Zealand and glow worms they think of Waitomo Caves.  These caves are famous around the world for showcasing magical glow worms.  Where in fact glow worms are found all over New Zealand often in damp overhanging stream banks, forest settings and in caves and I was keen to show them off to my English boyfriend.

Not fancying the long drive to Waitomo, we were happy to discover Waimarino Kayak tours. Intrigued by this unique way to see the glow worms and enticed by the close location we happily booked a place on their Tauranga evening glow worm kayak tour.

Not really knowing what to expect or what to wear we meet at the Waimarino Adventure Park to join our small group of six. Upon meeting Tom (our guide) and our fellow tour participants we took a short drive to the picturesque Lake McLaren.

Once at Lake McLaren we settled beside the lake with wine and cheese to watch the sunset. Unfortunately for us it was an overcast kind of day and we didn’t get much of a sunset, regardless it was a beautiful spot to enjoy our refreshments.

As day turned to dusk we suited up in dry gear and the beginners received a quick lesson in the basics of kayaking.  As we hit the water the lake was a beautiful sight with the perfectly calm water being illuminated with a striking hue of pink and red cast from the twilight sky.

Slowly paddling down the hydro lake, we absorbed the beautiful surroundings and vast green paddocks and parkland slowly merging into the Maugapapa canyon.  As we paddled down the gorge with dusk settling in I was truly welcomed home with sounds of the Ruru bird (a small brown owl also known as a Morepork as this is the sound of their call) echoing around the canyon.

The slow paddle was such a calming and serene experience and in no time, we had paddled the 3km to our destination.  With it not being completely dark yet Tom took advantage of this time to give us some information about the local area and the glow worms we were waiting to see.

As night fell the magic began to happen, with the banks of the gorge twinkling like fairy lights. We all linked together and Tom slowly paddled us down the river while we gazed up at this natural wonder.

The sporadic clusters emitted a dull light and the darker the night became the brighter the glow worms sparkled. With stars shinning in the night sky, and the glimmer of the glow worms spreading up the banks of the gorge you feel that you are in the bounds of a galaxy, surrounded by thousands of twinkling stars.

Still marvelling at the amazing sight, we had just witnessed we made the short paddle back down the river in the dark to make our way home.

What you need to know:

The tour lasts for around 3-3 ½ hours depending on your group size.  Don’t worry you will only be paddling for around 1- 1 ½ hours.

Equipment and clothing

Not really knowing what clothing and equipment would be provided I had envisioned emerging from the river soaked, shivering and cold.  With this in mind I had borrowed a couple of my Dad’s old woollen jumpers to keep me warm (as I had stupidly only packed one cardigan for my whole trip) but there was no need for this foresight as Waimarino Kayak tours provided gear to ensure you didn’t get wet.

Aside from the kayaks and head-torches they also provided spray skirts, fleece jumpers, spray tops and life jackets.  The gear supplied by the company was comfortable, warm and very sufficient in keeping you dry, the only downside was some of the gear was a bit smelly.

Price and booking options

The cost of the tour is $130 per person and this increases to $140 in peak season.  We happened to get our tour considerably cheaper ($78 per person) through a third party booking site, this probably was due to booking the day before and the low numbers booked for that particular day.

To book a tour you can book directly on Waimarino Kayak tours website http://www.glowwormkayaking.com/tauranga/glowworm-tour also check out the website we booked our tour through www.bookme.co.nz.  On occasion, they also have deals on www.grabone.co.nz (New Zealand’s version of groupon).

Waimarino Kayak Tours

This company is local and family operated since 1975. Having operated in the region for such a long time the guides are very knowledgeable about the area and very enthusiastic on making sure each and every customer has a great experience. Our guide was very knowledgeable, patient and funny (he reminded me of Murray from Flight of the Conchords) and I would happily book another tour through Waimarino Kayak Tours.

We found our experience to be a truly captivating and I think everyone should experience the phenomenon of glow worms once in their lives!

Thank you to Waimarino for supplying the photos.  Note to self to operate a gopro you need the memory card inserted.

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  1. Thank you so much for recommending this, like you say, I didn’t realise glow worms were so common – I thought it was only the Waitomo caves also! We did a late night forest walk in the South Island and it was like a scene from Avatar movie haha! Do you have any suggestions for photographing the glowworms as I’ve heard it’s pretty impossible to photograph?

    • Aren’t glow worms so magical? Unfortunately I don’t have any tips, I was supplied the photos.

  2. Great write up lady! I didn’t realise you did the kayak at night! Might have to put this in my to do list!