While most people travel to New Zealand to take in the sights of its picturesque mountains or never-ending coastline, one of its best offerings is actually hidden underground where only few people can see it.
We’re talking about the glowworm caves at Waitomo. Unlike the regular caves you’re used to that are dark, damp and filled with terrifying bugs and bats, these ones are loaded with–you guessed it–harmless, bioluminescent glowworms that are only found in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, much like trying to photograph stars in the night sky, these glowworms are actually very difficult to properly capture on film. Most of the time the camera’s flash dominates the photo, and the greenish hue of the worms disappears. As a result, good photos of these caves are hard to find. That’s why we’re thankful that Auckland-based photographer Shaun Jeffers recently visited the caves, and used some fancy camera techniques so that we can now get a taste of what this place really looks like:
This glowworm cave in New Zealand is straight-up enchanting
Waitomo Glowworm CavesYou see those orbs of bluish light? Those are glowworms--thousands of them. They cling to the cave's walls, and will be with you the entire time you're inside. Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesThe limestone formations that make up the caves were created about 30 million years ago, and were shaped with the help of geological and volcanic activity.Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesGuided tours of the caves have been offered since the 1880s. If you want to see them yourself, prices for floating tours start at $49, and the caves are open all year long.Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesThis sure is a heck of a lot cooler than watching the water dry off stalagmites, huh?Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesWe wouldn't recommend these for the squeamish though...Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesBecause once these worms mature, they turn into flies. So watch your head! Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesTo get all of these shots, Jeffers had to submerge himself and his tripod in cold cave water for 8 hours a day. Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesThe trick to getting most of these shots came down to a longer exposure time, which ranges between 30 seconds and six minutes for these images. Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesIt's almost hypnotic, isn't it? Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesFortunately, the glowworms are completely harmless. Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesBut you should still avoid letting any fall on you. You know, because that's still kind of gross. Shaun Jeffers
Waitomo Glowworm CavesHappy spelunking! Shaun Jeffers