• Glowworm Photography – Best tours in Waitomo

Planning a visit to Waitomo? Want to get the best Photographs of Glowworms? You have several options, read on for some great tips on trips

Avoid turning up to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, full of expectations, only to be disappointed at their No Photography policy. With close on 300 Caves in the area, here is the good news! Several family owned business offer boutique tours that allow photography. These tours are all in large cave systems. Their group size is smaller and they offer special photography options.

Take the opportunity to escape the crowds and treat yourself to a locally owned and operated Glowworm cave experience. These caves are equally as impressive and the Glowworm displays are just as stunning. Their service is superb as well. This is because the locally owned and operated business have low staff turnover and long serving employees. These employees are very knowledgeable and still in the area guiding because it’s what they love to do.  So if you want to have time and help to get those special shots this is where you’ll have to go…

Here goes – Top 3 Tours for Glowworm Photography 

No 3 Glowing Adventures 

Glowing Adventures is an ‘off the beaten track’ tour where you will have to get into overalls and boots, but it’s worth it. The Glowworm displays are amazing.  This tour is not suitable for the elderly or anyone with mobility difficulties. You will be climbing over boulders, walking up hills and wading through streams with rocks underfoot. Everyone requires a reasonable level of fitness. This small family business takes bookings on demand and will look after you. You will need to know your camera settings and have a suitable pack to carry your gear and negotiate your way into the cave. If you’re traveling in the off season there is a chance you’ll be the only ones on the tour. You are welcome to bring a small pocket sized camera or phone on all tours.

If you’re a photography enthusiast, bring your larger camera and tripod on their private Photography Tour.

No 2 Spellbound 

Spellbound Glowworm cave is another gem of a tour! These tours have a maximum group size of 12. You will find them a short 30min drive from the Waitomo village. Their Glowworm displays are second to none. The Full tour is set on a back-country farm and there are two caves, one with Glowworms and the other is the beautifully presented Spirit cave. They allow photography on all tours. There is a special photography tour for those that want extra time to get that perfect shot. They supply a tea and coffee break halfway through their tour. Trips depart 7 days a week and they are normally shut for the month of July. Reach out to the team for more information.

Spellbound Cave | Spellbound Glowworm Cave Tours

No 1 Footwhistle Glowworm Cave 

Privately owned and operated they specialise in private and photography tours. This is a tour that has the best of everything. With a traditional Ponga tea hut, it has obviously been developed for high end customers that demand personal service and an authentic offering.  Standard departures have a tour size limited to 11 people. Outside of high season there is generally 4-6 on a tour. They’re relaxed, un-rushed and have good walking tracks. Walk through native bush, see a large waterfall and then explore the Te Anaroa cave system. Keep a look out for the World famous Footwhistle formation. Finding the Glowworm displays is easy they are plentiful throughout the cave system. They allow photography on all tours and there are many opportunities.

For a keen photographer I recommend the photography tour or the private photography workshop. The Photography workshop is 4hrs and ensures you get the very best images. View the full list of tours here. 

The ultimate displays are coming out of Footwhistle Glowworm cave at night. Surrounded by glowworms the walls of the cave at the entrance light up with Glowworms. If you are staying the night enquire about booking a photography tour on a sunset trip it will blow your mind! This is where Stephan Patience shot the time-lapse sequence that won the NZ National Geographic Time Lapse Photographer of the year award Check his work out here Stephen Patience – Footwhistle

Want to get Glowworm photos without paying for a cave tour?

Capture pictures of Glowworms in the native forest. One of the best short walks (1hr – 1.5hrs) in the area is the Ruakuri Natural Bridge. This is an impressive walk through amazing natural scenery. With beautiful native bush, natural limestone collapsed caves and a huge natural bridge. Then after sunset, it gets dark and the glowworms turn their lights on. These glowworm populations they living are on either side of the river, next to the bridge. I would suggest doing the walk during the day, returning at night with a good torch (make sure you have plenty of battery power) and capture your images. This is also a great way to practice your glowworm photography if you have a trip booked the following day.


  • 5
    Coming out at the end in the dark was a bonus seeing all the glow worms on the outside, cave was wonderful too, must do while in the area.
    Kathie - Christchurch, New Zealand   -  
  • 4
    The experience here was great ... A must see for whanau. We were with a small group of people, which was perfect
    Tirawhanau - Ngaruawahia, New Zealand   -  
  • 5
    A big thank you to our guide Colleen who is a credit to the company... It is a very personalised experience and one I certainly will not forget in a hurry.
    Kiwiholidaymakers - Auckland, New Zealand   -