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Aranui Cave is set in the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, 5 minutes drive from the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. It is named after Ruruku Aranui, the local Maori man who first discovered this previously hidden gem back in 1910.
Aranui Cave has a natural cave entrance and is the smallest and most delicate of Waitomo's three main caves. As a dry cave without a river running through it, it houses very little life past its entrance.
However, just inside the entrance is a colony of native New Zealand cave wetas and further into the cave is the most beautiful collection of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and decorative formations.
Aranui Cave is a magical, mystical place that is steeped in Maori myth and legend.
North Island ▷ Waikato ▷ Waitomo
Aranui tour guide was great - provided lots of information on the cave and the tour was the perfect length of time. Waitomo cave and glowworms was lots of the same information on the caves and not a lot of glowworm watching. If you are not part of a tour group, be prepared to wait in the direct sun.
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Very expensive for transportation. Good price if you have a vehicle and can drive there. Good hiking area, tours are short but is a must see.
We found the guide quite rude at the beginning though she did improve in the course of the tour. You meet the guide at the reserve near the entrance to the cave. The guide collected our tickets then took off up the path at a very fast pace. The path is steep and then you reach some flights of stairs. The guide waited inside the cave and when the first of the tour group arrived said in a very smug gloating sort of way.. "noone told you about the stairs did they." ..and no they didn't. But they really should. There are well over two hundred stairs in the tour of this cave, which in caving terms is not bad, but people should be aware when they pay their money, and the guides should say something about it when the group meets up. If there's nowhere suitable to stop on the way up so people can catch up, then they could at least say they'll be waiting up inside the cave where there will be time to catch your breath.
The Aranui cave has the most crystal formations of the display caves at Waitomo. Unfortunatley quite a lot of the stalactites have been broken in earlier times when people would take them as souvenirs. There are no shawls to speak of in the Aranui Cave. Ruakuri cave has some nice shawls if you want to see that. We enjoyed the Aranui cave but we do enjoy visiting caves generally.
The big hit for us in this cave was the colony of cave weta. Now that was cool!
If you have been to Jenolan Caves near Sydney Australia, or are moving on to Sydney and the Blue Mountains as part of your trip, then you might find it useful to know that the Aranui Cave is nowhere near as spectacular as the better caves at Jenolan if you are looking for crystal formations.
Only 1/2 hour tours during summer. Actual viewing of the caves about 5-10 minutes, felt like I was on a conveyor belt. Expensive.