Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre Rises From The Ashes

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Waitomo Glowworm Caves has opened it's doors to the public, for visitors to enjoy the spectacular new visitor centre. This marks a new beginning for this iconic Kiwi destination. The original centre was devastated in a fire in 2005. Since then thl, the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust (the Hapu) and the Department of Conservation (DOC) have worked together to create a centre that reflects the local culture and the environment.

The New Waitomo Caves Visitor Centre

We are very excited to have the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre open to the public and for visitors in the area to be able to enjoy this spectacular new building.

The doors are now open at the stunning new Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre marking a new beginning for this iconic Kiwi destination.

The original centre was devastated in a fire in 2005 and since then thl, the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust (the Hapu) and the Department of Conservation (DOC) have worked together to create a centre that reflects the local culture and the environment.

thl CEO Grant Webster says, “We are very excited to have the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre open to the public and for visitors in the area to be able to enjoy this spectacular new building."

“We hope this multi-million dollar complex will become an iconic New Zealand tourist attraction in its own right. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves provides a uniquely New Zealand experience and we believe this complex will greatly enhance visitors’ experience at Waitomo.

“thl has invested significantly into this iconic tourism centre which will be the first of its kind on this side of the globe, and promises to deliver an even more exceptional experience to our customers.”

The design reflects the weaved shape of a ‘hinake’ (eel catcher) and the association that the local people have with eeling near the caves. The Hapu has been strongly involved in the design of the building and descendants of Tanetinorau, the Maori Chief who first explored the Caves in 1887, still guide visitors through the Caves today.

A Maori Poupou, which was first carved in 1987, now stands renewed at the entrance to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre. It depicts Tane Mahuta, the God of the forest, guardian of the caves and their inhabitants.

The Glow Worm Caves visitor centre has been designed to create a minimal intervention environmental building that provides a lightweight canopy. The top structure canopy follows the curve of the Waitomo stream while the base of the building reflects the contours of the land.

The new building offers a variety of facilities and experiences to visitors. The new Waitomo Caves restaurant spanning two levels seats up to 250 customers and includes exclusive dining area for groups. There is also a 50 seat café. Added extras include an exhibition space, which is currently exhibiting “Building an Icon” around the creation of this new Visitor Centre and a Theatre where viewers are taken on an emotionally connecting journey with a wonderful introduction to the people of Waitomo through a short film created by "thedownlowconcept". A Gift Shop offers a large variety of high quality gifts and souvenirs including a Kiwi gallery featuring local artists.

The complex serves as a fabulous access point to the stunning Waitomo Glowworm Caves experience. Waitomo offers other exciting attractions in the area – the spectacular and unique Ruakuri Cave with its innovative spiral entrance and glowworms up close and Aranui Cave with its stunning cave formations makes for an exceptional experience. For the more adventurous, there is the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company.

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre recently won three of the top awards at the NZ Wood Timber Design Awards 2010.

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Ann-Marie Jones

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