The Te Ana-au caves are a culturally and ecologically important system of limestone caves on the western shore of Lake Te Anau, in the southwest of New Zealand. It was discovered in 1948 by Lawson Burrows, who found the upper entry after three years of searching, following clues in old Māori legends. It later became a major tourist attraction for the area, as the part of the caverns close to the lake shore is home to glowworms.
The unofficial name used by the national caving association is Aurora. The caves are geologically young (estimated 12,000 years) and hence there is only one tiny stalagmite. The Māori name Te Ana-au can be translated as "The Swirling Cave" (te: the; ana: cave; au: swirling) in reference to the water running through it. Since the caves lie in the Murchison Mountains (where the endangered takahe were rediscovered), and are themselves very fragile, access is restricted. Commercial guided tours by punt through the water-filled caverns run daily, operated by Real Journeys.
The glowworms are Arachnocampa Luminosa (Māori: Titiwai), which are a type of fungus gnat, endemic in New Zealand. Both the larva and the imago are bioluminescent. The species occurs in damp caves, grottos, in crevices on slopes, under tree roots, overhanging rocks and windless, humid places in the forest. These glowworms are found on both the North Island and South Island of New Zealand. The species is widespread, but found in small clusters because of habitat loss due to agriculture and deforestation.
This post is part of the Wednesday Waters meme,
and also part of the Waterworld Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Outdoor Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the ABC Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Travel Tuesday meme.
This beautiful video of the glowworms is by Jordan Poste of NZ Geographic: