Cruise day 23 – Jan 27
Visit Bay of Islands (Waitangi), New Zealand –
We finally made it to New Zealand, and Bay of Islands was our first of 7 port stops in this country.
It was a busy 1-day stop for us, since we added an optional excursion to our already reserved included one. We took the first excursion of the day, the Glowworm Cave Tour, then in the afternoon we boarded another bus for the included Bay of Islands Panorama Tour. We got back to the ship on one of the last tender boats, making it a full day.
The port was packed with people, as two cruise ships were anchored AND it happened to be a regional “Anniversary Holiday”, which meant many locals were celebrating as well. We were charged an extra 15% surcharge on our lunch at the pier (which was already outrageously expensive) because it was a holiday, and we weren’t very happy about that.
Glowworm Cave Tour –
This was a cool excursion that we really enjoyed. We had never heard of glowworms, probably because they don’t exist in the U.S. or most other places in the world. After a bus ride to the attraction, we were ushered into the cave by excellent guides who walked us to a section where we stopped and turned off our flashlights. In the pitch blackness, we could easily see the thousands of glowworms on the cave’s ceiling, especially once our eyes got adjusted. It was almost like looking up at the Milky Way galaxy! We always enjoy touring caves, and although this one was small and short the glowworms made it a great tour. Highly recommended!
As we gazed above, our guide explained the life cycle of the New Zealand Glowworm (Arachnocampa Luminosa) and the intricate webs they create to catch their prey (mosquitoes and midges). Their light is used to attract insects lost in the dark for their dinner. The brighter the light, the hungrier they are.
Glowworms have up to a one-year lifespan; 6-11 months as larva, 2 weeks as a pupa and 3 days as a fungus gnat. During the last 3 days they mate, and after the female lays her eggs they die within 24 hours.
Photography wasn’t allowed (or possible with the equipment we had) so we borrowed an image from their website:
Before returning to the ship we made a short stop in the small town of Kawakawa to walk around a bit. The big attraction here is the unique public washroom, designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser and donated to the town in the 1970’s. I’m not really into “toilet touring”, but I took a quick look inside to see what all the fuss was about. Mona Liza says it was a one-of-a-kind public toilet.
Although I was underwhelmed, the number of people crowded around proved once again that I’m not a very cultured person. Fortunately, I’m already aware of that…
We walked around a bit and noticed more mosaics and artsy sculptures:
Bay of Islands Panorama Tour –
We weren’t very impressed with this one. Although it’s always good to take a drive around a new area to get a feel for it, this trip was too rushed and we were mostly unable to understand what the guide was saying because of his heavy accent combined with the poor PA system on the bus.
We made a brief stop at Kerikeri Basin, an historic NZ site and home to the country’s oldest buildings. We stood by the river and viewed the country’s oldest stone building that has served several purposes during its long life:
Some of the exotic plants we saw in the area:
Back on the bus we continued to our next destination, Rainbow Falls. This was the most interesting stop, with a decent walk to the falls which were quite nice. We saw a tiny rainbow while there, but Mona Liza was unable to capture it. Again, this stop was much too brief as there was another section of the park we wanted to check out so we could get some more exercise.
The final stop was at Kawakawa, but since we had already walked around it during the morning excursion we just stayed on the bus. The fact that it was a holiday made it almost a ghost town, since virtually every business except a couple of restaurants were closed.
Taking this excursion was certainly better than sitting around on the ship or walking in the crowds at the pier. We enjoyed the natural beauty of New Zealand’s North Island while learning about Waitangi’s central role in the history of the country. We missed this area during our cruise to NZ 15 years ago and were happy to catch it this time through.