One of the most unreal experiences we did when traveling as a family

One of the most unreal experiences we did when traveling as a family

Hands down one of the coolest experiences we have ever done on any family trip has been seeing glow worms in New Zealand. Imagine being in a kayak in a totally dark cave (you can't even see your hand in front of you it's so dark.) Then you look up and see thousands of tiny, electric blue lights surrounding you on all three sides. Those are glow worms you're seeing! It feels like you're floating through a night sky of stars. 

Sounds incredible right? Let me back up a bit and tell you about the tour we chose and how we ended up in that cave.

*Note: We were hosted by Paddle Board Rotorua for this experience but my thoughts on the tour are my own.

Paddle Board Rotorua picked us up in Rotorua and took us down to Lake Okareka, where we got suited up in all the gear we would need to stay warm out on the water (including life jackets). They take you through a quick safety instruction and explain a little bit about how to paddle out on the water. If you've never kayaked before, or are kayaking with kids, it was still totally doable. The water on the lake is pretty calm and you don't have to kayak too far.

It's hard to find activities that are suitable for the whole family, and this is a great option for everyone. The guides are there to help anyone who needs it- we had Jordan go with the two younger kids in a kayak with our guide so she could paddle when Jordan needed to help the kids with something.

We started out at sunset, and started paddling out toward the caves. There's a few small caves you get to go through with some glow worms in the beginning. Once the sun sets, you start to see more glow worms in the caves. Each cave kept getting more exciting as it got darker and we could see more glow worms. We went through 3 different caves before heading over to the largest one. 

Before going over to the final cave, the guides brought hot chocolate and a treat for everyone, which was a major highlight for my kids getting to drink that out on the water.

Once we got to the largest cave, the guides pushed the kayaks into the cave (it's really narrow but deep. This was were we felt like we were just floating through a galaxy of bright blue stars. While we were in the cave they shared so many cool facts about glow worms (did you know they were more closely related to a mosquito than a worm?!). I loved that we got to spend so much time in the cave while the guides shared about glow worms and answered all of my kids questions about the glow worms. 

Check out what the cave looked like inside in our video recap below (you don't want to miss seeing the inside of the cave I described!).

Another bonus of the evening was having a perfectly clear night sky so we could stargaze as we paddled home. 

It was a late night for the kids but it was such a cool experience and we all loved it so much. It was a highlight of our trip for sure.

What's Unique about Paddle Board Rotorua

If you visit New Zealand, seeing glow worms is a really fun, unique thing to do. There's quite a few different places to see them but none compare to where we went in Rotorua. Our guide told us that a lot of places in New Zealand where you can see glow worms either rush you through so you don't get to experience the glow worms for very long, or the places you visit just are so overrun that there aren't as many glow worms. But with Paddle Board Rotorua, you get a much more intimate, up close and personal glow worm cave tour in places that are only accessible by water- which means that the caves they take you to are more secret and have way more glow worms since they're less frequented.

Tips on if you do this tour with kids
The main thing to remember is that the tour is about 3 hours total, and starts around 7 at night. So plan accordingly and make sure you do dinner before the excursion. If you have little kids who nap, make sure you have them take a nap a bit later in the day so you can keep them up a bit later. This is what we do with George and it seems to work well.

It was definitely hard at times to keep George still on the kayak, but for the most part, he was pretty entertained seeing everything around us. I think if we had brought him some snacks it would have helped keep him occupied when he was getting wiggly. But it also really helped having Jordan dedicated to just taking care of George. The guide was great in helping paddle when Jordan needed to help George.

My kids are really comfortable on the water and have kayaked before so they weren't nervous about doing this activity. If your kids aren't as comfortable around water or have never been in a kayak, I'd recommend practicing on a raft before you go on your trip. Just have them play little games like "statue" where they practice being super still on the raft, and then take wiggle breaks.

Hopefully those tips help if you're planning on doing this tour with kids. 

Booking your tour
Paddle Borad Rotorua offered my followers 20% off a booking with the code MINIVOYAGER20! Book directly through their website.

I really can't say enough good things about Paddle Board Rotorua and their Glow Worm Cave Tour. It was such a great experience with the kids. The guides were so kind, patient, and helpful with them. It's something that our entire family loved and still talk about. My kids loved it so much they were doing pretend Glow Worm tours in a kayak at the lake at our AirBnb the next day. If you're looking for family-friendly activities that the whole family can enjoy, add this to your list!

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