Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Best RTW Adventures: Green Glow

June 14th was a day I’ll remember for a long time. My hosts at Waitomo Caves B&B recommended a new tour, Green Glow Eco-Adventures, which offered a low introductory price. It sounded good: small, personalized tours with a guide who is himself focused on photography (no pun intended).

My tour with Paul was even better than expected! For $100/person (or $200 if your tour group numbers one), you can pick and choose among rock climbing, abseiling (rappelling), and caving, with as many photo-stops thrown in as you like. Maximum group size is four! I really enjoyed the 30m abseils, and we stopped to take a lot of photos.

The couple with me (in our tour group of three) was very patient on the photo stops, but they were rewarded with a few shots like this:

Cave photo near Waitomo, NZ

To get decent shots in a cave, you must use off-camera flash, but I didn’t bring mine on the pack-light RTW trip. Off-camera flash means one or two remote flashguns (preferably two), triggered manually or via remote. The built-in flash is not ideal and lights the scenes pretty badly. Paul had two off-camera flashes that we used to get fantastic lighting in the caves.

Here’s a back-lit photo:

Backlit cave photo near Waitomo, NZ

Now an example of what you can do with two strobes. This was a long exposure (13s), but was only lit up for a few microseconds (twice) when Paul manually fired the flashguns.

Two-strobe cave photo at Green Glow Eco-Adventures

Here’s a shot of glowworms, a combination of Paul’s and my ideas: I suggested to paint the bottom half of the photo with the headlamp. Paul wisely has the idea to put people in most of the photos, otherwise there’s no sense of scale to show how BIG the cave is.

Glowworm cave photo showing cave size

Speaking of glowworms, here’s another combination idea. This was a 30 second exposure at ISO 3200, with a flash to one side on very low power (in the case of this non-adjustable flash, muted by two layers of white cloth).

Glowworms and stalactites in a cave near Waitomo, NZ

One final cave shot, a close-up with my trusty Canon SD1000 pocket camera. This shows all the stages of glowworm life: the sticky threads that the worm used to catch flies to eat, the cocoon (now empty) from which it emerged to mate, and the orange eggs that it laid – which will eventually hatch into new glowworms.

Glowworm cocoon, threads, and eggs

Last but not least: a photo of the last abseil we did, on a face where Paul has also set up quite a few rock climbing routes. As I remember this abseil was over 30 meters.

Abseiling with Paul at Green Glow Eco-Adventures

If you’re traveling around New Zealand’s North Island, Paul’s adventure is one full-day activity you have to try near Waitomo. It blows away the touristy “official” Waitomo Caves (Glowworm, Ruakuri, Aranui). If you go before September 2010 you’ll still get the introductory rate, but even once the rate has gone up to $180, this tour is a bargain. For the duration (up to six hours!), the small group size, and the personal care you get, I’d expect it to cost >$300!

This tour ties for first place on my trip so far, equaling the Amazon tour at Explorer’s Inn in Peru. Anyone else who’s ever been on one of Paul’s tours at Green Glow, drop me a line here and let me know how you liked it! I’d love to see some other photos taken on some of his tours (Flickr, anyone?).

Posted 10 years, 8 months ago at 3:45 pm.

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Glowworm Day

June 13th was a day for the caves. I visited Glowworm Cave and Ruakuri Cave, part of the “official” Waitomo Caves tours (which are very expensive and very touristy). Glowworm Cave was cool but Ruakuri was much better. Even with the lower focus on the worms, Ruakuri cave itself is larger and more interesting. But it’s still a lot of money for a 1-1.5h cave tour.

In Glowworm Cave they don’t allow any photos. But here’s what you can expect from Ruakuri:

Keyhole cave formation in Ruakuri Cave, Waitomo

Amazing stalactites!

Stalactites in Ruakuri Cave, Waitomo

Here are a few photos of the glowworms themselves, lit artificially. Look just above the right grouping of threads to see the worm; he “owns” all the threads below him.

A glowworm and its silken threads

Here’s a better photo of a worm, from the natural cave formation on the Ruakuri bush walk:

Closeup of a glowworm, with flash

Now, on to less cavey and more green settings. Here’s what one thinks when New Zealand is mentioned: green pastures with grazing sheep!

Sheep in New Zealand

Here’s Marokopa Falls, a massive waterfall – I’m guessing 40-50m tall. It was so powerful that even from this distance, a couple hundred meters away, the mist coated my camera in seconds.

Marokopa Falls in New Zealand

The mixed natural & black sand of Marokopa Beach:

Marokopa Beach, a black sand beach

It’s hard to believe that one could see so many varied landscapes in one day. Caves, beaches, pastures, and waterfalls. But that’s New Zealand!

Check back tomorrow for the adventure that is now in my “Top 2” of the whole RTW trip: caving with Paul at Green Glow Eco-Adventures!

Posted 10 years, 8 months ago at 3:55 pm.

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New Zealand is Cold in the Winter

Here’s a news flash for those who didn’t know: even in early winter, it’s d*mn cold in New Zealand. Not subzero cold, but that rainy, wet cold that you just can’t shake because most of the lodgings are designed for summer living. Think no insulation and small heaters.

Nevertheless, there are beautiful aspects to every country in every season, as I’ll show you in the next few days! Here are the photos of the day from June 12th in Waitomo. I would have taken more, but I had to do a bunch of errands in Auckland, then find a rental car and travel a few hundred km.

Here’s the view from Waitomo Caves B&B, a nice (and affordable!) place I’d highly recommend. Colin & Janet are very friendly, give great advice on the area’s attractions, and make fantastic chocolate cookies (a.k.a. “biscuits” down here).

View from Waitomo Caves Bed & Breakfast

The rain didn’t afford me great photography options today. But I did get this long-exposure shots of glowworms up close in the Ruakuri area, at the (free!) bushwalk, in the natural cave. These glowworms are lighting up the cave ceiling around them with natural bio-luminescent light:

Glowworms at Ruakuri Bush Walk natural cave

Glowworms are quite amazing. They hatch, and then suspend small sticky strands down from the ceiling to catch flying insects. As flies hatch from the rivers below, they try to wing their way up to the sky, but get confused by the profusion of glowworms on the cave ceiling.

Many flies end their lives trapped on the worms’ silken strands, as dinner by bioluminescent-glow. Eventually the glowworms mature and cocoon, emerging as a fly that lives only a few days because it has no mouth with which to eat. The adult glowworm flies mate, lay eggs, and die.

I’ll have a lot more photos of glowworms in the next few days, including some truly amazing shots that I got with the help of Paul, the caving guide at Green Glow Eco-Adventures!

Posted 10 years, 8 months ago at 3:43 pm.

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