Introducing the Flora & Fauna
Underground but very much alive is NZ’s largest spider, (hunky but harmless), Spelungula cavernicola, with a brown furry body sprouting legs that give it an overall size of up to 15cm. Spelungula find their prey by vibration - cave weta mostly, while their egg sacs hang from the ceiling like miniature golf balls.
Glowworms, with origins dating back 80 million years, light up the eternal darkness, attracting prey with their luminescence, while tiny ant-like troglobites with suction pads on their feet shimmy across the wet walls.
The twilight cave entrances are fringed and draped with delicate mosses and algae. The area surrounding the caves is heavily forested with a stunning mixture of beech/podocarp forest, thickly coated in moss, and it is this beech forest that generates the humic acids that stain the streams a "billy tea" colour, and also creates high acidity.
The diverse forest types support a wide range of native birdlife, protected under the Conservation Act of 1987, including the great spotted kiwi, the rare blue duck, kaka, NZ falcon, kea, weka, pigeon, robin, fantail, parakeet, paradise duck, and tomtit, to name a just a few, while it is thought that the kokako may still be present in the area.
The rare lesser short-tailed bat has also been recorded in the vicinity, while the large carnivorous land snail, Powelliphanta annectens is found throughout, but in greater numbers in and adjacent to the areas of limestone.
The snails are in turn eaten by wekas, keas, rats and even possums, and damaged shells are common. Again, both snails and shells are protected.
Access via McCallums Mill Road is not recommended for large motorhomes or buses.