A cave in New Zealand looks like some sort of magical glowing landscape on an alien planet. Photographer Shaun Jeffers spent a year capturing the magic of New Zealand's Ruakuri Cave. The limestone cave is not only known for fantastic geological formations, but for whimsical natural lighting that emits from glowworms. These worm-like insects provide an ethereal atmosphere to the celebrated cave.
Jeffers, who is an official Hobbiton photographer, frequently captures incredible landscapes for tourism companies. He snapped some glowworm photos for Discover Waitomo, a company that organizes cave visits, rafting, and tours of the Hobbiton Movie Set. To obtain the images, Jeffers had to spend six to eight hours submerged in chilly cave water.
According to his Bored Panda post on the experience, he said, “When the headlamps are out and all you can see are the glowworms, you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped into James Cameron’s Avatar Pandora; it’s just unreal!”
Discover Waitomo says the glowworm “is unique to New Zealand.” The caves were first explored back in 1887, when Maori Chief Tane Tinorau and English surveyor Fred Mace entered via a raft on the river that runs into the cave. According to Discover Waitomo, the Maori knew the caves were there but hadn’t yet explored far into their depths. Chief Tane and Mace were the first to discover the now-famed Glowworm Grotto.
In 1889 tourists began venturing into the caves using the other entrances Chief Tane found, led by the chief and his wife Huti. The government started managing the caves in 1906, but in 1989 management was given back to the Maori. Discover Waitomo says many of the staff that guide tourists through the enchanting caves today are “direct descendants” of Chief Tane and Huti.
Jeffers said, “Something quite special dwells beneath the surface of New Zealand and these images prove that the country is just as beautiful below ground as it is above!”