- Walks & Hikes
Starting at the Maitai Dam, the trail to the Maitai Caves offers the perfect opportunity to immerse in nature.
Traversing a diverse beech and podocarp forest, you’ll follow a gravel single track before crossing the shallow stream known as Sclander’s Creek. After the creek crossing, the forest scenery gradually transcends into a beautiful woodland of matai, rimu and rata, with rugged tree roots dissecting the path before you.
Near the end of the track, it’s a 10-minute climb to the intriguing limestone caves. If you’ve taken a torch with you, it’s possible to enter the caves via a small entrance in the limestone outcrop. It’s a bit of a scramble over muddy boulders and into an ankle-deep stream to access the 15m cave, but a high aven allows you to access a second smaller chamber behind it.
Although you’re unlikely to see it for yourself, the caves are home to a critically endangered snail known as Hadopyrgus Ngataana (cave snail). The snail is only a couple of millimetres in diameter (the equivalent of a large grain of sand) but is not found anywhere else in the world. Not much is known about the snail, other than that it is see-through, blind and discoverable only in the caves and streams of the Maitai Valley.
How to get there: The beginning of the Maitai Caves track is approximately 11km up the Maitai Valley, with parking available by the footbridge near the dam.
Photo credits: Giselle Purcelle.