Waitomo Cave


A Mesmerizing Underground Adventure

When I signed up to go black water rafting on the North Island of New Zealand I honestly had no idea what to expect. Like you- I thought that it would be similar to white water rafting but maybe more intense? I soon found out that this adventure activity unlike anything that I had anticipated. In fact, there was no rafting whatsoever.

Waitomo Cave

The wild adventure that I chose from the The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company was The Black Abyss. This five-hour wild adventure starts abseiling down into a cave. Don’t worry, they start out with a lesson first. Once they are confident in your abilities you gear up for your adventure in a wet-suit, helmet and harness. Make sure to pee before putting your wet-suit on!

Some of my friends and I couldn’t hold our bladders while deep in the cave and we ended up having to find a dark corner to pee in. Our wet-suites were sticking to our bodies and so had to try to help tear them off of each other. It was both miserable and hilarious at the same time. Of course, we had to put our wet suites back on after- and now they were wet and cold. So yeah- pee first.

Anyway- back to abseiling. Once you get hooked up, one by one you abseil down a black pit  that leads into the cave.  You have a headlamp on your helmet. As you get deeper and deeper that is all that you have for light.  If you are an adventure junkee like me this part wasn’t scary- just fun. However, if you have a fear of heights or of the dark you may find this part challenging…and well, the rest of the adventure too.

Once inside the cave, I still didn’t really have any idea what to expect. They turned off my headlamp and in the darkness, they hooked me up to a flying fox. As Kiwi’s do- they joked around with me a couple of times, pretending to push me down the line and then stopping me. Then they actually did push me.

I went whizzing down even further into the cave- even further into darkness. I had no idea what was around me or what I was approaching.Suddenly the flying fox hit the end of the line and I bounced back from the impact. It was wild!

Once everyone flew down into the cave we were each given a tube. With our tube we then had to jump off the cliffs edge into the water below us. This was the scariest part of all for me. To jump into the water we had to jump with the tube underneath us. You hit the water with such impact that you can’t help but submerge into the cold water.

Waitomo Cave

Another part that makes jumping into the water so suspenseful is its temperature. Remember, we are deep underground where this water sees no sun. You are wearing a wet-suit but the first shock of touching the water is pretty chilly.

What came after jumping into the water  was one of the most amazing and beautiful experiences of my life. As we floated down this underground river through this deep cave, the walls suddenly turned into a night sky. Only the stars weren’t stars at all- they were glow worms.

We just floated through the cave in awe at the beauty around us , completely mesmerized by the beauty of nature.The moment was so cool that my friends and I couldn’t help but break into song- Can you Feel The Love Tonight from the Lion King seemed fitting. I am pretty sure that I could have seen Mufasa’s face in the “stars” if I looked hard enough.

Waitomo Cave
Photo Credit: Shaun Jeffers Photography

Waitomo Cave

Before we could get too relaxed- we ditched the tubes. At this point we were walking waist deep through the chilly water. As we made our way through the cave, the water level changed and there was one point where the water was so deep I couldn’t touch the bottom and had to swim. I even saw an eel swim past me!

Waitomo Cave

Eventually we hit what looked like a dead-end. There was just rock in front of us with two waterfalls streaming down. Then our guides told us that we were going to climb up the waterfalls. Say what!?

The guide helped boost me up onto the rock face and from there I  was forced to make my way up the steep, slippery surface with cold water pounding in my face. My fear of falling helped me to grip hard into the rock. As I reached the top there was a guide waiting to help pull me into the hole at the top of the fall.

 Once I squeezed my way through the hole I felt a great sense of accomplishment- but that feeling didn’t last long. As I was sitting in this tiny dark crevice I realized that I still had one more waterfall to climb.

Waitomo Cave

After conquering the second waterfall we were told that the hard part was over and we started walking along flat ground. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I realized we were above ground in the fresh air! The sun had set since I had entered the cave and as I entered into the night I still thought that we were inside the cave- quite a trippy feeling. But this time the stars were real.

If this adventure seems like too much for you but you are still interested in seeing the beautiful glowworms, there are other options available- see here for info.

Share with your travel buddies!
Waitomo Cave

Whatcha thinking?