With the severe rain warning in effect, our options were limited due to the torrential rain. Since we were near the Waitomo Black Water Caves, we decided to book an adventure tour for the day (what better way to spend a rainy day but underground!). There are a number of operators that offer cave tours, however we selected a small family run business called Kiwi Cave Rafting as they offered 5 adventures in a 5 hour tour – Abseiling, Tubing, Caving, Glow Worms and Rock Climbing!

Luckily we picked the right one as all the other tour companies ended up cancelling their excursions for the day due to the heavy rain. Despite 75mm of rainfall, the Kiwi Cave Rafting tour was still a go, but just by a few millimetres. There are over 300 caves in the area, each company operating its own cave, therefore water levels vary, leaving ours just below the danger level.

With a capacity of only 6, our small crew headed down the road to the cave entrance, just a short drive through the sheep filled fields. Once we had our wetsuits on, our helmets secured, adorning our WHITE rubber boots, we were off through a sheep field to the entrance.

Our Black Water Caving crew 

The first excursion was a 100ft abseiling (or rappel) into the black water cave. I volunteered to go first eager to get started on our journey. It was a beautiful descent, with lush rainforest like plants aligning the cave walls, as we dropped down into the cave towards the sound of the rushing waters.

The cave was absolutely beautiful. The sound of the water rushing, with the rainfall sprinkling in from above – it was breathtaking.

Entrance to the Black Water Cave

After a few safety tips, we were off with our tubes up river, climbing along the sides of the cave, crisscrossing through the water from side to side, and at one point even tight roped across! It was amazing how strong the water was flowing against us. Due to safety they had called in another guide to make sure everyone was safe, double checking everything before they let us cross or go further.

That’s me on the tight rope                                     Jordan popping through a cave 

A few hundred meters up we were finally able to hop in our tubes and go for a ride down the rapids. At first it was more like a lazy river, but as the cave narrowed, the speed of the water picked up and we were sailing down the caves in the darkness with just the light from our headlamps.

Tubing down the river through the rapids

At the end of the cave before we turned to walk back, they stopped at a section of rock and said “Ok so put your foot down here, hold onto the rock there, take a deep breath and push yourself under the rock (into the rushing water) and you’ll come up just on the other side”. At first we thought they were joking, but the guide took off under the rock himself and we could hear him pop up on the other side. One by one we took the plunge and threw ourselves under the rock in the rushing water, not realizing a camera was waiting to snap a picture of us on the other side. Not exactly my best photo moment.

Gasping for air after popping up on the other side 

On our way back up the tunnel, we stopped for a group picture in a large cave area with the infamous glow worms adorning the ceiling of the cave. It felt like you were looking at the sky and the stars had come out, but with a blue hew to them instead.

The group hanging out under the glow worms 
The glowworms make these web like strings that hang from the ceiling of the caves where they catch their prey. Seeing them up close they were long, wormy creatures – much prettier with the lights out when they’re glowing .
Black Cave Glow Worms 
After a tiring walk back through the water, our only way out was to rock climb up the side of the cave. Jordan and I have indoor rock climbed quite a bit in Canada, but never have a climbed with large white rubber boots! Due to the natural formation of the rocks, it was almost like climbing a staircase, with just a few hairy sections along the way.
Rock Climbing out of the cave 

After a quick rinse off, we were back to the office where they serviced us hot tomato soup while we viewed our photos from the day. It was an amazing adventure, one I look forward to doing again in a new cave with a new company at some point!


Check out Episode 6: Black Water Rafting, Kiwi Birds & Ruakuri Trail.