Even though the name infers a crazy adrenalin
based activity with images of navigating waterfalls and speeding
rapids in pitch
black, the trip is actually a combination of caving, glow worm
viewing and floating underground in an inner tube tyre! This
is not really an adrenalin junkie activity but more one for all
ages which is really active and fun – however its not recommended
for people who are scared of the dark, claustrophobic or don’t
like the idea of jumping backwards off a waterfall in the dark – be
prepared to get water up your nose!
The capital of Black Water Rafting is at Waitomo Caves below
Hamilton on the north Island. There are now a variety of operations
that run trips into the caves but we went with the original Black
water rafting company.
The tour started with everyone being
kitted up with wetsuits, boots and helmets. There were 8 people
in our group and we had
two guides with us Angus and Lou. Both were really friendly and
helped to get us kitted up easily even with the language barriers
of some of the tour group! We had heard complaints that at some
Black Water Rafting outfits the wetsuits were in bad shape and
stank but we find the ones here okay although its never nice
putting on a wet wetsuit. It was clear from the start that both
guides had a love for caving and it was nice to see , as some
companies these days are in it only for the backpacker’s
money. First the customary tourist photos -funnily enough they
used our own cameras to take them rather than have a professional
photographer do it and then flog us them after!
We were then all piled into the back
of a van and taken up to the caves. This 10 minute drive can
be a killer as wearing a
wetsuit can be rather uncomfortable and hot when your not in
the water –it may have been better to have the gear to
put on at the caves themselves but then you’d have to build
the office up there! (none of the other operators are on site
at the caves so this is a problem for all) We recommend not doing
your wetsuit up fully and not putting your hat on although be
prepared to get cold very soon!
Next was getting the tyres to fit our
bums and a quick jump off a jetty for a water test. We were
never left hanging around
and we think this was because of the small group size which was
good. Next a walk up to caves through the bush which was nice
although by this time we weren’t half sweating and not
really appreciating it!
We then clambered down into the caves
and everybody introduced themselves –this worked well
in a small group and got you used to the dark and caves. Then
it was the main section of a
couple of hours of clambering, wading and floating through caves
and passages, jumping backwards off waterfalls and seeing some
amazing glow worms along the way!
Then we floated down the river back to
the van and were taken down to the main office. Here hot showers,
bagels and soup were
waiting which was really great as you get cold in the caves.
We then had a sit down and chat with both guides. We must say
here that this is a rare thing which we really enjoyed –some
operators work like a conveyor belt but our guides were happy
to spend the time and talk to us rather than treating us like
Overall this is not an adrenalin activity
as the name suggest but a more fun way to see glow worms and
try your hand at caving.
We did feel at times there was more clambering than floating,
which was the best part, however I have done this activity before
after heavy rain and I remember there being more floating so
that is probably the best time to go. The guides were excellent
as was the group size and the addition of bagels and soup at
the end makes the half day event cost effective. If you’re
looking for more adrenalin then the guide recommended we should
do the 5 hour trip which involves abseiling and a death slide
in the dark –that’s for the next review! Also included
in the price were free tickets to the glow worm museum which
is worth a visit while your waiting to start your tour.