More than 100 feet below the earth is an incredible adventure waiting for you.
In the heart of Waitomo, New Zealand, nestled into an expanse of stunning green hills, is The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company. They host many different kinds of experiences from easy walks and a comfortable boat ride, to an epic underground adventure. Guess which one we chose.
Most travelers will tell you that it begins with a 100 foot abseil (rappel) through a small belly button in the Earth, but it really begins with your awesome guides at The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company.
There you’ll share some time being briefed on safety, the gear you’ll be using, and getting squished into a wetsuit and funky boots. Only then, after a short bus ride to the cave entrance (which is sitting on an unassuming hill that you’d miss if weren’t marked), will you abseil and squeeze through an earthen butthole to the place where the magic begins.
Welcome… to The Black Abyss. This is one of the coolest things you’ll ever do in your life.
After descending into the depths of Ruakuri Cave, you’ll hike and explore a truly amazing subterranean world. If that weren’t enough, you’ll zip line through a passage, jump into an underground river with an inflatable tube around your tush, be guided through a wonderland of glowworms, and climb an underground waterfall on your way out! If you’re lucky, you’ll even get eat a cave cookie and meet one of the caves longest residents… a real life eel. When you’re back on top of terra firma and return to the main shop, you get to enjoy a hot shower, and well-earned bagels and warm soup.
We discovered this adventure because Jolene had always wanted to see glowworms in person. She knew they were in New Zealand, so when we were planning our ten year anniversary trip (which you can read all about here), we made sure to include them as one of the highlights of our vacation. As I mentioned above, The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company is home to many awesome (and less crazy) adventures. They’re located in Waitomo, about three hours South of Auckland. They’re also just a little over an hour from Hobbiton, which should be the next thing you do after The Black Abyss.
Once you’re suited up, transported, and trained, you walk onto a small platform where they hook your belay device up, and at your leisure… off you go into the butthole!
Once through the rock sphincter, you descend more than one hundred feet (35m) into the cave. That was an adrenaline rush and fantastic experience alone. Once everyone is safely down, you’re guided through the caves and shown various fascinating aspects of the underground world. I felt like I was living a David Attenborough BBC nature show. Then it gets even better! You’re strapped in to a zip line and whooshed through another passage. More walking and exploring and then you come to rest for a bit on a rock ledge overlooking a river. A river inside an underground cave. Here they provide some refreshments and conversation while everyone relaxes for a bit. Once break time is over, what to do then? Why not jump in the river?!
You jump into the river holding a tube to your buns and even though they warned us… that underground water is COOOOOOLD! Now you know why you’re wearing a wet suit! Once everyone is in, you gather together and form up into a train, the person behind you putting their legs over your shoulders, and yours over the person in front of you. As you float down the river, you’re instructed to turn off your headlamps, and then you experience something these words simply can’t do justice to: you float slowly down this underground river in absolute pitch black, except… for the hundreds of thousands of bioluminescent glowworms that now come to life on the ceiling above you.
Just read that last sentence again.
I truly felt for the first time in my life like I was adrift in the Cosmos. You feel connected, like you’re seeing all of the universe at once. In that moment, I found myself so full of wonder, that I couldn’t conceive of why we ever war with one another or treat one another badly. I have rarely felt that level of peace in my life.
After floating for a while, the headlamps come back on and the adventure continues! There’s treading through water, meeting an eel who lives in the cave, learning more about the incredible subterranean world, crawling in water through passages, and flying down a ramp into more water!
If all of this wasn’t enough, at the very end you get to climb up a rushing waterfall, the guides helping you ascend and place your feet while being pummeled by powerful cascading water! It was by far the most kick ass and fun climb I’ve ever done in my life (so far)!
Speaking of the guides, it needs to be mentioned that they are great! Andy and Rob were ours, and they were funny! They’re also super professional, absolutely take what they do seriously, took their time with everyone, always made sure the group was safe, and were entertaining with stories and sarcastic quips. One of our favorite moments was when we were sitting on the edge above the river, enjoying hot cups of cocoa they’d brought for everyone. Jolene asked them how come there were no ropes or fences, and no signs saying “be careful,” warning people about the ten or fifteen foot drop to the river below.
Rob laughed and said, “This is New Zealand. We think people should pay attention and you know… not be dumb.”
How about some video?! Please enjoy the clip below showing some footage from The Black Abyss Tour gathered from the kind people at The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company. It’s an excerpt from our full length video showing much more of New Zealand, and… after you watch this clip, you can see that one right here. 🙂
Moonbird’s Helpful Info:
The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company
585 Waitomo Caves Rd, Waitomo Caves
64 7 878 6219 or 0800 228 464
Open from 7am daily, 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day)
Tours depart every hour daily from 7am with the last tour at 2pm.
Location: Waitomo, New Zealand
Google Maps: Click here
Best time to visit: Spring, Summer and Autumn
New Zealand’s Seasons are: Spring: September, October and November, Summer: December, January and February Autumn: March, April and May, and Winter: June, July and August.