Black Water Rafting in Waitomo
There are two main reasons people go to Waitomo and that’s to see the glow worms and go black water rafting. Waitomo has a large network of caves all with thousands of tiny glow worms living on the ceiling. There are two ways to see these little creatures either by various different walks or black water rafting….
What is Black Water Rafting?
The best way to describe it would be caving but with a tube. It is nothing like white water rafting except that there is water involved. You are kitted up in several layers of wetsuit, boots and a helmet before being driven to the caves and sized up for a tube. The time in the caves consisted of tubing down the stream, climbing over rocks, jumping down waterfalls, relaxing on your tube looking at the glow worms and crawling through the ‘laundry shoot’. For the most part the water is knee deep and there is no skill or agility needed. Crawling through small bits is optional but jumping backwards down the waterfall is not.
There are several different trips offered, the above described trip is the three hour wet option however they have a dry option and then a five hour wet & dry option too along with several walks. There are other companies around but we went with the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company and paid $95 with the Kiwi Experience discount without this it would have been $119.
What was the Black Labyrinth trip like?
After being sized up with our wetsuits off we went to get changed, the wetsuits we had been given were soaked from the previous trip and so I cringed as I pulled it on. Finally kitted up including helmet and boots we were ready to go, first stop was a photo and then in to the van and off to the caves. We had to get sized up for a tube and to test we had the right size we had to jump backwards off of a wooden ledge in to a stream, bum and rubber ring first. It was freezing, it was scary and I really was beginning to wonder why I had signed up for this.
We then headed into the caves ready for it all to begin. With around 20 in our group there was a little waiting around for people to go through single file bits. We went through with our tubes tucked under our arms to begin with. The water was only shin deep and the rocks we were climbing over very uneven. It wasn’t long before we hit the first waterfall and had to put the practice jump in to action. I was petrified jumping backwards off the waterfall but somehow closing my eyes on the count of three it was all over, and I actually enjoyed it. We then stayed in our tubes, linked together in a long line allowing us to turn out our torches and stare at the glow worms. This happened on several occasions be it in our tube or just sat around on the rocks looking up.
There was plenty of space in the caves with no small spaces except the laundry shoot but that was optional anyway. The ceilings were tall and the tunnels wide. For the majority of it we stayed moving and I managed to stay warm despite the chilly winter weather. It wasn’t until we had to paddle with our hands, in our tubes at the end when I got really cold.
Near the end the leaders decided we would play a game, it was called ‘find your way out in the dark’. As you can imagine it was exactly that, off went our lights and thus began the human pinball in the pitch black. A lot of screaming happen – mostly from me I have to admit – and a lot of getting stuck on the rocks. Eventually we saw the light at the end of the tunnel and made our way out. I have to say that game was not my favourite part!
The glow worms were incredible, so bright and a thick continuous trail of them the whole time. I can see why people head to Waitomo to get a look at these amazing little creatures. The rafting was such a fun way to experience the caves and glow worms despite the chilly winter weather.
As I said we used the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, the guides were excellent keeping it fun but also being very helpful. You felt safe throughout the whole trip with the correct techniques and equipment. My only complaint would be that the showers were barely a dribble and after spending three hours in wet and cold caves I was in desperate need of warming up! Luckily the soup and bagel provided afterwards really helped with this.