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Waitomo is a small town built around a limestone landscape. The word Waitomo roughly translates to ‘water passing through a hole’ and this couldn’t be a more apt description for this stunning landmark. The water rushing under the surface has generated one of the most spectacular cave systems in the world.
While traveling in New Zealand (Aotearoa), we were lucky enough to spend a few days exploring these wondrous cave networks. We quickly discovered there was something there for everyone and every fitness level.
On our first day, we visited Ruakuri Cave. Together with some modern engineering, this cave has been transformed into a compelling journey through a hidden world.
It starts off with a spiral crystal-clad entrance and the sound of the distant waterfall generating the water flowing beneath your feet. As you progress through the caves, they open up into caverns littered with thousands of tiny creatures glowing their unmistakable luminescent lights. The cave is lit up like a crisp evening night under the stars. It is simply magical. While the guides lead you through the caves, they share their vast repertoire of knowledge about the history of this beautiful place, and you can marvel at the most spectacular collection of stalactites, stalagmites and cave wildlife.
One thing we particularly enjoyed about this cave adventure was that it is wheelchair and push chair friendly, so it really is an amazing family day out.
We floated through the caverns in awe of the stunningly lit cave ceilings. The glow worms encased the entire cave in the most beautiful sight.CW
A similar tour is also offered by boat. We jumped aboard one of the guided boat trips, which was equally spectacular. We floated quietly through the caves as they opened up into the glow-worm grottoes. A sight that was simply magical.
Black Water Rafting
However, our favorite adventure down in Waitomo was of course the legendary black water rafting!
If, like us, you are looking for a more thrill-seeking way to spend your holiday then this is a must! On this trip, experienced guides took us through the stunning underworld of Ruakuri Cave. A world that has to be seen to be believed. We were given a wetsuit, a rubber inner tube, a harness and some head gear complete with a light.
Our adventure began with a 35 meter abseil down a dark and seemingly bottomless cave. This alone tested our nerves and our knuckles as we gripped our safety harnesses and lowered ourselves down into the darkness. The cave slowly began to come alive with the glow from our helmet lights and the lights from the rest of our tour group. Once we had successfully navigated the abseil, then came the fun as we got to explore the underworld of this magnificent place.
As we pushed through the cave, we came to a zip line that we were individually attached too. Just before we were released down this line, the guides asked everyone to turn off their helmet lights. This blanketed the cave in total darkness and suddenly a simple zip line turned into an exercise in complete trust. As I let my legs go from beneath me, I started to slide down the line and pick up speed. Before I knew it, I was flying through the eerie blackness listening to the endless echoes of my harrowing squeals. Before long, ‘SMACK,’ I hear this incredibly concerning noise as the zip line came to a crashing halt. The lights all came back on, and it was then I realised it was the guides throwing their inner tubes against the wall of the cave, just in case I wasn’t scared enough.
Once everyone had reached the end of the zip line, we were all given an inner tube and told to stand on the edge of a rock wall looking down at the flowing underground river beneath us. Again the guides asked us all to turn off our lights, and again a simple task was transformed from relatively low key, to somewhat terrifying. One by one, we all took a leap of faith as we jumped into total darkness and splashed down into the black water. This is where the black water rafting adventure really began.
We floated through the caverns in awe of the stunningly lit cave ceilings. The glow worms encased the entire cave in the most beautiful sight. As we continued down the river there were plenty of opportunities for us to jump out of the tubes, leap down waterfalls and even squeeze through small holes in the rocks. A wonderful chance to overcome any and all claustrophobia concerns.
The tour we went on was booked for five hours; however, the experience was so exhilarating it genuinely flew by far too fast! The Waitomo cave experience was something we will never forget. It offered an adrenaline filled, white-knuckled, unforgettable rush, and it also presented a wonderfully relaxing and tranquil experience for the family. Waitomo was a magical place to visit, it gave us everything we were looking for in our vacation and it is somewhere I would recommend for anyone considering travel to this stunning country.