We’ve all heard of white water rafting, but black water rafting? That was a whole new ballgame for me. In short, black water rafting is having you sit on a tube that goes down a cave stream in pitch darkness. The limestone cave is made up of a number of interesting formations, such as waterfalls, stalactites, stalagmites and in Waitomo’s case, billions of glowworms.
Waitomo is no stranger to black water rafting and we knew we had to give black water rafting a try, to tick off our adventure bucketlist. Being the first black water cave rafting operator, The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. combines blackwater rafting and glowworm-watching all in one thrilling package.
First we were brought to the changing room. Putting on a wet suit had to be the most challenging part of this adventure. The wet suit was thick, heavy and full of friction – you can imagine how (embarrassingly) long I took to put it on. Since the water in the cave does not see any light at all, water temperature is ~10 degrees. We went in winter, so the waters were even colder. I can only marvel at the guides for being able to go through the tour in the freezing waters multiple times a day. Thank goodness they provided an optional fleece top for us to don. Special socks and footwear were also provided, so all we really needed to bring were swimwear and a towel!
We were then taken to a small river stream to familiarise ourselves with our tubes and gain greater insight on what we were in for.
Following the briefing, we were driven to Ruakuri Cave, where the real action happens!
A large part of black water rafting involved balancing on rocks as we made our way through the cave in pitch darkness, crawling under low ceilings, jumping backwards with our tubes down mini waterfalls in the cave, and best of all, watching glowworms twinkle above us on the limestone rocks.
We learned that glowworms are actually flies in their larvae stage which light up to attract food. Come summer, there would be more of these bugs that light up because food is more readily available. The brighter they are, the hungrier they are. The silk that dangles from each larvae are called snares, and hold droplets of mucus to attract prey.
With a maximum of 12 people per group, there were 2 guides that took meticulous care of everyone of us. Midway, the guides humoured us with New Zealand’s popular treat, chocolate fish! It is essentially chocolate coated on top of strawberry marshmallow that is in the shape of a fish.
This is NOT the chocolate fish I was talking about, but an eel which our talented guide caught on camera.
The tour concluded with access to hot shower, hot soup and bagels. You can’t imagine how famished we were at the end of the adventure. So much energy went into battling the cold in the cave and being in awe of the glowworms in action.
This trip took us around 3 hours, with readily accessible tour buses that stop right in front of the reception.
Special thanks to Koru Enterprises and The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. for organizing this tour for us.