What is Black Water Rafting?
The ultimate underground experience and the most fun you’ll have in the dark
A weekend adventure like no other, Black Water Rafting is a bucket list must-do and guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping. Head 80-metres below ground, raft in tubes through underground rapids, jump off waterfalls and float below a sky of glow worms, all whilst exploring one of New Zealand’s most diverse cave systems. What are you waiting for?
What can I expect?
Once you’ve checked in it’s time to meet your guides, and you’ll figure out quickly that you’re in good hands. Our guides are some of the friendliest and most-passionate cavers around, and they know Ruakuri like the back of their hands. They’ll get you kitted out in a wetsuit, rubber boots and helmet, before taking some pre-cave team photos for you.
Then it’s time for a practice run. If you’re doing the Black Labyrinth, this means perfecting jumping into water in a tube. If you’re doing the Black Abyss, not only will you practice your tube jumping, but you’ll also get to practice basic abseiling skills ahead of your 35-metre abseil into the caves.
Then it’s time to head into the caves. For team Black Abyss this means getting rigged up and doing an exhilarating abseil into the depths of the cave. Of course your guide will be there to keep you safe and take some photos. You’ll then be hooked up to a zip line, and proceed to fly through the pitch-black cave.
For both tours it’s then time to get in your tubes and raft the underground river, below a sky of glow worms. You’ll also get to raise your adrenaline levels and jump off a few waterfalls. For those on the Black Abyss, you’ll have extra time to explore the cave tube-free, including climbing up waterfalls and floating through the caves. Guides will be on hand with sweet treats throughout both tours to keep your energy levels up.
Once your tour is over you’ll head back, remove your caving gear and get to enjoy a well-earnt hot shower. When you’re ready, head to the Long Black Café next to reception, where they’ll be free soup and bagels waiting for you, as well as the photos your guide took on your tour. If you like the photos you can buy either a single photo or the whole set to help you remember your adventure.
What is the difference between the Labyrinth and the Abyss?
The Black Labyrinth is the original Black Water Rafting adventure and will take you on a 3-hour tubing exploration around the cave. You’ll enter the cave through a hole in the rock and be straight into the underground waters. With your tube on hand throughout the whole tour, you’ll float under a sky of glow worms, slide into fast-flowing water, and jump off not-too-high waterfalls.
The Black Abyss is for those that want to get their adrenaline pumping a little bit more, and see everything the cave has to offer. This 5-hour adventure starts with an exhilarating abseil into the cave. You’ll then be hooked up to a zip line and get to fly through the pitch-black cave. Next you’ll pick up your tubes and after jumping into the water you’ll float beneath a sky of glow worms and through the underground river. Your guides will then send your tubes up to the top of the cave and you’ll be free to float through the fast-flowing waters using the buoyancy of your wetsuit. From climbing up waterfalls to crawling through holes; the Black Abyss truly gives you the maximum cave experience.
Who is Back Water Rafting for?
Whilst the adrenaline junkies out there are already half-way into their wetsuits, the less-adventurous might be wondering whether Black Water Rafting is for them. But worry not, with two tours to choose from, there’s an underground adventure for everyone.
The Black Labyrinth is the original Black Water Rafting tour and a great choice for those that are a little nervous. The Black Abyss, on the other hand, is ideal for those seeking a little extra adrenaline and wanting to maximise their underground exploration. There is no minimum age for either tour, however, it is required that you’re at least 45kg.
Both tours are suitable for all fitness levels and no prior caving experience is needed. All we ask is that you come with energy and enthusiasm, and ready to push yourself slightly out of your comfort zone. We promise it’ll be worth it.
Do I need to book in advance?
With a maximum of 8 people per tour on the Black Abyss and 12 people per tour on the Black Labyrinth, it’s advisable to book as far in advance as you can to avoid disappointment, especially during the summer season. Tours can be booked online here.
What do I need to bring and wear?
All the caving equipment you’ll need, a helmet with a headlight and a thick wetsuit with rubber boots is provided upon arrival, so all you need to bring is yourself, swimwear and a towel. The cave water temperature sits around 10 to 14 degrees year round, so it’s also advisable to bring a travel-sized shower gel for the hot showers waiting for you once you leave the cave, and some warm clothes to put on afterwards.
How long should I spend in Waitomo?
Waitomo has tonnes to offer and is a great weekend destination. Book yourself a night at the Waitomo Homestead, and spend some time exploring the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Aranui Cave. You can even check out the cave you’ve just rafted through, Ruakuri Cave, by foot. Waitomo isn’t only underground though, spend some time soaking up the sunlight and explore the countless free walks and natural attractions in the area.