Waitomo Caves Black Water Rafting in New Zealand

Waitomo Caves

This is a post from my “Photo Rescue” project where I’m rediscovering all my pictures from New Zealand. Read all posts about New Zealand here!


For our time on the North Island of New Zealand, we stayed in Raglan on the coast. (And I wrote a post all about our home away from home in Raglan here) It made a great home base for day trips such as Hobbiton and the famous Waitomo Caves!

Raglan New Zealand

We drove our rental car from Raglan to Waitomo, about 1 and a half hours in the car though the beautiful New Zealand countryside. In Waitomo, we’d choosen to use The Black Water Rafting Co. to guide us through the caves.

Black Water Rafting Co

Guides helped our small group (no more than 12 people max) get suited up for rafting, including a wetsuit, rubber boots, and helmets with headlamps. We did the Black Labyrinth Tour which takes about 3 hours. First things first, they had us practice maneuvering in our tubes… including a jump off a ledge in a nearby river. (Inside the caves you can either jump or climb down in a few places, and we were excited to do the jumps!)

After some practice, we were ready for adventure as we grabbed our tubes and headed to the caves.

Waitomo New Zealand

It is completely dark inside except for the flashlights the guides carry and our headlamps….

black water rafting new zealand

…which makes the experience of seeing the glowworms inside so spectacular. It reminds you of the night sky as you climb through the cave and float down the underground river….

In this photo on the left – we are about to jump off the ledge into more water below!

As we climbed out of the cave, the sunlight felt so bright. Your eyes adjust as you find your way up and out and head back to the hub with the group.

Black Water Rafting Co

If you are interested in exploring the Waitomo Caves in New Zealand, the Rafting Company was so fun and helpful. They also have a longer tour, the Black Abyss, that includes more climbing and zip-lining. Or, if you want a more relaxed experience that doesn’t include a wetsuit or rafting, you choose a walkthrough tour or small boat ride of some different parts of the cave system. And the Ruakuri Cave is wheelchair accessible.

What a great day.

Like many toured areas in New Zealand, the operators as well as conservationists monitor and work to care for the biodiversity and environment health of the caves.

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