23 October 2017

NZ Travel Diary: Glow worm cave adventure in Waitomo

I do not own these images. Credit: http://blackwaterraftingwaitomo.co.nz/

One of the activities I was desperate to do here in New Zealand was to see the famous Glow Worms in Waitomo. Luckily we got a discount thanks to our Kiwi Experience bus ticket, however it was still a LOT of money but I can't put into words just how amazing it was.

Naturally, you aren't allowed any technical equipment in the caves, so we don't have any visual content to share with you all. Instead I will explain step by step how this experience goes about.

  • 1. Choosing which experience/activity to do

You have 3 options to choose from when visiting the Black Water Rafting cave experience. The first is a 5 hour experience, which includes absailing, zip lining, floating in the rubber rings in the water & crawling through caverns to see the glow worms. This is the most expensive option.
The second option is a 3 hour experience, which also includes the floating/swimming in rubber rings in the water in the cave, crawling through caverns and of course seeing the glow worms. (the glow worms part is the main thing for all activities). This is the activity we chose.
The third option is the cheapest: you walk through the caves (no wetsuit required) on platforms and admire the glow worms.

  • 2. Wetsuit & Gear

One you have purchased your ticket, you are given a time slot (this is how it happened with us as we were Kiwi Experience bus passengers). We were picked up at our hostel at the given time, introduced to our tour guides & changed into our wetsuits. The wetsuits, helmets, socks and boots are all provided. You also meet the people you are doing the activity with. Luckily, Holly & I were the last two people on the list, so out of all the people on our bus, we were the only two in the time slot. So instead of being with 13-14 other people, there was only 7 people in our group: 3 other customers & 2 guides. This meant that we had a more intimate experience due the small group we were in.

  • 3. Transportation to Caves

You are then driven to the caves, where you first choose a rubber ring that suits your body (that basically fits over your butt) & then do a test backwards jump (sitting in the rubber ring) in to a river outside the cave. This water was absolutely freezing, but so much fun. This test is necessary as there are two small waterfall jumps inside of the cave.

  • 4. The fun begins

 You are led into the cave by the tour guides. You enter the cave and walk through the water, holding your rubber ring, before emerging in a small cavern. Here is your first small glimpse at the glow worms, and the guides tell you about them. After this, you are led through many tight spaces, crawling on your hands and knees through tunnels (in the dark with a helmet light!) before finally emerging in a slightly larger cavern where you then get in your ring and onto the water. The water is cold, and although the wetsuit helps, it is quite a shock to the system! You then float through the caves, some areas the water current is very strong so you are swept through, others your simply float down. If you are claustrophobic, this will be challenging. At several moments throughout our adventure, we had to lean backwards in our hoops to pass beneath the rock to the cavern on the other side (only the top of your face out of the water almost touching the rock). Also the crawling on your hands and knees in very small tight spaces with people in front and behind you even made me a little uneasy. Not for long, but enough to want to hurry through.

You need to keep in mind that this experience is quite physical. The water currents in some places are very strong, so when you're weaving yourself through the water, on the uneven stones beneath in the dark, your leg muscles will most certainly be put to the test!

This was the best, most exhilarating and dangerous (just a little) thing I have ever done in my life. It's difficult to put in to words the feeling of floating on a hoop, in the dark, in the water, in a cave, looking at the ceiling at all the glow worms. I had a huge grin on my face the entire time. I loved it. I have always wanted to do something adventurous like this, and it blew me away. If you go to the North Island in New Zealand, you HAVE to do it. Trust me, you will not regret it. The Black Rafting Cave experience is also well recognised on Trip Advisor too, with tons of reviews & recommendations. Oh, and ask for Beef & Harry for guides. They were incredible and funny, yet not once did I feel unsafe or in danger.

For more information:
Black Water Rafting Waitomo website
Reviews, prices & info on Trip Advisor here

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