Address: 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo
A spur of the moment decision led us to take a day trip to Waitomo. After trawling through the countless websites offering caving and glow worm tours, the 5 hour “Black Abyss” expedition which is run by The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company won us over and we were soon on our way. Upon arrival at the headquarters, we found that there was ample parking and the reception area had all the facilities one would need – a café, amenities, a shop and plenty of seating. We were greeted with a warm welcome, completed the health and safety form (which we suggest you take very seriously – be honest with all your ailments!), and we were told to wait in a certain area. People returning from other adventures looked like they had had a ball, so we were very excited…. And quite unaware of what was to come!
Our two guides introduced themselves and should be congratulated on their ability to get a group of strangers to interact. We were taken to a separate building close by and there we were asked to change into our attire which we would wear for the next 5 hours. This attire consisted of a fleece, wetsuit, jacket, socks, boots, and a helmet with a head torch. After a few photos, we were then taken by bus to the tomo (hole) which ultimately led us 35m underground.
After 30 minutes practicing how to abseil and control speed, we each individually ventured down the hole on our own until we hit the bottom, which was a cave (Ruakuri Cave) lit only by a small number of glow worms. One member of our party was afraid of heights so this really tested him however he coped and was confident in the excellent safety procedures in place.
Underground, and amidst thousands of glow worms, we did everything from wading through the rapids, tubing, taking a zip line (flying fox), and waterfall climbing which was challenging but so worth it!
The temperature was approximately 13 degrees and whilst it felt exceptionally cold, the guides had hot drinks on hand which were given to us on multiple occasions. They also had sugary snacks available to keep the energy levels up. The ultimate finale awaited us when we (rock) climbed multiple fast flowing waterfalls before stepping foot on land again. A bus awaited us and we were taken back to the headquarters where hot showers, soup and bagels awaited us. Multiple TV screens showed the endless pictures that our talented guides captured throughout the day and these were available for purchase. It was an incredible experience… In our opinion the Black Abyss expedition is not for the faint hearted, but well worth it.
Fear of heights? Claustrophobic? Feel the cold? Our advice is to push through these fears and experience something like this at least once in your life. The safety procedures were very assuring and the guides were both knowledgeable and extremely competent. They really looked after our group well and should be commended. A tip from us is to remove ALL jewellery. There is a lot of rock grabbing and your jewellery will undoubtedly get scratched if it comes on the adventure with you. Also, throughout the adventure you will be asked if you want to take part in the “extra” activities such as the waterfall climb…. Do it! And one final note, don’t forget to bring your swimmers (which you wear under your wetsuit) as well as a towel for the hot shower at the end.
This was an unbelievable experience and worth every penny…. We recommend it to anyone visiting the North Island and to locals too.