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Black Water Rafting in Waitomo’s Glow Worm Caves

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The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company‘s 5-hour Black Abyss Tour is the ultimate Waitomo adventure for natural born adrenaline junkies everywhere. This experience is not something you could get anywhere else in the world! Not only that, it’s also the most popular caving tour of choice in New Zealand for many people from different walks of life. Waitomo is famous for its extensive tunnel of caves inhabited by glow worm. Want to know what’s interesting? They aren’t really glow worms. They’re fly larvae. And what makes the glow? I don’t think you really want to know, but I’m going to say it anyways… Well, that’s their waste and snot. — I know… Eww!

The reason why the larvae glow is to attract prey, such as insects, into their threads of luminescence by making the prey believe they’re outdoors on a starry night under the cave ceiling, so the insects would get caught in their gossamer lines. They catching insects that are blown into the caves on the air currents. Besides, hungry larvae glow brighter than ones that have just eaten.

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

Okay, enough with science and education. Moving on…

Funny how life works. The glow worms’ main intention is to catch and eat insects, but now they’re bringing in humans to raft and gape under them… =P

The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. is the world’s original cave tubing adventure operating in Ruakuri Cave since 1987. Ryan and I couldn’t be any luckier to get a offer of the Black Abyss tour with them on a complimentary basis.

The Black Abyss Tour

Truly, black water rafting is an unique experience. And a pretty rare one. You wouldn’t be able to find this kind of underground tour anywhere else other than New Zealand and Belize.

After getting into our wet suits, Ryan and I went into their lesson on the rappelling (or abseiling) techniques and then practiced jumping into the inner tubes we would ride through the caves. It took us about an hour or so.

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

I wish I could ramble on here about how excited I was and how pumped up I was to jump down the waterfall and get the rafting tour started. I was determined to see those glow worms.

As we climbed out on a little wooden platform looking down into a 100+ foot hole in the ground, we all turned our headlamp off. Butterflies started flying in my stomach. Abseiling down 100+ foot hole… Yikes!

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

The tour began with a descend down the hole we were looking down from the platform. It was actually easier than I thought. It was a little narrow, but I easily bounced my feet along the walls as I lowered myself to the bottom. It was all too soon when my feet hit the bottom of the cavern. Then we all clambered down the ladder until we reached to another rock bottom.

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

When Ryan and I saw everybody in our group turning off their headlamps, we did so.

Poof. Everything’s dim-black.

Hundreds of tiny blue dots glowed and twinkled on the ceiling of the cave as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. My thoughts began to drift off while I gape at the worms. I felt like I was brought into a lost world. Beyond words to describe what I saw. Photographs couldn’t possibly do you any justice. This is something you will have to see for yourself.

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

After all that, we did an underground zipline down the cavern—that was one of my favorite parts. Whizzing through the cavern surely got my heart pumping!

Reaching to another platform, we stood at the edge and looked down what appeared to be a 20-foot fall. But after jumping down that with the inner tubes, we realized that it wasn’t that high after all. Then we all got into our tubes and created a human eel—one behind the other, and the person in front would grab your feet under their arms and you would do the same for the person behind you. It’s basically so no one goes floating off by themselves in the dark.

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

Off we go drifting through an imaginary space with blue stars…

Even I spotted a large eel chilling in the water!

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

Oh! Did I mention the water was freezing?! Oh my, good thing we were wearing wet suits, but it was still freezing. The hair on the back of my neck arms, and hands stood up really hard even though they were wet!

Seriously, how could such a place exist?!

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

Good thing Ryan and I were with the coolest group of people in the caves, and the guide were all young, fun and energetic, exactly the kind of combination you’d wish for on a tour like this. From squeezing through tunnels to climbing out waterfalls without ropes, that 5 hours of abseiling, climbing, ziplining and tubing went by too fast because of the dynamics of the group.

Final Thoughts

Overall, safety was always on top of the agenda throughout the tour. I felt very much taken care of.

Nonetheless, it was unbelievable experience. Felt like it took me back to the Mesozoic Era (Age of the Dinosaurs). Seeing over thousands of glow worms really blew me away. Absolutely no questions that this was both the coolest and most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my travels.

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

I mean… where else in the world can you go rafting in an immense cave with sparkling neon blue glow worms dangling from the ceiling, twinkling like stars in the sky?

Not anywhere other than Waitomo, New Zealand. Therefore, you have no excuse to not miss out on this adventure when you’re in New Zealand.

New Zealand: Black Water Rafting in Waitomo's Glow Worm Caves

The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company

Ezi Car Rental

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Calvin Young

Calvin Young

Hey buddy! I go by Calvin and I'm a Deaf traveler. I love exploring the world to discover and share amazing stories, useful tips, stunning photographs, jaw-dropping videos and many more with you all! I aim to empower and inspire the Deaf people that they can do anything they want through my travels.

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Contact us - Calvin Young


Hello! I am Calvin Young, Deaf Photographer & Traveler. I host Seek the World, which is a Deaf travel series to educate, inspire, and encourage the global Deaf community to be connected with others through travel! 






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