Jonathan takes on the ‘Lost World Epic’ Caving in Waitomo – and Survives


We encourage the youngsters interning at First Light Travel to get out and explore this fine country of ours. The Lost World Epic is without a doubt a favourite and we never hesitate to recommend the experience – it is the best caving in Waitomo and we know the adventure that awaits. But don’t take my word for it; have a read of what our Italian intern Jonathan has to say... 

Jonathan New Zealand caving adventure

Another weekend, another road trip! After one month Down Under working with First Light Travel, we decided that the time had come to go deeper down under to discover and explore this amazing and multifaceted country by caving! Here we are, driving from Auckland to Waitomo on a rainy Saturday morning, a cup filled with hot coffee and our minds full of expectations for today’s experience. Waitomo, from the Māori words wai (water) and tomo (hole) is the place where the Water enters the Earth.

History of the Waitomo Caves

The caves system that characterizes this area was first discovered by Māori tribes five centuries ago and the caves have been used to hide treasures - they are considered to be a sacred places. When the British arrived in Waitomo in 1887, the Glow-worm cave became the first cave to be visited on a regular basis and is still one of the most visited caves in the North Island.  


When our young and friendly tour guides arrived they passed on to us the right mind-set and attitude for today’s adventure, some kiwi-style jokes and smiling faces were enough to forget the rain outside! We were with a small group today, and each of us, still a bit tired due to the early-bird departure was looking forward to this epic tour. As soon as we arrived to the hut near the cave’s entrance we were instructed to put on our caving gear: wetsuits, harness, helmet and gum boots. After a short walk through the bush we had a brief introduction on safety procedures and the first glance into the Lost World. It is misty and dark down there.

Abseiling into the Lost World

100m Tandem Abseil

Silence is broken only by the sound of the stream flowing under our feet.  After the introduction and yet another short walk around the opening, we found ourselves on a small platform on the top of the Lost World’s opening. After hooking us up to the abseil ropes he told us: “Ok guys, sit on that bar and try not to fall down. If you fall, you will have 99 meters to figure out how to stop!”, these are the comforting friendly words of our guide Ryan as we stare at each other, some a little bit scared, but all excited, someone even laughs, but only because he’s too nervous. As we all are sitting on the bar, it is up to us to go down 100 meters into the Lost World.  It was a funny feeling, floating in the humid air among native plants, and the only word that came out of our mouths was: WOW! While abseiling, our guides tell us stories about the past, when the caves were discovered, the Maori stories of Taniwha, the monsters that live here, and we learn about the vegetation that covers the steep walls of this Tomo.

100m abseil

Black Water and Darkness 

20 minutes later and 100 meters lower we touch the floor of the cave, a great start for an epic adventure. After a delicious homemade lunch, we are ready to start by going downstream first: a jump in the cold water, a walk in the river and underneath a waterfall wake us all up and give us a rush of adrenaline that would last for the whole day! As we are walking into the caves it gets darker and darker, until the last beam of sunlight vanishes, so we turn on our torches, in order to see both the path and the beauty of the caves.  

The tour upstream starts with a climb up massive rocks that fell down here millions of years ago, then we entered the stream and started walking though the water as we went further into the cave system. We crossed little springs by swimming, but we had quite a hard time climbing up the various waterfalls, since the water was very powerful and able to push you down again and again. Swimming and climbing was alternated by squeezing through spaces among the rocks, and so hours passed by down in these caves surrounded by darkness, which added a little bit of mystery to the whole journey!

caving and gloworms in New Zealand


Now it is time to rest a bit and as the Māori did a long time ago, as soon as we turned off our torches, we are surprised at seeing what at a first look may seem a starry sky. Glow-worms lit up the dark caves and form massive patterns on the cave ceiling. Our guides seem to know a lot about these little creatures, their life-cycle, their origins and the reasons behind their world-famous glow, so our small break turns into an interesting biology lesson. As the tour comes to an end, we start to see the daylight again! Everyone in the group is amazed by what we all have seen and experienced in the Lost World and we keep on talking about the tour highlights while eating wonderful steaks and sausages during the barbeque!

A stop at the Waitomo Caves is a must, just like admiring the beautiful starry Southern sky on a clear night.

Click here if you would like more information about caving adventures in Waitomo.

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Jonathan Pedrotti
Jonathan Pedrotti
: 5 Oct 2013 (Last updated: 7 Mar 2022)

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