In the North Island the best known caves are the famous Waitomo Caves, which offer an easily accessible caving experience with their limestone formations and glow-worms. It also has a network of more difficult caves for more experienced and confident cavers. And for those looking for something special, why not try Black Water Rafting through the caves.
These spectacular caves are a must see in New Zealand! They are more than 30 million years old and offer a range of activities within; discover the glowworms by boat, abseil into the cave at night or try black water rafting.
Spellbound Glowworm Cave
Sir David Attenborough on the series ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ described ths Spellbound Cave as “This Astonishing Cave” And “one of natures most Magical Illuminations!”
This is a small group and very personalized tour that allows you to spend over 40 minutes viewing the glowworms in their various grotto’s. This tour is considered the most unhurried glow worm tours in the country. Moving quietly by raft your night vision will kick in, you will be amazed at the spectacle of thousands of softly glistening glow worms (hence the name Spellbound), as well as being beautiful they have a fascinating life cycle, you will have time to watch them move about using their clever silk fishing lines to catch prey – all this to be revealed deep underground. After a gentle walk along a gorge path brings you to a new cave system and the ‘Cave of the Spirit’ (Te Ana o te Atua) a quiet and contemplative place, the soft natural light reveals a time vault preserving evidence of many past explorers, extinct animals, and abandoned stream passages and much more. Both caves complement each and other beautifully for a memorable day in Waitomo.
The Lost World Epic Caving Adventure
Waitomo’s ultimate underground adventure - dramatic! Just to get your blood pumping your day starts with a 100 meters (330ft) abseil (rappel) down into the entrance to the Lost World. In the company of an experienced caver, descend and admire the beauty of this ancient collapsed cavern from above. Once down you embark on an epic journey back to the surface through an incredible network of caves. The real challenge is following the path of an underground river upstream by whatever means – swimming, wading or even crawling. But it’s all worth it, as you wriggle through a confined space you all of a sudden appear in a vault the size of a cathedral or after climbing a tricky rock face using rope and fingers you encounter stunning underground waterfalls, giant sized stalactites and stalagmites and vast spaces lit by thousands of glowworms.
Be warned: this is not for the faint hearted, not a simple cave tour. This is a full on caving experience and you need to be fit, you are going to get very wet but don’t worry, you are in the safe hands of New Zealand’s most well trained guides. If you enjoy exploration, adventure and the over all sense of achievement then The Lost World ‘Epic’ will be just right for you.
Black Water Rafting
Black-water rafting is a roller coaster ride on an inflated inner tube following subterranean rapids taking you down into the bowels of the Earth. The cold, dark and disorientation are free, part of the package. It involves abseiling into pitch-black caves and then white water rafting in darkness.
This sport was created in the late 1980’s and takes place in the Ruakuri (Black Labyrinth) Cave in Waitomo. This three-hour cave tubing adventure has you abseiling (rappelling) 100ft (30 Meters) down into a huge chasm lined with many spectacular types of limestone formations. A claustrophobic squeeze through a dank, intricate maze has you in to a vast cavern, a galaxy of millions of native glow-worms that light up the vast ceiling.
Once at the river, climb onto your inflatable tube and let the water carry you through tunnels that have been created over millions of years. Sometimes gently giving you time to take in the scenery at other times you race over rapids and eddies, with only a flashlight to show where rock ends and water begins…
St Benedict's Caverns - The Majesty of Nature
St Benedict’s cave is a spectacular example of just how beautiful the underground world can get, nature’s way of proving what’s underground can rival anything that exists in nature on the surface. Imagine stalactites and stalagmites and other out of this world formations that colors kaleidoscope from whites to gold’s, back to white, then to dark reds, as you descend.
Abseil in and explore what is arguably one of New Zealand’s most picturesque ‘best dressed’ caves. The trip is gentle compared to others, dry and therefore not cold and physically not that challenging, just two abseils and you are in - an underground zipline or flying fox gives you a bird’s eye view of the stalagmites and puts an interesting perspective on the caving system. A final walk through the what is called the ‘Mines of Moria’ gets you to ‘The Cathedral’ – a chamber 40m high and 100ft long – just bristling with stalactites. This is a three-hour dry caving trip
Walk back in time - Waitomo’s longest underground guided walking tour
This cave is a fusion of state of the art engineering and Mother Nature and her ancient cave formation. What you get is a captivating blend of the most compelling subterranean experiences but excluding the need for ropes or having to get wet and cold. Descend down an uber modern spiral entrance, encounter the softly folding shawl-like limestone formations and crystal tapestries, subtlety as you descend you become aware of the distant roar of the subterranean waterfalls.
At 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) in length, this is New Zealand’s longest guided underground walking tour that will leave you humbled by the Natures majesty. This is a ‘show cave’ in the purest sense, with so much to see Ruakuri ticks all the boxes. Stalactite straws, flow-stones, softly folding shawl-like formations and fossilized sea shells that were left behind as seabed turned to stone. The Crystal Cave tapestries bewilder in the Drum Passage, follow the rumbling sound to the hidden waterfall, cross a bridge to the glowworm grotto and stare at the galaxy of tiny lights.
"Ruakuri Cave is the only wheelchair accessible cave in the Southern Hemisphere."