Abseiling & Black Water Rafting in Waitomo Caves; A True Adventure

Ever wanted to rope down a 50 foot drop into a cave and then go black river rafting and rock climbing? Then Kiwi Cave Rafting in Waitomo Caves has got you covered because this is exactly what I did today and it was phenomenal.

Rowena and I had discussed wanting to go caving in some aspect when she came across the Kiwi Cave Rafting company. They take you abseiling (the roping down into the cave that I just mentioned), exploring through the cave, black river rafting and rock climbing. 

All day we got to feel like true cave explorers as our guide, Harriet, took us through the darkness.

It all began when we hopped into an old van, all our clothes and belongings in hand. Harriet told us the drive would be 15 minutes as we all piled in. Sat in the middle, Rowena and I prepared for our adventure into the cave.. A few minutes later we pulled up to a series of old sheds and were told to get out so that we could get our wetsuits and gear on.
Oh my goodness.

Those wetsuits are incredibly tight. Tight. So tight.

After wrestling those bad boys on, we put on our “sexy pants” – some old mismatching sweats that went over the wetsuit. Finally, the harnesses and helmets.

We were all ready to go. 

We piled back into the van for another 5 minutes of driving to the mouth of the cave. Harriet told us we didn’t need our seat belts because we were wearing helmets so we’d be fine.

Apparently that was a joke.

Because sat in the very back and 30 seconds into the drive it started getting bumpy. And by bumpy, I mean that I think we were driving over the equivalent of walking on a Lego. We’d hit one bump and Rowena and I would go flying. Then, before we’d fully come back down into our seats, we’d hit another bump and go flying again. Good thing we were wearing those helmets because I bumped my head on the ceiling a good 12 times in those 5 minutes.

But anyway.

87 headaches and 5 minutes later, we got to the cave. Harriet went through the safety rules and taught us how to connect the rope to our harness to abseil. Earlier in the van, I’d made a joke about hoping I wasn’t going to die. Shouldn’t have said that because for the rest of the day, Harriet didn’t let me forget it. We get up to the bridge and I just so happen to be the first in line. Did I do that by accident? Nope. Although I was nervous and she thought I was terrified, I couldn’t wait to get to the crazy adventure part. 

 I step up to the ledge..

I bend my knees..

And fall.. 

..in a good way.

From the second my feet left the ground, I was dangling over 50 feet of jagged rocks.

It was exhilarating.

I begin to let myself down the rocks via the rope and couldn’t have felt more free.

That being said, Harriet was actually more in charge of the rope than I originally thought, so I guess I wasn’t as free as I felt BUT STILL.

Once at the bottom, I waded through the icy cold water to a ledge of rocks to sit on and wait. After everyone arrived, we got going. Harriet grabbed a bunch of tubes for us to float on and we waded further into the cave, tubes in hand. 

A ways inside, we dropped the tubes and started walking uninhibited in the cave and were told to turn our lights off.

What we saw was mesmerizing. 

Thousands of glow worms sparkled against the roof of the cave and glittered in the blackness.

It was beautiful.

Harriet let us sit in the darkness and stare while she told us about how glow worms are actually maggots in their first stage of life. Not as pretty as glow worms, but we’d all probably rather call them “glow worms” as opposed to “glow maggots.”

Seriously, it was such a spectacular view to behold. 

After a few moments in the black, we got up and walked back to our tubes. Harriet had us all get ready and on the count of three, we were all going to fall into the tubes and float down the river.





  We were off.

The water was still incredibly icy but at this point it was a frosty refreshment.

We kept our lights off and floated under the glowing worm sky.

Then, once the water became shallow, we got out of our tubes and started exploring the cave. Harriet told us where to walk and then had us “squeeze” through tight spaces in the cave. By “tight,” I mean minuscule. 



But it was so fun.. I just channeled all of the horror films I’ve seen set in caves and did what they did to escape whatever creepy creature was chasing them.

So basically I’m saying that I pretended I was being chased by mutant creeps in order to get through the tight spaces quickly. And I think I did quite well in regards to speed and technique. Because Harriet told me she liked my technique.

*cue the proud, blushing I-learned-this-from-horror-films smile*

After about 30 minutes of squeezing and exploring, we headed back to the mouth of the cave to get out. Only problem is, there aren’t steps. 

So yeah, we climbed our way out of the cave.

Rock climbing.. My first time.. In a cave.. In the middle of New Zealand.


Seeing as how I was first into the cave, naturally I wanted to be the last out.

I sat and watched everyone swiftly climb their way out, not being chased by mutants like I imagined I would be.

Finally, it was my turn.

I got up to harness myself to the rope and began to climb. Immediately I was off to a great start – none of those mutant creatures would be able to catch me. But then I got too cocky and going too fast because I missed a rock..

My foot slipped..

I fell.

Not in a good way.

Thank goodness there was (obviously) a safety harness that caught me, otherwise those evil imaginary cave monsters that were chasing me would have gotten me. So I would have died in that scary movie scenario. Such a disappointment.

Also, I was literally the only one who slipped and fell out of our entire group of 7 people.

So disappointed.

But! I immediately got myself straightened back up and finished up the climb without another mishap. I made it out of the cave alive!  

  It was such a marvelous experience. Seriously, I loved every second.

I’d definitely recommend this experience to anyone and everyone.

But the trip wasn’t over.

Kiwi Cave Rafting provided nice, hot showers for all of us after we got out and changed and then once we got back to the office, they even had piping hot cups of tomato soup and bread for us to chow down on while watching all of our photos on a slideshow together.

Obviously, I bought all of the photos and they’re the photos you see here now.

This adventure was so incredible and I hope to get to do it again one day.

And Kiwi Cave Rafting was an excellent company that provided all we needed and more. They were so kind and helpful and I’ll recommend them to anyone who ever needs an awesome cave exploration adventure in New Zealand.

Harriet was wonderful and so knowledgeable and I can’t say enough good things about her. 

So, there you have it. An ultimate cave adventure.

And I didn’t even die. 


Published by MeganSuddarth

"Not all those who wander are lost." -Tolkien

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