Caving with Legendary Black Water Rafting, Waitomo was never something I was interested in. In fact, after watching The Descent at a fairly young age I was horrified at the thought of it. If any of you haven’t seen The Descent it’s basically about a bunch of chicks that go caving in the middle of nowhere (excellent idea) with ice picks (which is highly inaccurate I’m told) and encounter some blood thirsty underground alien type things (ideal). You see why my imagination was running away with itself the minute we reached Waitomo, home of the famous glow worm caves.
Fortunately, after much peer pressure, I was convinced into signing up for the “Black Labyrinth “, one of the exciting experiences offered by Legendary Black Water Rafting, Waitomo. This promised a three hour long tubing expedition through the caves. Needless to say, I was nervous. Three hours seemed like a long time. I figured I’d get halfway into the cave, decide I didn’t actually want to be there, by which time it would be far too late to turn back, then promptly have a panic attack. Luckily, that’s not quite what happened.
Once everyone had arrived at the Legendary Black Water Rafting, Waitomo we were introduced to our guides, two quirky kiwis that know their way around a cave and reassured me that the Descent is a very stupid film. Once we got kitted out in our EXTREMELY sexy outfits (which, by the way, you’re not allowed pee in because that’s gross and it stays in the suit) it was time to head to the caves.
Now, before we could get to the actual caving we had to find a tube (giant rubber ring) that would fit our beautiful behinds. Which meant trying them on. This looks as ridiculous as you might imagine. Then it was time to practise plummeting to our deaths in freezing water…… I mean…….. Jumping off a waterfall ass first. This also looks as ridiculous as you might imagine. But it is INCREDIBLY fun!!
We then had to learn how to make a human eel. …….. not centipede. The human eel is where we all sit in our tubes, one behind the other, and the person in front grabs your feet under their arms and you do the same for the person behind you. It’s basically so no one goes floating off by themselves in the dark. They also encourage you to check which way up the boots you’re holding are, because if they’re pointing down….. the person behind you probably isn’t doing too well.
INTO THE DARKNESS
Inside the caves everything started to get a bit more exciting. When I’m scared of something I like to get it over and done with so I pretty much volunteered to go first the entire time. I held my breath as I led the way into the darkness, distinctly aware that if faced with a blood thirsty alien I probably wasn’t going to survive by beating it up with my rubber ring.
However, dodging stalactites and wading through underground rivers proved to be so much fun that I barely had time to worry. Our wonderful and hilarious guides cracked (pretty terrible) jokes and filled us in on some fun facts as we made our way further into the cave. We had two waterfalls to jump from, the first was pretty small, but fun none the less. Did I mention the water was freezing?!
At one point the guides pointed out a large eel chilling in the water that we were about to jump into. Now, I’ve gotten some serious face time with eels when diving, but I was still pretty nervous about splashing my extremities around on top of an eel and his home. Those slinky creatures have impressive teeth. Of course, my guides did nothing to set my mind at rest. They insisted that eel attacks were quite common so we must keep our wits about us. I think they were joking….. kind of.
Then came time for the bigger waterfall. I was worried for Chris here because he’s terrified of heights. But, to be honest, it wasn’t bad. For a girl that hadn’t actually been informed that I would be jumping backwards off waterfalls that day, I did surprisingly well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they push you if you don’t jump fast enough. Haha. Your face! Don’t look so terrified. I’m fine! In fact, it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in New Zealand.
One of my favourite parts was towards the end of the trip. The whole group formed a human eel and we all turned our head torches off. Then we lay back and floated along, watching the roof of the cave all lit up by glow worms. Pretty magical, especially with our guide singing Pippin’s song from Lord of The Rings. Hahah.
Then our guide informed us to let go of each other and keep our lights off. I thought he was joking. He then said it was very important that we avoid the massive waterfall over THERE and the jagged rocks over THAT way. Of course this was all very helpful in the pitch black of the cave. I have a sneaking suspicion there was no dangerous waterfall or jagged rocks…… but it definitely added to the chaos that ensued. We were all fumbling along in the darkness, grabbing at anything that might indicate we were heading in the right direction. I definitely touched a few people inappropriately. Hell, it felt a bit like that game “30 seconds in Heaven”. Then, suddenly, we had reached the light at the end of the tunnel.
Three hours had gone by so quickly! The Black Labyrinth had been an amazing adventure where I had faced my fears and not gotten eaten by any aliens/monsters (always a bonus). I would HIGHLY recommend a trip with Legendary Black Water Rafting, Waitomo if you are visiting the North Island of New Zealand. Face your fears and have an unforgettable adventure.