Tag Archives: rappeling

Legendary Black Water Rafting and the Glow Worm Caves

I’ve been waiting for this day for years. 

legendary black water rafting waitomo

Blackwater rafting is the reason I came to New Zealand and has been high on my Atlas for a long time. Now the day has finally arrived! We entered the Waitomo region, home to the world-renowned Waitomo Glow Worm Caves to begin a whole days worth of underground adventure courtesy of the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company.

We chose the Black Abyss, the ‘original ultimate adventure’, option packaged with a brief boat ride through the Ruakuri glow-worm caves. The Abyss included abseiling, trekking, black water rafting (tubing), and waterfall climbing–all taking place underneath the earth! The others were happily keen to partake in the day of events but first…I had to endure a detour through Hobbiton.

The Lord of the Hobbits

Ryan, and more specifically Chelsey and Mike are all about the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fandom. I am not. I’ve never seen any of the movies but it’s a well-known fact that the movies are filmed right here in New Zealand. If I were on my own backpacking, I would have easily skipped the Hobbiton Movie Set tour that takes place in Matamata, a vicinity close to Waitomo. But since I was sharing this trip with the others, I was outnumbered and made the haul to Hobbiton so the others can indulge in their childhood fantasies while I found the time to kick back and catch up on blogging (which I have been doing a horrible job of keeping up. New Zealand is terrifically distracting). Although I wasn’t allowed access into the movie set gates, the scenery surrounding was stunning. Something straight out of a fairy tale. 


Just a few hours later, the others returned to what they said was a super awesome tour. I was personally glad we got this part out of the way. Maybe if I saw the movies, I would be interested.

Let’s get to Waitomo!

Legendary Black Water Rafting in Waitomo

We spent a night in Hamilton and drove early to Waitomo the next morning, just in time for our tour at the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company. Our tour guide’s name is Tyler aka Teabag (there’s a story to it) and he and his assistant got us suited in wet gear, boots, helmets equipped with torches, and our roping equipment for the day of exploration. In our group was myself, Mike, Chelsey, Ryan, and a sibling duo hailing from Spain. Tyler was glad to have such a small, exploration-eager group. As was I.


We vanned it about ten minutes uphill to a makeshift training course to prepare us for the abseiling portion of the Black Abyss. Here we learned how to properly attach and detach our hooks and the proper positioning to descend into the cave.

legendary black water rafting waitomo

legendary black water rafting waitomo

The last time I went abseiling was down Table Mountain, so it felt familiar to what I remembered. 

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One by one, each of us lowered our way down the 110 meter descent into the deepest, darkest cave I’ve been in since Semuc Champey. And just like my painful experience in South Africa, this one was just as bothersome. I touch-downed after the Spanish siblings and was instructed to turn off my head torch and wait with the others in total darkness. One by one, my amigos came down at different speeds but upon successful landings–110 meters underneath the Earths surface. Teabag thought it would be funny to pretend everyone fell down into the pits and to nab a photo of it.

legendary black water rafting waitomo

The cave was cool, humid, and had a smell of dirt and black mold. Everywhere our head torch shined, a glimmer appeared along the walls. Everything was damp and silent, minus the few water droplets we could hear in offbeat melodies. We followed Teabag through a few tight nooks and crannies to the zip-lining portion of the Abyss. Ziplining is one of the most boring activities in existence of mankind unless it’s jazzed up someway. This one was interesting because we couldn’t see no more than a couple of meters in front of us, so we hadn’t a clue were the line would take us. Mike was up first and as he sped through the empty void, a huge thud shot through the cave indicating a disruptive break. What was that? Turns out it was just ol’ Teabag messing around with us. He slammed his air-filled bag against the wall just as Mike made his stop. He’s a jokester, that guy.

legendary black water rafting waitomo

After we all lined down to the next portion of the Abyss, we saw that we were on a cliff that stood meters above the blackest water I have ever seen. It felt unnatural, almost sinister. I knew we would eventually be in the water via tubes but first, a quick snack and juice drink sitting upon sinister’s ledge. I’m still not entirely sure what I just ate. It was like a block of Weet-Bix soaked and dried in honey. Not sure.

legendary black water rafting waitomo

Now we jump. Everyone grabbed a tube and prepared for the seven meter leap into the black. We expected Teabag to lead by example, but no. 

“How deep is it?” we asked. 

“You’ll see,” he responded with a grin.

Mike, who has proven to be quite the daredevil, jumped in first with his tube under him. I jumped in next. “Shit its f%*#ing cold!” The wet suit I had on protected me from a rapid shift in temperature, but my hands were naked and were now icicles. I sat in my tube paddling towards the others who have made the leap and they too were in shivers. Granted it was the winter here in New Zealand, Teabag assured us that no matter the season, the internal temperatures of the caves water were always the same. So regardless of when we would challenge the Abyss, the water would always be just as frigid.

Each of us in our tubes followed Teabag down the undisturbed watercourse into the caves voids. It would have been a pitch-black flow if it weren’t for the zillions upon zillions of tiny glow worms scattered among the ceilings. It was the closest thing to a perfect starry night I’ve seen in a while. We got to a point where we could stand and wade the water the rest of the way. Teabag began to slam his tube with a vicious grip onto the surface of the water creating a shockwave that echoed throughout the cave. He indicated that glowworms react to sound and the echos would illuminate the ceiling. I’m honestly not sure if it worked or not because those little worms were already as lit as can be. All I could concentrate on was how cold it was. 

legendary black water rafting waitomo

We got back into our tubes and interlocked our legs onto one another, creating a snake in the water, granted I couldn’t see who was in front or behind me. Thankfully, I didn’t have to use my hands to paddle because Teabag tugged us along as he walked through the water and belted Ed Sheeran tunes to further illuminate the glowworms. He said since we were a small group and moving along in a swift pace, we had the option to take the usual easy, short way back out of the cave or the long, extreme way out. Every single one of us opted for the long, extreme way out, much to my happiness. 

legendary black water rafting waitomo

As we went further down the watercourse, the currents began to pick up, turning into a rushing stream filled with miniature rapids. Everything was still hidden under the gauze of the dark black but so we used our head torches to guide us through the torrents. We literally walked, ran, crawled, swam, and belly-flopped our way to a separate chamber where we began the drier part of the Abyss.

legendary black water rafting waitomo


Teabag let us know that we would have to climb up a few tunnels of mud, and a couple of waterfalls to exit the caves. In between those two waterfalls are long tunnels that lead to separate chambers including a resident bitey eel that inhabits one of the chamber’s pools.

legendary black water rafting waitomo

Legendary Black Water Rafting Waitomo

Along the way, stalagmites and stalactites dominated the first few chambers we came across before we crawled through the aforementioned tunnel of mud. It was kinda like that scene from The Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufresne crawled through that pipe full of shit. 

The first waterfall was straightforward. Just shimmy up through the crevice as the water beat the heck out of you. Just don’t lose grip of the rocks or your fall is gonna hurt big time. At the top of the first waterfall, we waded through more water that led us to extremely narrow crevices to navigate through. My claustrophobia kicked in when I tried to squeeze through a hole…and so I backed right out of it and took the wider passage.

legendary black water rafting waitomo

legendary black water rafting waitomo

Teabag led us through tunnels and chambers galore before we hit the next waterfall which was a but more immense than the last. A tight grip and steady concentration was all it took to reach the top before we followed a wet trail that led us back to the outside world.

Legendary Black Water Rafting Waitomo

Everything about this cave was AMAZING!

This is the sole reason that led me to New Zealand and it did not disappoint. We got lucky with our guide Teabag because of his enthusiasm to show us as much as he could and then some. I highly, highly, highly, recommend the Black Abyss portion of the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company. And if you do make the greatest decision of your life, ask for Tyler. He really made the trip worth the value.

Legendary Black Water Rafting Waitomo


We still had the Glowworm package that we added on to our trip that would take place about an hour later. All of us regretted that decision because the experience we had with the glowworms was already great. How could it possibly get any better? We met up with about twenty other tourists (yay) at the start of another entrance to the cave where a tour guide met us. We entered a decked out chamber before we got on a small boat that our guide controlled via rope attached along the cave walls. We had to remain quiet as we gazed up at the ceiling to see the glowworms. It wasn’t as fascinating as the first, more in your face, experience. I think this picture sums up how we felt.

We wanted to leave.


All of us agreed, save for that boat, the Black Abyss was one of the most satisfying excursions we have gone on so far. It exhausted us but still we were ready to move forward. We headed south in the North Island. Where exactly? 

We didn’t quite know.

The Rappel Report

There’s something eerily strange about my next door neighbors, whoever they are. Every morning, sometime between four and six a.m., I hear them yelling and screaming in agony as if one of them is being slaughtered by a serial killer. No joke! In addition to that, I hear either the sounds of screeching cats in pain or little kids screaming in fear – I can’t make out which one it is but it’s pretty disturbing. I know I’m not dreaming, it’s been reoccurring the past few nights. I’ll have to ask Lelethu if she knows what’s up with that. Other than that, at least the weather looks good. Good weather means I’m abseiling down Table Mountain today! I got dressed, ate breakfast, and took a train to Cape Town. I did miss school today but I already told my teachers that I may be absent depending on the weather. So far the weather was bright, sunny, a bit cloudy but suitable enough for the mountain. However this is South Africa; the weather can change almost instantly any minute.

I took a cab from the city hub to Table Mountain. I was already pushing it with time, so I bought a return ticket for a cable car up the mountain. As I waited to get on the car, thick grey clouds started to roll in; it grew a bit nippier outside; and it started to drizzle just a touch. I took out my phone and called the abseil company because I will just sell my ticket to someone if they cancelled the abseil on me yet again. Thankfully enough, it was just a light passing and the woman on the phone said I would still be able to. So up I went!

No one else I knew in South Africa wanted to rope down the cliff of table mountain. I tried to convince other volunteers to do it with me but it was either they were too afraid or just didn’t have the extra money; It was mostly the latter reason. It’s always better (for me at least) to do this fun stuff with other people, so fortunately I wasn’t alone. There was a group of people I would be abseiling down with who were around my age; either volunteers from a different organization or tourists on a holiday. Two girls, one from here and one from the U.K, and a young couple from Sri Lanka. We were all placed in a group because we booked around the same time. Matt, the abseil guide, gave us a tutorial on safety and how to descend. It was fairly simple. It was the harness I wore that concerned me. Whenever I wear these things, it hurts so bad when they are in use. It’s the same kind of harness I wore from zip-lining and para-sailing, both times I was hurting up a storm. Maybe I wear them wrong?

Ready to go over the edge!

Anyhow, the two girls went first. Understandingly, they were hesitant at the sight of going over a cliff but eventually made their way down. The Sri Lanka couple was next. I had to talk the girl into giving it a shot because she was on the verge of tears and almost giving up. I kept a comforting smile on for her the whole time as she inched her stiff, fear-stricken body to the edge. I told her, her boyfriend will buy her something really nice once she made it off. They both started to laugh, and I think it put her into ease. Eventually, she slowly began to descend. It took forever, but they both finally made it. Now it was my turn.

We first had to shimmy our way to the cliff where we would start our descent.

112 meters (roughly 368 feet) is the length I would be going down. I hung over the edge and went down a couple of feet and that’s when my harness started to hurt my midsection. The feeling was so uncomfortable! Matt tried to guide me to fix it, while I was hanging in mid-air haha! But I was bounded by ropes and all kinds of gear that I just decided to just deal with it. I was able to adjust it so that I was “sitting” which felt a little better. I slowly descended down the mountains flat side. The wall was a little slippery, from the condensation of the rolling clouds, but I was completely fine and not nervous in the slightest bit. I had my camera strapped around me; I tried to get some good photos but only my left hand was free and I’m no left hander haha! This is all I could get…

At one point, I started jumping in place. I would bounce from the wall and back into place. I felt like a pro! Except for the couple of times when instead of landing back on the wall, I would crash my body flat against it, slamming against my arms. No worries though, I thought it was funny each time. As I went down, I would find a groove in the wall where I could place my feet to stop and look around. I’ve been on this mountain many times already but I can never get sick of the views and scenery, even when dangling from the side it. This is one of nature’s new seven wonders for a reason and I can attest to that. About halfway down the decent, there came a part where there was no wall, just rappelling down the rest of the way. Matt didn’t warn us about this, but I found it to be a very smooth travel downwards as I saw small waterfalls and caves all around me. I saw the rest of my group down below waving up to me. I didn’t want this to end yet! I landed on the bottom of the descent and looked up to see how far I’ve gone and it was pretty far. The others said I came down really quick compared to them. I think it took them about fifteen minutes, whereas it took the Sri Lanka couple almost 20 minutes. It took me only a few minutes, but I tried to take my time. Once I made it to the bottom though I was a bit relieved because that harness was killing me! I will have to figure out one day, either I’m always wearing it too tight or too loose.

This is what directly under me looked like.

Now all we had to do was hike back up to the top. This is the part where I hear people complain the most about how hard the hike is and they wish they would have known about it before they decided to abseil. After climbing the monstrous beast that is Kilimanjaro, nothing could possibly be more difficult. This was my kind of terrain too: rocky and unpaved. This route is called the “India Venster” route. Easy it was, as I leaped from rock to rock and climbed my way with ease back up to the top in the dewy fog. We all reached the top of the mountain and retrieved our bags and received our certificates. Thats four certificates I’ve gotten in Africa so far: abseiling, bungee jumping, scuba diving, and Kilimanjaro. I didn’t think they gave out certificates for these sort of things haha!

The hike was ghostly but cool.
False advertising.

I will definitely abseil again if I ever came back here, but next time I think I will hike up, abseil down, hike up, and then hike back down the entire mountain just to challenge myself. I would also bring a friend along even if I had to drag them up! I have to thank you Kili, you’ve hardened me as a mountain climber. I remember thinking, the day after I got off of Kilimanjaro, I told myself, I am done with mountains. But now, about a month later, I can’t get enough of them. And guess what I’m doing tomorrow guys. Sky diving!

P.S. Thanks to those of you that already donated to my paypal to get these kids the things they need to excel in school. DANIELSLLRS@att.net is the email associated with my account if you are still interested in helping these guys out! Thanks a whole lot!