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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

 

BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Waikato > Waitomo District > Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Caves are the most popular attraction in the Waikato region and a major stop on the tourist trail in New Zealand. The extensive cave system features limestone formations and the magical, bioluminescent glow-worms, which hang like little fairy lights from cave walls and ceilings.


Many tourists take a fairly sedate tour and boat trip through the caves, but there are loads of adventure activities centred around the caves as well. Caving, abseiling and black water rafting are all popular among backpackers; some of the adventure packages can get pretty extreme and can last several hours.


Waitomo is the village close to the caves. It has a couple of hostels, one bar and a few eating and shopping options.

Practical information

Waitomo i-SITE Visitor Centre

21 Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 7640
Website www.waitomo-museum.co.nz
Open 8am-5pm daily

Coming & going

Waitomo has good bus connections. InterCity Coachlines (tel (09) 623 1503) go to Auckland, Hamilton and New Plymouth. Nakedbus.com has direct services to Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga and Whangarei and Metro Wide (tel 0800 216 3876) have three daily services from Hamilton.

 

Buses depart from the information centre at 21 Waitomo Caves Road.

Hostel accommodation

Juno Hall Backpackers

600 Waitomo Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 7649
No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Kiwipaka YHA

School Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 3395
No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Rap, Raft ‘n’ Rock (Waitomo Backpackers)

95 Waitomo Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 873 9149

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Sightseeing, museums & tourist attractions

Aranui Cave

Aranui Cave is a quieter alternative to the Glowworm Cave and is favoured by people who want to experience the cave’s amazing subterranean rock formations.

Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 8227 or 0800 456 922
Website www.waitomocaves.co.nz
Admission $35; Aranui Cave & Glowworm Cave combined admission $50
Tours depart 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm daily

Waitomo Glowworm Cave

This is the main cave, which was first opened to tourists in 1889. It is the most touristy and least adventurous option and for many years was the only way to visit the caves. Admission is by a 45-minute tour that culminates in a boat ride through the glow-worm grotto.

Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 8227 or 0800 456 922
Website www.waitomocaves.co.nz
Admission $35; Aranui Cave & Glowworm Cave combined admission $50
Open Jan-Easter Mon 9am-5.30pm daily; Easter Tue-Oct 9am-5pm; Nov-Dec 9am-5.30pm; Tours depart every half hour

Waitomo Museum

This small, but interesting, museum specialises in caves and karst landscape.

21 Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 7640
Website www.waitomo-museum.co.nz
Admission $5
Open 8am-5pm daily

Activities

TOUR OPERATORS

There are four companies that operate various caving activities. All four companies offer underground rafting and adventure caving.

Cave World

This company offers cave rafting plus two different abseiling adventures.

Waitomo Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 6577 or 0800 CAVEFUN (0800 228 386)
Website www.caveworld.co.nz

The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co

This is the original cave rafting company that coined the phrase “black water rafting”. The three cave activities they offer are the dry Spellbound trip and, for the more adventurous, the wet Black Abyss and Black Labyrinth adventures.

Waitomo Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 6219 or 0800 228 464
Website www.blackwaterrafting.co.nz

Waitomo Adventures

Waitomo Adventures offer a large range of caving activities including Haggas Honking Holes, Lost World and Tumu Tumu Toobing.

Waitomo Caves Road, Waitomo
Tel (07) 878 7788 or 0800 924866
Website www.waitomo.co.nz

Waitomo Wilderness Tours

This smaller operator runs Rap, Raft ‘n’ Rock, which combines abseiling, cave rafting and rock climbing in one tour.

95 Waitomo Caves Road, Waitomo Caves
Tel (07) 873 9149
Website www.caveraft.com

‘DRY’ TRIPS

‘Dry’ tours refer to activities where you don’t get very wet. These activities can include abseiling and rafting in a regular raft (not an inner tube).

The Canyon

This daytime abseiling adventure is a challenging abseil into a 46m (150ft) deep canyon.

Tour operator Cave World
Tel (07) 878 6577 or 0800 CAVEFUN (0800 228 386)
Price $120
Duration 2 hours

Lost World Abseil

The Lost World Abseil involves a 100m abseil down a massive shaft followed by a journey through the Lost World Cave, reaching the surface via a 30m ladder.

Tour operator Waitomo Adventures
Tel (07) 878 7788 or 0800 924866
Price $245
Duration 4 hours

Night Abseil

This nighttime abseiling adventure is a challenging abseil into a 46m (150ft) deep canyon. The nighttime abseil gives you the opportunity to witness spectacular glow-worm displays.

Tour operator Cave World
Tel (07) 878 6577 or 0800 CAVEFUN (0800 228 386)
Price $160
Duration 2 hours

Spellbound

This trip involves rafting on a regular raft (not in an inner tube) through the breathtaking Mangawhitikau cave system. It is one of the cheapest ways to see the glow-worms, but it’s not as much fun as the other trips.

Tour operator Spellbound

Tel (07) 878 7640 or 0800 773 55
Price $55
Duration 3-3½ hours (1 hour underground)

St Benedict’s Caverns

St Benedict’s Caverns are described as ‘the prettiest piece of known cave in New Zealand’. Waitomo Adventures’ trip is a must for people who come to Waitomo to see spectacular caves. It involves two abseils and a bit of caving.

Tour operator Waitomo Adventures
Tel (07) 878 7788 or 0800 924866
Price $145
Duration 3 hours (1½ hours in cave)

‘WET’ TRIPS

Many ‘wet’ trips involve rafting in an inner tube, also known as Black Water Rafting, although some ‘wet’ trips involve swimming or abseiling down waterfalls. Some of the more tame ‘wet’ trips are just a leisurely float through the cave, but there are some that also involve other more adventurous activities such as abseiling or rock climbing.

Black Abyss

This is the most challenging of the Legendary Black Water Rafting Co’s cave trips. It starts with an abseil into the Ruakuri Cave where you can go cave tubing among the glow-worms and finishes off with a swim followed by squeezing and climbing out of the cave.

Tour operator The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.
Tel (07) 878 6219 or 0800 228 464
Price $185
Duration 5 hours (2-3 hours underground)

Black Labyrinth

Black Labyrinth is based on the original Black Water Rafting trip. After climbing into the Ruakuri Cave you float down the underground river in an inner tube. The trip includes a drop down a waterfall as you float past thousands of glow-worms.

Tour operator The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.
Tel (07) 878 6219 or 0800 228 464
Price $95
Duration 3 hours (1 hour underground)

Black Magic

This trip is a leisurely float through Te Anaroa (the Long Cave) in an inner-tube. This cave boasts unbeatable glow-worm displays.

Tour operator Cave World
Tel (07) 878 6577 or 0800 CAVEFUN (0800 228 386)
Price $99
Duration 2½-3 hours

Haggas Honking Holes

Unlike other wet trips, Haggas Honking Holes doesn’t involve cave rafting, but it is definitely an adventure. This fast paced trip involves three abseils in waterfalls while exploring the caves.

Tour operator Waitomo Adventures
Tel (07) 878 7788 or 0800 924866
Price $195
Duration 4 hours (2 hours underground)

Lost World Epic

This seven-hour adventure starts with a 100m abseil into the Lost World Cave, which is followed by walking, swimming and climbing through vast caverns where you can see fossils, waterfalls and lots of glow-worms.

Tour operator Waitomo Adventures
Tel (07) 878 7788 or 0800 924866
Price $395
Duration 7 hours

Rap, Raft ‘n’ Rock

This cave adventure combines a 27m abseil into the cave entrance with cave rafting and a 20m rock climb back. It is one of the best value cave trips.

Tour operator Waitomo Wilderness Tours
Tel (07) 873 9149
Price $125
Duration 4½ hours

Tumu Tumu Toobing

This trip combines cave rafting in inner tubes with swimming and climbing through the dry sections of the Tumutumu Cave. It is the most active of the easy wet trips.

Tour operator Waitomo Adventures
Tel (07) 878 7788 or 0800 924866
Price $125
Duration 4hrs

NON-CAVE ACTIVITIES

Most people come to Waitomo for cave-based activities, but there are also plenty of options for people who would rather stay above ground. These include horse riding, jet boating and 4WD biking.

Big Red 4WD Bikes

Big Red runs 4WD quad bikes trips through farmland near the Waitomo Caves. The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co bundles this with their cave trips for an under/over experience.

 

Big Red can be booked through Waitomo Museum (tel (07) 878 7690) or the Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. (tel (07) 878 6219 or 0800 228 464).

Price $105
Duration 2 hours

Horse riding

These horse-riding trips go through Waikato farmland. Most people take the one or two hour rides.

Waitomo Caves Horse Treks.
Tel (07) 878 5065.
Price $50 30 minutes, $80 1½ hours


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