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Glow worms and Black Water Rafting!

By June 15, 2010Personal

Black Water Rafting, Countryside views and Auckland at night!

Check out the photos of our glow worm adventure here: NZ Huka Falls and Glow Worms 2010

We enjoyed a quick takeaway breakfast while in Taupo and began our drive out to the Waitomo Caves to go black water rafting and see the glow worms! Let me say now that this, again, was truly an adventure! First off, the scenery in New Zealand is everything that you’d think it would be and more. The grass is so green that our cameras cannot do it justice with photos, the mountains are so large, the water is so clear, the air is so crisp, and the sheep are everywhere! The scenery literally changed almost around every corner so our drive out to the caves was filled with breathtaking views of the countryside!

We made one detour on our trip to do another scenic lookout. We thought that since the Kiwis had it right the first time we would try again and see what they had in store of us. This was another wow moment! After climbing up some very steep steps up the side of the mountain we were rewarded with an incredible view of Lake Whakamaru, the New Zealand mountains, and even my version of the opening scene of the Lion King from my very own pride rock! Check out the video on YouTube for that. Then we were off to see the glow worms!

Glow Worms of Waitomo CavesArriving at the launch spot for our tour it all began to sink in for what we had signed up for… we were about to take a tour in the caves doing a combination of jumping, tubing, swimming and more. This was all in an effort to see maggot secretions that glow in the dark while it was about 6 degrees Centigrade outside (50 F) with water much colder! We were very lucky with our tour, ending up with an incredible tour guide (Vashi) and a tour of just four people (with a guy named Greg from Toronto joining our group). The small group meant that we got to do some extra things which was a very good thing.

First task: change into the wet suit (which was already wet from previous users). Let’s just go ahead and say that wet suits are flattering on very, very few people and none of those people were on this trip (although Knape did have a baywatch moment or two)! 🙂 After we got suited up we hopped into a bus that took us up the road to were the path began for the cave spelunking! The second task? Finding a tube that fit over your bottom end! How do you do that? Well, you bend over and slide a tube onto your butt and see if it fits or not. Apparently bigger and softer is better so I went for that while another guy in our group opted for the smaller tube; not a good choice as it were.

After our tube fitting we were sent to stand on a pier at the adjacent creek and launch off, backwards, into the water while falling into our tubes. Sounds easy, right? Well, add in extremely cold water and a wet suit that leaked water and massive splashes of cold water and well, it wasn’t so easy! It was however a nice introductory jump, and after learning how to float and get out of our tubes (or struggle to get out of them) we were sent off on a hike to climb yet another mountain to start our journey.

The entrance to the glow worm caves was a really small crevice opening in the mountainside where you threw your tube in first and then slid in afterwards. We were greeted right away with very cold and very fast underground creek with a small jump off backwards so that we could clear the rocks. After an initial adjustment for our eyes to get used to the darkness we were guided through to a very special view of a waterfall inside the caves! The water was extremely difficult to navigate given the speed at which the currents were flowing in the small space; however, the experience was priceless! We were literally standing right underneath a massive waterfall inside the caves of the mountain; incredible!

Vash then led us out from the waterfall and through some rapids in the water to an open expanse of cave that was over 250 meters high. We floated along in our tubes and enjoyed the scenery of being in the caves, floating in an underground river. Suddenly, we received our first sighting of the glow worms! The glow worms again are just maggot secretions that glow in the dark to attract prey; however, to us it was beautiful and amazing! You look up and all around in almost a perfect trail you can see luminescent green spots dotting the ceiling of the caves. Turning on your helmet hat light reveals that for each light (glow worm) there are about 15-20 strands that hang down to trap prey for the maggots to feed on. Fascinated by our first view we anxiously awaited the next part of the tour!

Taking somewhat of a different path from the usual (again, another treat just for us) we were taken into another area of cave where we were again greeted by another large backwards jump and then an amazing view of the caves that few people ever get to see! We were amazed just floating around on our tubes, being able to see the stalactites that have been growing for thousands of years as well as the rushing water and even more glow worms! Vash had us all link up together (so that no one went floating away), turn off our lights, and slowly float down the caves with the glow worms sparkling above us.

At the very end of our tour in the caves we were told by Vash to turn out our lights and find our way out of the caves by following the trail of glow worms above us; awesome! So along we went floating down the underground river until we exited the caves, went into the light for some more photos, and chatted about what we had just experienced. The hike back to our originating point was going to be quite long; however, at just the right time I glanced over and saw a mud path that led down to the creek outside. I said to Vash “hey, I want to go down that” to which she replied “Done” and away we went! One by one we slid down the muddy embankment and took the diversion of floating down the river back to our starting point where we had made our first jump! Vash told me that I made a “good call” on the diversion and said that we had the best group ever and certainly the most fun!

If you ever find yourself in New Zealand I highly recommend black water rafting with the glow worms. Request Vash as your tour guide!

Corey Rawdon

Corey Rawdon

About Corey Rawdon

Prolific stick-figure artist ideating methods and mechanisms to change the world—or at least make a small dent.


  • Great post Corey. New Zealand is an adventure-lover’s dream!

    your post brings back memories of inner tubing in the Waitomo glow worm caves. Brrr! that water was chilly… but so much fun! I remember the long hike to get there… but the crazy part was standing on the ledge and holding the innertube around my back, when the Kiwi guide unexpectedly shoved me, so that I’d fall backwards into the cave. Apparently, I was being used as an example to the rest of the inner tubers on how to “jump” into the cold, dark river. Fun times!

    ~cheers, hiptraveler

    • Corey Rawdon says:

      Thanks Kelly!
      We LOVED the experience of black water rafting! We had a small group of only 4 (winter season) so our tour guide took us on the “extended tour” and gave us a few extra sights that normal rafters do not get to see (like under the waterfall). We truly had an incredible time and I think one of my favourite moments was when we were making the walk back and I saw a mud slide on the hill and said “I want to go down that” to which our kiwi guide happily replied “What a great idea!”. Next thing I know we are sliding down the mud in our tubes and back into the cold water!

      We simply rode the water current all the way back to the beginning of our journey. So glad you enjoyed my post and that it brought back some great memories for you! We truly enjoyed it.

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