The Legendary Black Water Rafting

Useful Information

Location: 584 State Highway 3, Waitomo 3977.
From Auckland follow State Highway 1 south to Hamilton, then State Highway 3 south to Waitomo. Caves are signposted. 200 km south of Auckland, 70 km from Hamilton, 16 km from Otorohanga. 8 km from Waitomo Caves at State Highway 3.
(-38.243729, 175.182684)
Open: All year Thu-Sun 10-15:30.
Check in 30 minutes early.
Closed 25-DEC.
Fee: Black Labyrinth: Adults NZD 155, Children (12-15) NZD 119, Family (2+2) NZD 480.
Black Abyss: Adults NZD 265.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: torch provided
Guided tours: Black Labyrinth: D=3 h, Min=2, Max=12, MinAge=12, MinWeight=45 kg.
Black Abyss: D=5 h, Min=4, Max=8, MinAge=16, MinWeight=45 kg.
V=12,000/a [2000]
Photography: not permitted.
Accessibility: no
Address: The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co, 584 State Highway 3, Waitomo 3977, Free: 0800-228-464. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1980s first tube tours in Ruakuri Cave.
1987 Black Water Rafting Co. founded by Pete Chandler and John Ash.
2003 Black Water Rafting Co. sold.


Black Water Rafting participants with inner tubes, Waitomo, New Zealand. Public Domain.

Black Water Rafting is not a cave, it's a company. And The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co. is not the first company who invented the sport, despite the name. The company was sold and is now completely different, at a different location, and as far as we know using a different cave for the tours. The first Black Water Rafting was developed by Pete Chandler and John Ash in the 1980s. Such swimming in the cave river was nicknamed laundry trip by cavers, because they used to do it to clean the equipment after a tour. The first guide was Angus Stubbs, a local boy of 19 years. The company was called Float through the cave trips. Unhappy with that name they discussed it at the local pub, and a mate of Pete suggested Black Water Rafting as a joke. The name stuck.

The idea is simple: every visitor gets a wetsuit, helmet, lamp, rubber boots and a tractor inner tube and then everybody floats down a cave river. We are not sure if this sounds good or bad, although the guides insist that they have not lost a customer yet. However, the success approves the idea. Today many other companies offer the same adventure in other caves of the country. New Zealand became the El Dorado of Black Water Rafting. The name became the name of the whole sport.

The trip originally took place in ShowcaveRuakuri Cave and followed the underground Huhunui River, about 85 m below the surface. Some wild parts provide excitement and the calm parts are a good chance to see the star like glowworms. But the tour has an impressive highlight: at one point the rafters must jump from a small waterfall into the darkness below. Less a sportive challenge, but a matter of trust and courage.

At this time the cave was a show cave, was later closed, then refurbished and reopened. We have listed it as a show cave. The Black Water Rafting tours Black Labyrinth and Black Labyrinth are still offered as in the early days. One is three hours long, the other is five hours long and includes abseiling. New is a zip line inside the cave on the long tours And they actually stopped selling their tickets, it is now done by the visitor center, and it is rather hard to find any hard facts on there website. It's a nice page with some anecdotes and fine pictures, but devoid of hard facts. They do not give open hours or prices, the only redirect to the online shopping portal of the Visitor Center. The original headquarters near town is abandoned and starting to rot, the new headquarters is 8 km from town, opposite Ruakuri. The only idea we had why they relocated is actually that they use a different cave over there.