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Most of Waitomo's subterranean adventure tours involve black-water rafting—that is, floating through the underground caverns on inflated inner tubes, dressed in wet suits and equipped with cavers' helmets. Be prepared for the pitch-black darkness and freezing cold water. Your reward is an exhilarating trip gliding through vast glowworm-lighted caverns, clambering across rocks, and jumping over waterfalls. There are also dry options. Some tours involve steep rappelling and tight underground squeezes. Each company runs several trips daily.
The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company. Most adventurous types will handle the basic trip, "Black Labyrinth," offered by the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company Trips finish with welcome hot showers and a mug of soup back at base. The cost is $115 per person for three hours, or NZ$220 per person for the slightly more challenging "Black Abyss" (five hours). Departure times vary, depending on demand. It's a physical and emotional challenge, with great guides and underground scenery. It can also be scary. 585 Waitomo Caves Rd., Waitomo, 3977. 07/878-6219 or 0800/228-464. www.waitomo.com.
Rap, Raft 'n' Rock. Thrill seekers can venture out with Rap, Raft 'n' Rock, which has a five-hour combo adventure that includes rappelling, black-water rafting, rock climbing, caving, and checking out the glowworms. The trips cost NZ$149 per person. 95 Waitomo Cave Rd., Waitomo, 3977. 0800/228-372. www.caveraft.com.
Waitomo Adventures. There are five different trips to grab your adrenalin at Waitomo Adventures: Try a challenging 100-meter (328-foot) rappel into the famous Lost World cave system or tours such as TumuTumu Toobing (climbing, swimming, rubber tubing, and rafting), Haggas Honking Holes (abseiling, rock climbing, and crawling) and the seven-hour Lost World Epic (abseiling, wading, swimming, and climbing). Book ahead for discounted prices. Waitomo Adventure Centre, Waitomo Cave Rd., Waitomo, 3977. 0800/924-866. www.waitomo.co.nz.
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