Have you ever stared at movies like Indiana Jones or games like Tomb Raider, watching as the hero weaves his or her way through a dank, dark cave in search of adventure? These caves are usually a maze of tunnels, tubes and pits, with stalactites hanging from the ceiling, dripping cold water to the floor below in a gentle, constant patter. If you remove the element of ancient guardians and deadly booby traps, investigating these rocky lairs actually looks like quite a lot of fun, right?
We agree. Let's take a look at the underground experience you can have on your Northern Explorer journey by stopping in Waitomo.
Delve into the depths of Waitomo
One of New Zealand's most famous, and indeed oldest, rafting and caving companies operates right here in Waitomo, which is not too far south of Hamilton. The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company, as its known, hosts many different tours through this shadowy underworld, all of which are suitable for beginner-level caving enthusiasts. One in particular would be a truly memorable experience, which it calls the 'Black Labyrinth Tour'.
Picture yourself kitted out in a black wetsuit, red hard hat and head lamp. You start your journey, after a brief training session, by descending a natural staircase, chilly stream water pouring in at your feet. Now you're in a dark chamber, with columns of limestone on all sides, progressing behind your tour guide to an underground river. With your trusty tube firmly held to your backside, you dive back-first into the water, allowing the current to lead you through a fascinating network of narrow tunnels.
Now you're walking along a rocky trail, hearing about the cave from your expert guides. There's a roaring waterfall blocking your path, and only one way across - you have to jump. Don't worry, though! It's all part of the experience. This tour also includes rock climbing, abseiling and floating on a river beneath star-like glow worms.
Not just the destination, but the journey
Keep the magic flowing by ensuring your trip to Waitomo is as spectacular as the cave system itself. This is why we recommend KiwiRail Scenic's Northern Explorer NZ train, which traverses the North Island on a truly stunning cross-country rail journey. You'll pass by vast, rolling farmland, spectacular mountain ranges and through lush, emerald-green forests. To experience more unique sights, book our Waitomo, Hobbiton and Te Puia Tour Escape, which includes a tour of each of the named highlights, plus accommodation and breakfasts.