New Zealand – Mecca for Overseas Adventure Travel


I had done some international touring in my 20s, but had I really done overseas adventure travel? I wasn’t sure.  It all depends on your definition of adventure.  Journeying to New Zealand in my mid-thirties I was determined to go for it.  I went on one of their “great walks” (Milford Track, 4 days, 53.5 kms in Fiordland National Park), tried sea kayaking for the first time, climbed a glacier and learned that even though English is my first language, I couldn’t understand it when it was spoken by a taxi driver in a town settled by Scots.  Time passed quickly and I suddenly realized I had only a week to spend on the North Island. (I feel quite guilty for not doing the North Island justice, but I blame the South Island.  There are just too many great things to do in New Zealand.) Determined to pack as much excitement as possible into the final days of my trip, I headed to Waitomo Caves and booked a five-hour escapade with the “Legendary Black Water Rafting Company.”

Underground rafting by the light of glow worms. Photo by chris.murphy

Less anyone have any doubts as to whether or not this qualifies as overseas adventure travel, let me just list the activities we did:

  • First we got into our gear. If you’re middle-aged and a bit overweight getting into a wet suit can be an adventurous and athletic endeavor all by itself.
  • Next we had a brief lesson in abseiling and then proceeded to lower ourselves 35 meters down into Ruakuri Cave.
  • Step three – caving in pitch blackness (the photos belie the utter darkness).
  • Next was the flying fox which brought us to the point where we threw our tubes into the underground river below and jumped blindly in after them. Brrrr – it’s a little chilly in an underground river.  On the advice some folks I had met at the hotel I wore my silk long johns under my wet suit.  Good thing.
  • Black water rafting refers to the fact that you are floating down a river in the dark.  The lack of light is advantageous because it allows you to enjoy the glow worms.  They’re not actually worms, but maggots.  Some how “glow maggots” doesn’t have the same ring, so for tourism purposes they’ve been labeled worms (and really, how often does the word “worm” get to be used as an upgrade?).  Whatever they are, they’re spectacular to see.
  • Finally, we climbed a waterfall to emerge into daylight.

Only one way out! Photo by Madeleine Holland.

Overseas adventure travel doesn’t have to be like this- a checklist of adrenaline boosting stunts.  Sometimes taking a bus from point A to point B is an adventure.  More so in that it is not planned, contrived or predictable.

However, I would recommend the  “Black Abyss Tour” as it was called, to anyone. The adventure lived up to what was advertised. The guides were professional and like all Kiwi’s I’ve met, pleasant and good-natured. At the end of the day I felt happy, satisfied and exhausted at having tried many new things and having a had a great time doing it.

Published in Adrenaline & Extreme, Climbing & Caving, New Zealand, Things to Do

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Seasoned traveler, avid reader, over-eater, clumsy but determined hiker and wannabe Spanish-speaker.

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