Published on : Saturday, April 30, 2016
More than 400 caves lie underneath the lush, green surface at Waitomo, although only a relatively small number of those identified are accessible to visitors.
Waitomo – meaning water hole in Māori – is a small rural settlement in the King Country / Te Rohe Potae district. For 126 years the unique caves have been attracting visitors from all over the world. A short drive from Hamilton – Waikato, the caves offer a series of fascinating eco-adventures ranging from glow-worm viewing to black water rafting.
In the incomparable Lost World setting, Lost World Through the Window – launching on 2 May – has been heralded as a cross between a bridge climb and a super-elevated eco-zip tour.
‘Through the Window’ into the Lost World allows visitors access right down into the deepest levels of the cave system. Much less physically demanding than the original Lost World tour – which includes a dramatic 100-metre abseil into darkness– the newest option will open the cave to a much wider audience.
After donning regulation overalls, harnesses and helmets, there’s just a short stroll through native forest to ‘The Window’ – a spectacular tomo (or sinkhole) which serves as a gateway into the underworld. Visitors walk in on a staircase attached to a sheer cliff face and, when the stairs run out in thin air, there are two tyroleans (similar to a zip line) to continue the journey through the cave’s upper levels.
In September, Waitomo Adventures will open the new Troll Cave, a fantasy experience aimed at families with younger children.
This will be an adventure experience tailored to children but, the developers say, “definitely not sugar-coated” and incorporating the kind of fantasy phenomena often associated with caves.
Children on the troll hunt will negotiate an underground labyrinth as they search for the troll they’re trying to help – and anything can happen along the way. Parents will chaperone their children and can select the “appropriate level of fear” for their child, for example anything from ‘Please wrap my baby in cotton wool’ to ‘Do what you like’.
Construction of this artificial cave is underway. The concrete building will be completely underground and includes familiar cave features such as waterfalls and amazing rock formations.
Despite the ‘rickety bridge’, ‘troll stepping stones’, ‘dodgy boat’ and other obstacles, it will be completely adaptable for wheelchairs and strollers.