Haggis Honking Holes was truly an epic cave tour in New Zealand that we’re so glad we stumbled upon.
Like many adventurous spirits making their way through New Zealand, we journeyed to Waitomo for one reason and one reason only… to go on one of the infamous black water rafting cave tours.
What Exactly Is Black Water Rafting?
Black water rafting involves a wet caving experience in which part of the time you’re floating down an underground river in a tube. So while it’s not really rafting, per se, the experience of tubing through a cave certainly sounds amazing. Its become somewhat of the quintessential adventure caving experience in Waitomo and there are a few different operators in the area that do some form of a blackwater rafting cave tour.
They seem to all use different caves or routes. So since they’re all different, we really wanted to find the most extreme black water rafting cave tour in Waitomo. That’s what lead us to Waitomo Adventures, whose TumuTumu ToObing is rumored to be the most adventurous of the black water rafting tours in Waitomo.
But here’s funny thing: we never ended up doing that or any black water rafting. Why not? Because we discovered some other crazy cave adventures that are operated in Waitomo, which are even more extreme! That’s what Haggas Honking Holes is all about!
More Extreme Than Waitomo BlackWater Rafting?
So what could possibly be more adventurous than tubing down an underground river in the dark? Well, we embarked on two different cave tours with Waitomo Adventures which we thought seemed more extreme than black water rafting than what the black water rafting looks like. But that’s just our two-cents, so take a look at our crazy adventure and judge for yourself.
In a separate post, we dish all about our Lost World cave tour. But we’re here to tell you all about the Haggas Honking Holes! This is Waitomo Adventure’s most extreme cave tour and they invited us as guests to see if we could handle it. This caving adventure tour with a funny name is described as:
Feel like Indiana Jones in a washing machine. ”
We were thoroughly intrigued and simply had to experience what seemed like would be an extremely fun challenge.
The Haggas Honking Holes Cave Adventure Begins
We met our guides, Josh and Ian, who drove us out about 20 minutes to a private farm where we would find the cave. We got suited up with wetsuits, harnesses, boots, helmets, and all the safety equipment necessary to begin our journey to the underworld.
But first, we had just a wee bit of training to go through. Just outside the changing rooms was a slight incline for us to learn the proper technique of using the equipment. As nosey sheep looked on from behind us, we demonstrated our newfound caving skills to Ian. We passed this simple test and it was time to get underground!
After a short walk across the farm on the surface, we arrived at the entrance to the cave. It was a smallish hole in the side of hill. With our headlamps now on, we clipped in and began to climb down the protruding rocks below.
It seemed like only a matter of seconds before the sunlight was completely gone and we were now really in the cave and shutoff from the outside world. It was a fun taste of what was to come.
Underground Rappelling into Haggas Honking Holes
We soon arrived to a point in the cave where it seemed like we could go no further. We didn’t reach a dead-end, per se, but rather a cliff that seemed to drop off into a black abyss down below.
It was then explained that black abyss was exactly where we were heading. Yikes! We nervously clipped in. We then leaned straight back, applied the rappelling skills we just learned, and let gravity do its thing as our guide, Ian, belayed us down one-by-one into the darkness below. It was a really cool feeling.
Eventually we hit solid ground and it was time to continue. After scrambling over more rocky terrain and through narrow tunnels, we eventually reached another chute. But this one wasn’t cliff-like. Instead it was more of a narrow cylindrical hole. It was too skinny to do a true rappel down, so instead, we were simply lowered in as we dangled in the air.
Earlier in the day, we let our guides know that we were looking for a really extreme tour of the Haggis Honking Holes, so they took the full opportunity of our desires to provide us with an adrenaline inducing quick descent, nearly free-falling, before tightening the rope back up and safely lowering us the rest of the way to the ground. Good fun!
Getting Wet in Haggas Honking Holes Cave
As we continued going deeper and deeper into this underground playground, somewhere along the way we began to trek through water. It was water, afterall, that carved this entire intricate series of caves in Waitomo. Eventually we reached a point where the water was just spewing over the edge of yet another cliff, forming a roaring underground waterfall!
It was a really cool site from the top but we wondered where were heading next. We almost could’t believe it that we would be rappelling right over the side of this waterfall! This took things to a whole new level.
Heather was the guinea pig for this obstacle, being the first of the two of us to take on this crazy waterfall abseil. I watched her from the top being slowly belayed down as the underground river water pounded her from above. Her loud screams that echoed throughout the cave did not give me encouragement. But I literally followed in her footsteps and took the plunge over the side myself.
I quickly began to understand what the screams were for. That water was cold! We were definitely glad to be wearing full body wetsuits!
Follow the Water
In the true spirit of caving, we were often told to find our own way with no further instruction. This was a really neat aspect to the tour in which we’ve never experienced on any other cave tours around the world that we’ve been on. We felt like true adventurers discovering the cave for the first time!
But upon getting to the bottom of the waterfall, things got a bit trickier. Around each corner there was a dead end. Just wall, after wall, after wall. It seemed there was no where to go.
Then, we were subtly reminded, “Follow the water.”
It took us a little while to really understand where this underground river was flowing into. Yet we finally noticed it splashing into a small crevice near the bottom of the waterfall. “There’s no way we were going in there,” or so we thought. I second-guessed that this was the way and sought acknowledgement from our guide. His only reply was, “follow the water.”
So with that I got on my hands and knees down in the water and began to essentially bear crawl and pull myself through the narrow passageway as the subterranean stream rushed right on past me. Eventually the hole got more and more narrow. Next thing I knew I was just wiggling through the crevices any which way possible.
This put us to a point in the cave known as Pooh Hole, referencing that lovable bear’s tendencies to get stuck in honey pots. It was very appropriately named because that’s exactly how we felt. Maybe I shouldn’t have had the fish & chips the night before and dipped into my stash of New Zealand craft beers, as those added thickened my waistline just a little to hinder my performance during this tight squeeze!
But we successfully wormed our way through and continued on this increasingly awesome spelunking journey.
Glowworms in Haggas Honking Hole
While sitting in the underground river, we turned off our headlamps to get a glimpse of some glowworms. Sure enough, there they were! The glowworms in the caves are what helped put Waitomo on the map in the first place, so it was really cool to be able to see this larva spectacle during our much more extreme caving adventure, here deep in the Haggas Honking Holes.
We continued on our way, bowing our heads, being careful to avoid knocking off all of the glowworms that were hanging directly above us.
So What’s with the Funny Name?
After meandering through more series of narrow passageways, we were off to a few cave rooms to admire some stalagmites and stalactites. Then we finally learned what’s with the funny name of this place: Haggas Honking Holes. In case you embark on this adventure, I don’t want to give anything away. You’ll just have to go on the Haggas Honking Holes tour to find out.
While this spelunking experience was action-packed, we did stop at times to catch our breath. The guides really filled us with all sorts of interesting facts, myths and jokes throughout the experience.
An Intense Underground Rock Climb
Now at the deepest part of Haggas Honking Holes, and after a bit more crawling, it was time for us to make our way back up to the surface. They haven’t yet installed an elevator yet, so we’d be climbing our way out!
After safely clipping into our harnesses, we attempted to do this rock climb, which is straight up an underground cliff which continues into a strenuous horizontal vertical chute. This was definitely the most challenging segment of the cave tour. At times there seemed to be few grips to grasp onto and little footholds. Legs and arms begin to give way, as it just seemed impossible. We were ready to give up and instead make use of the adjacent ladder. But a little encouragement from our guides combined with persistence seemed to pay off. We each ultimately clambered our way to the top using muscles we never knew existed.
It was a pretty intense climb that was then extended by traversing through a series of tough corridors to navigate. But this eventually opened up to a beautiful interior room, which was a perfect place to celebrate our climbing accomplishment and reward ourselves with a little treat.
Back to Terra Firma
Somewhere in this underground labyrinth, we linked back to where we had come down from, somehow forming a loop. All the twisting and turning really messes with your sense of direction because I would have never thought that the cave was going to spit us out where it did. The guides know this crazy maze quite well!
Further up we went until we began to see the entrance where this exciting escapade all began. As we walked past the wandering sheep while the sun slowly sunk behind the surrounding mountain range, we tried to put into words the insane experience we’d just been put through. We agreed that words just can’t do it justice but we hope this brief post at least provides a small glimpse into how awesome this adventure truly is.
If You Go: Haggas Honking Holes Review
As you can probably tell, we really enjoyed the Haggas Honking Holes cave tour and would give it our upmost recommendation and a great review. We’ve packed in nearly one adventure for each day of our month-long trip in New Zealand and this ranks up there among our very favorite. It truly is a New Zealand must-do! We loved how action-packed the cave tour was, providing a new and different obstacle to tackle seemingly every few minutes.
And it was the perfect level of challenge for us. It was enough to really get the blood pumping, our minds working, and the adrenaline flowing; yet we were able to tackle every obstacle put in our path. We found this to be very fulfilling.
Yet perhaps most of all, we greatly enjoyed the spirit of adventure and exploration that is instilled throughout this tour. The description of “Indiana Jones in a washing machine” is spot-on. We just loved the sensation of navigating this labyrinth on our own. This tour definitely satiated our itch for an extreme caving adventure in Waitomo!
How to Go On Haggas Honking Holes Cave Tour
This particular tour is only run by a company called Waitomo Adventures. They are the only company who is allowed to access the Haggis Honking Holes cave which is located on a private farm. You can find out all the booking and contact info about Haggas Honking Holes at the links provided.
If you want to get an even better idea of what is involved in the Haggas Honking Holes cave tour, be sure to check out their promotional video:
This and all tours depart from the Waitomo Adventure Centre, which is located about one kilometer east of the main town area where the Waitomo General Store, Waitomo iSite, and the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are all located. Be sure to book your tour in advance. (More info on that in the pricing section.)
There are a decent number of places within walking distance to stay at nearby. We used Juno Hall, which is right next to the Adventure Center. It was nothing special but we were satisfied with our stay there and enjoyed the farm animals.
In town there are a number of different eating options and the Waitomo Adventure Centre has many reasonably priced snacks and lunch items to fill up on before your big adventure.
Physical Condition and Prior Training
You will certainly need to be in relatively decent shape in order to embark on this adventure, but no prior experience is necessary at all. If you have a fear of tight spaces, water, or heights – this cave tour probably isn’t for you.
But for those with a craving adventure and looking for something a bit more extreme and action-packed than the black water rafting cave tours, the Haggas Honking Holes cave tour may be just what you’re looking for. Or heck, do both!
The entire experience lasts about 4 hours, so be prepared for that.
Haggas Honking Holes Safety
We felt safe and secure throughout the entire experience. The guides were great and so was all the equipment used.
We tried to pry the guides to find out if there had been any big injuries or accidents in the caves. They only divulged some very minor and non-serious mishaps.
Haggas Honking Holes Waitomo Cave Tour Price
Haggas Honking Holes is a bit on the pricey side but we can tell you that it’s definitely worth it.
As of 2020 the price for Haggas Honking Holes is $195 NZD. But be sure and pre-book online to secure a price of $175 NZD, which really makes it a great value tour.
To help stretch your New Zealand dollars a bit further, Bookme.co.nz has been known to sometimes run Waitomo cave tour deals featuring Haggas Honking Holes in which you may be able to secure an even lower price.
Also, know that this tour includes all your photos taken by the guides. This is a really nice perk that helps to justify the cost, as many operations throughout New Zealand usually tend to sell you photos at an added cost.
What to Bring to Haggas Honking Holes
Wear a bathing suit and bring dry clothes to change into after the adventure. Hot showers are provided after the tour but you’ll need to bring your own towel and any toiletries. You’ll definitely be using some energy throughout the tour so be sure to fuel up with a good breakfast or lunch beforehand. Bring some thick socks appropriate to wear with big rubber boots.
Don’t bring your camera. Cameras, including GoPros, are not permitted on the tour. But not to worry, the guides know where all the cool picture spots are and take photos for you so you can still get that epic new Facebook profile pic. All of the photos they take are delivered to you for free! That’s exactly where I got all of these photos in this post, to give you an idea of what they may look like.
If you wear glasses (like me), I’d strongly encourage you to leave them behind. I hesitantly left mine behind and was glad I did. Usually my glasses stay pretty securely on my face but when you have the force of a waterfall rushing on you, there is a pretty good chance that they are going to come off. And for nearsided folks, like myself, just remember that you’re in a dark cave and you can’t see very far anyways, so no need to risk your glasses unless you’re Mr Magoo.
Lockers are provided at the farm for anything you wish to leave behind.
Lastly, be sure to bring a sense of adventure and humor. This is an incredible cave tour; have fun with it!
Haggas Honking Holes – Final Thoughts
If you have a since of adventure and looking for an ultimate caving thrill in New Zealand, this Haggas Honking Holes soooo much fun! Get wet and have fun!
Want to read more about our other caving experience in Waitomo? Check out our Lost World Cave Waitomo review, that shows what it’s like to abseil 100 meters into a dark abyss!
Ready to experience the extreme adventure of Haggis Honking Holes? If you go, we hope you enjoy the thrill of this unique wet caving adventure as much as we did!