Descending the 100 meters down into New Zealand’s Lost World cave felt like something right out of Mission Impossible. I suppose that’s an appropriate comparison, given that Mr. Tom Cruise himself has rappelled down into the Waitomo Lost World cave multiple times. (Cue the Mission Impossible theme song!)
While searching for some of the most adventurous caving in New Zealand, we discovered a wet cave tour that wound its way through the Haggis Honking Holes cave, taking on underground waterfalls that lay in our path. But if that weren’t enough to get our blood pumping, we also went on a separate cave tour to go deep inside what is known as the Lost World cave. And the highlight of this cave adventure is a 100-meter rappel!
We saw some pictures online beforehand and this caving experience looked unreal! When Waitomo Advetures invited us to take this insane-looking cave tour, we simply had to jump on in and check it out first hand.
The Lost World cave is located on a private farm, a short drive from the center of the town of Waitomo. The massive cave is only accessible with tour operator, Waitomo Adventures. So after arriving at the adventure centre, we loaded up into a van with six other thrill seekers for the quick ride out to this huge cavern opening.
At the farm, they outfitted us with all sorts of harnesses, helmets, boots, and other safety equipment to prepare us for the incredible journey that lay ahead.
Intro to the Lost World Cave Waitomo NZ
After gearing up, we set off on a short trail, scenically winding through trees and bush. Eventually we arrived to a section where the trail gets a bit steeper. That’s where it’s time to clip harnesses into the support rope, just in case!
We were all anxious to get to the Lost World cave and face our fears of this insanely high abseil. But we first needed to practice using the rope system in a relatively safe part of the trail. When changing from one rope to the next, there should always be at least one clip on the rope at all times! If caught with both clips off of a rope, you owe the guide beer! Fair enough.
So we practiced clipping in, safely. And no beers were owed in our group.
Shortly thereafter, we finally arrived to a break in the trees. That’s where our eyes caught a glimpse of the platform jutting right out over the seemingly endless abyss down below.
Yikes! It really sort of takes your breath away.
Standing on that platform was perhaps the most terrifying part of this entire Lost World cave tour. It felt particularly scary when first clipping in and then trusting that all the equipment would truly hold us while slowly leaning back.
Despite obvious nerves rearing, the many ropes, clips, and harnesses all appeared to be completely safe and secure. The system of double and triple checks was reassuring.
Even so, it can still be difficult to mentally prepare yourself to step backwards off that safe & secure ledge. That first moment leaning back, definitely raised a few hairs. But all was good and we were now ready to descend down into the Lost World cave!
Exactly How High Is The Lost World Cave Abseil?
Just to put into perspective how high the Lost World abseil is, you could put the statue of Liberty at the bottom of the cave, and you’d have to give her a 30-foot booster stool in order for her torch to reach the top!
That’s just how high this rappel is!
The 300+ feet was so far down that you couldn’t even really see where the rope ends.
Interestingly, the ropes were not tied down to anything at the bottom. They’re just freely dangling there on their own.
You almost wouldn’t know it though because when pulling up on the rope, you can barely lift it. Being 100 meters in length, the thick rope is actually quite heavy on its own. So there’s no need for them to be tied down.
Abseiling Down Into the Lost World Cave Waitomo
After a little bit of preparation for what to expect, we were off! At the start of the abseil into the Lost World cave, it’s neccesary to sort of pull your way down using this long and heavy rope.
As we slowly descended, you couldn’t help but just marvel at the beautiful scenery all around.
It wasn’t merely barren rocky crags that are typically found at the entrance to many other caves around the world. Instead, the Lost World cave boasts a lush rainforest habitat growing all over the cave’s walls.
It really was a Lost World! We awaited dinosaurs to pop on by any minute.
The further down we dropped, the less sunlight shined through which created a really cool dusk-like atmosphere surrounding us.
As we began to approach the halfway point in the rappel, gravity began to take over. We no longer had to pull our way down. Instead, gravity would just do its thing. Hence, we were instructed to grasp the rope, so we would not descend too quickly.
This descent into the Lost World cave was such a magical experience. Any fear we had was now taken back by the complete awe of our situation and surroundings.
It was just one of those moments you want to last forever. You just dangle in the air and enjoy the smooth ride, as speed and darkness simultaneously increased.
The closer we got the bottom, the less resistance we had against the rope. Eventually we began to do a special move we were taught beforehand by wrapping our right leg around the rope, putting pressure on it to create a bit of a lever break.
The entire descending experience probably lasted about 15-20 minutes in total, although it seemed to fly by much more quickly. It was truly incredible!
Spelunking in the Lost World Cave
Once firmly on the ground, we had to momentarily relearn how to walk as the harness apparently cut off a bit of the circulation to our legs. So after gaining our footing again, we just soaked in the magical scene from the bottom of the Lost World cave.
A small creek flowed past boulders at the cave bottom. Our guide pointed out a sizable yet docile river eel hiding out in the creek. Apparently these eels will somehow eventually make their way from this cave all the way to the ocean in order to breed!
The entire scene down here felt like something right out of Lord of the Rings. Since New Zealand was the movie’s filming ground, we had to ask. It turns out that even though it felt a bit like Middle Earth, Peter Jackson did not shoot here.
Yet interestingly, the sound crew did come down to this spot in the Lost World cave to record some sound clips for Lord of the Rings. Hmm… we think they were just looking for a good excuse to take in this awesome rappel!
Yet there really was a pleasant sound coming from the small underground river. And from here, we scrambled up some boulders and ventured into the cave to a point where the sunlight could barely reach us. This was the perfect spot to stop for a moment. The guides passed around some sweat treats, which was a pleasant surprise to enjoy deep down in this awe-inspiring location.
Then it was time to flip on our helmet lights in order to begin spelunking our way a bit further into the Lost World cave. We covered some lightly technical terrain, but it was nothing too intense. This eventually led us to a cozy room in the Lost World cave where we were asked to turn off our headlamps.
It was then that the low hanging cave ceiling naturally lit up with the small lights of glowworms!
Glowworms are a huge reason why people come to Waitomo, as many visitors embark on one of the many glow worm excursions in the area. So it was awesome that this was incorporated during this more adventurous tour!
A portion of the cave ceiling was lit up like stars in the night sky as guides explained all sorts of strange details about the little lit-up larva.
How to Get Out
Finally we would need to make our way out. And there was only one-way: up. ⬆️
We were led to a ladder that climbed straight up into the darkness, with a seemingly endless number of rungs. One-by-one, we each clipped in and started the climb. We all thought “it’s just a ladder, no big deal.”
You start off like the tough person you think you are and make a near sprint for the top. Yet as each of us got around the half way mark, arms and legs both began to get weary. Upon reaching the top, everyone said nearly the same exact thing “Wow, that was tougher than I thought.” Ultimately, it proved to be yet another fun challenge to overcome.
As we exited the cave out a different passage than we had entered, we got to tackle a few last boulders. Eventually we reemerged into the forest and back into the sunlight. We had reached the surface again!
What an incredible experience!
If You Go to the Lost World Waitomo:
Lost World Cave Review
You can obviously see that we really enjoyed the tour. So we certainly give it a great review. We highly recommend this Lost World Cave Half-Day Adventure to anyone (1) with a sense of adventure, (2) whose in moderately good shape, and (3) doesn’t have an intense fear of heights.
The 100-meter rappel into the Lost World cave was undisputedly the highlight of the tour. It was a completely unique once-in-a-lifetime experience that is difficult to describe. It got us hooked on adventure caving.
One suggestion that we would make is for those who are considering bungee jumping while in New Zealand. If you’re thinking about taking that plunge but aren’t sure if you want to go through with a bungee, we think the Lost World abseil is the perfect alternative excursion.
From someone who did the Kawarau Bridge bungee jump, I can honestly say that the Lost World abseil was a much more enjoyable experience. Although I’m glad I did the bungee jump, that leap was pure terror for me. Meanwhile rappelling down into the Lost World was pure amazement and euphoria.
The two experiences are so completely different, it’s unfair to compare them. Nonetheless we just wanted to provide that recommendation for anyone who may be on the fence on whether to take that bungee leap. The Lost World Cave may be a perfect alternative to consider.
Physical Condition and Prior Training
No prior training or caving experience is necessary to experience the Lost World Cave. Waitomo Adventure’s guides brief you with all the techniques to rappel down into the cave.
As a whole, the adventure is pretty laidback and not very physically demanding. That is aside from the ladder climb out, which was slightly more challenging than it initially appeared.
But if anyone does have problems with the ladder, the guides are able to lift people up from that section if it’s absolutely necessary. Thankfully for them, we all made it up the ladder during our tour. The remainder of the tour in the Lost World cave is relatively slow paced and not physically exerting.
Lost World Cave Safety
We felt completely safe during the Lost World cave tour. The equipment was all of good quality and the guides were very competent with a seemingly overabundance of safety checks that gave us peace of mind. A maximum of eight people are on the tour with two guides, providing one guide that tends to four people.
How To Get to Lost World Cave Tour Waitomo
A company called Waitomo Adventures is the only outfitter who is allowed access to the Lost World cave, which is located on a private farm. You must make a booking with them and be sure to do so in advance to secure their early bird pricing deal.
Here’s a cool promotional video they’ve posted to Youtube, to really give you a good idea about what to expect on this cave tour.
We embarked on the Half-Day Lost World tour , which takes about four hours from start to finish. Waitomo Adventures also offers a Full Day Epic Lost World tour that goes much deeper into the cave, and includes both lunch & dinner.
Pending the time of year and day of the week, Waitomo Adventures runs the 4-hour Lost World cave tour at different times. Summer departures go at 8am, 10am, 1pm, and 3pm. Times for winter tours vary, with less frequency.
Lost World Waitomo Cave Tour Price
The Lost World cave is not a cheap ticket. But this isn’t your ordinary tour. This is truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that we thought was worth it!
As of 2020, the standard price for the Half-Day Lost World cave tour is $425 NZD. But instead of paying that, you can book online on the Waitomo Adventure website which sells non-refundable tickets at $382.50 NZD (~$248 USD, ~$369 AUD, ~€225, or £189). Getting this discounted ticket online makes the experience all that much more worth it.
To shave off a little more dough, we have seen Lost World deals on the NZ discount site Bookme.co.nz even lower. So it may be worth looking into that if you’re really trying to score a deal on this epic adventure. Everyone’s budget is different, of course, but we’d say jump on that bargain if you see it!
To help justify the cost, know that photography is also included in the price! The guides are taking pictures the entire time and you get those photos included in the price of the tour. They’re sent to you via dropbox within 24 hours after the cave tour ends, so you’ll be able to post them on Instagram and let everyone know what a thrill-seeker you are for doing this incredible adventure! So that’s quite a nice bonus because you will definitely want those pics!
Lost World Cave Waitomo New Zealand
Ready to experience the awesomeness of New Zealand’s Lost World Cave in Waitomo? Hope your adventure is as epic as our experience was. Have a great time!
Also be sure to check out our review of another incredible Waitomo Adventures tour, the wet cave of Haggas Honking Holes. It was a completely different caving experience and maybe even more thrilling!
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Sounds amazing!!! but it doesn’t sound like you were exploring that long? It sounds like the abseil and ladder takes most of the time. How long were in actually in the cave, if you can remember?
John Widmer says
Actual time in the cave was relatively short. Perhaps an hour or so, if I recall correctly. But they do offer a longer version of the lost world that goes way deeper into the cave. But the highlight of the experience was definitely the abseil.
Have you seen BBC’s ‘Caves’? You would love that one! There they talk about a 400m one in Mexico I believe it was.. this one is awesome as well. That pic of the Liberty statue comparison.. oh my. I WANT TO GO THERE!
John Widmer says
No I haven’t seen BBC’s cave but I’ll have to check it out. We’ve really been enjoying adventure caving lately so will need to look into the one you mention in Mexico! Cheers!
That looks like a wonderful adventure! Descending that far would definitely get the heart pumping! I love that the guides take pictures for you. I was wondering how you got some of those shots.
John Widmer says
It definitely got the heart pumping! And yes, it was so nice for us not have to worry about taking pics so we could just enjoy the experience! All the shots in this post were taken from the guides during our tour (except the statue of liberty one).
Lisa Chavis says
What fun!! This looks like an amazing adventure and it’s so great that they took pictures along the way so you didn’t have to juggle a camera while concentrating on rappelling down. A huge bonus! I had no idea there would rainforest-like foliage on the walls going down, either. New Zealand is definitely a magical place and this is an excellent way of seeing it up close. Thanks for sharing!
John Widmer says
Yes, their camera work was definitely a bonus! Can’t imagine trying to take pics while doing this. We’ve never seen a cave with such a grand and spectacular entrance. All the foliage around the walls really was amazing!
Laura Lynch says
We went to Waitomo too while we were in New Zealand, but we didn’t go into the Lost World Cave. Now I’m kind of bummed because it looks so cool to rappel down there!
John Widmer says
There’s always next time! 😉
Meg Jerrard says
This sounds like such an amazing experience – I’ve always wanted to go caving in New Zealand, and I’m about to make the move to Australia so I’m hopefully going to be within very close proximity to make a trip happen.
The rappel sounds like the most epic thing in the world! Not seeing the end of the rope would most certainly add to the adrenalin! Thanks for the tip about pre paying online – will be sure to do it that way and save a few dollars 🙂
John Widmer says
It really was an amazing experience! If you can manage a side trip over to NZ, we’d most definitely recommend this cave tour! There’s so much awesome adventure caving around here and rappelling down into the Lost World is the highlight!
That looks like an amazing day but I don’t think I could do that. I couldn’t even do a zipline tour, I’m way too afraid of heights! But I’m sure my husband would do it. It’s awesome that they take photos for you too, I hadn’t heard of any adventure company doing that
I was wondering why the pictures turned out so well, great idea about the photos being done for the experience and worth the price of the whole trip. I would do this type of adventure.
John Widmer says
Yeah, we were really pleased with the pictures. And this wasn’t just because we were bloggers or anything. We actually didn’t even tell the guides because we didn’t want to be treated differently. So this gives you a true idea of how the pics will turn out!
Hitch-Hikers Handbook says
Sounds like a great adventure! I have never been that far down a cave, but I would only do it with a guide or in an organised tour, like yours.
John Widmer says
You can only do this trip with a guide. I couldn’t even fathom attempting it on our own.
Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru says
Wow! What an amazing experience! I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be with the abseil into perceived infinity, but the interior photos you included are really impressive. And it’s a relief to know one could be hauled out if absolutely necessary!
John Widmer says
It was a little unnerving, but once you get going its just awesome! We spoke to the guide about being hauled out and they said it rarely happens and its a lot of work for them when it does, but they do what’s necessary! They told us one funny story of a person who went down the abseil no problem but had a horrible fear of ladders that she never disclosed. So they ended up having to pull her up, lol!