Black Water Rafting vs White Water Rafting.  Battle of the rafts, the big showdown, the main event … so erm what are they exactly?

White Water Rafting you’ve probably heard of, but Black Water Rafting? What is the craic with this alternative scary sounding beast you ask?

  1. Black water rafting is White water rafting at night? – NO!
  2. Black water rafting is White water rafting with a blind fold? – NO!
  3. Black water rafting is White water rafting through an oil slick? – Definitely not!

 

That’s 3 strikes and you’re out sunshine.  Why don’t you have a little read of the below and find out what Black Water Rafting is really all about, how it compares to its white water compatriot, how much it costs, what you need to take part and where in New Zealand you can actually go Black Water Rafting.

*All the images on this post are widescreen so please click on them to enlarge*

What?

Black Water Rafting
White Water Rafting
 Black water rafting is a bit like pot holing combined with a lazy river.  Expect to take part in a bit of …
  • Caving and walking
  • Cave tubing (black water rafting)
  • A small waterfall jump
 Bombing down a fast moving river in a glorified rubber dingy, with a crew of 5 trying to steer through rapids with wooden oars.  Chaos but brilliant.  Expect to get wet … scrap that, SOAKED!

 

Black water rafting vs White water rafting

 

Where?

Black Water Rafting
White Water Rafting
 Waitomo is situated on top of a techtonic plate system and so smells a lot of sulpher. Here we visited the geysers and mud baths which release the gas.
*Blue marker in NW of map below
 The aptly named River Valley towards the south of new Zealands north island.  A great place to take part in a number of activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horse riding and of course white water rafting.
*Red marker in SE of map below

 

Conditions?

Black Water Rafting
White Water Rafting
 Dark, wet, slippery, slimy. Everything you’d expect from a cave really.  The water temperature is likely to be tween 10-14 C.  Chilly!
 Surrounded by luscious rolling hills of green, if it weren’t for the rapids, your trip down the river would be a relaxation fest.  The area is well known for its fertile farmland and beautiful scenery.

 

Black water rafting vs White water rafting

 

Clothing and equipment?

Black Water Rafting
White Water Rafting
 Wet-suit, boots, helmet and of course your rubber ring.  You’re expected to bring your own towel and swimwear.
 Wet-suit, helmet, life-vest, oar/paddle and of course the raft.  Once again from your own towel and swimwear.

 

Fun factor?

Black Water Rafting White Water Rafting
 If you like climbing, being underground and clambering through tiny gaps whilst getting a little wet you’ll love Black Water Rafting.
 When hurtling through the rapids its a tad like being on a roller-coaster  just a little wetter, and without going upside down (unless you capsize).  There are moments however where you can just sit back and enjoy a smooth ride surrounded by glorious surroundings.

 

Black water rafting vs White water rafting

 

Danger/fear element

Black Water Rafting
White Water Rafting
 Probably the most dangerous part would be a slip leading to a fall.  Luckily you’ll be given boots with a thick rubber grip sole to minimalise the chances of this.  Dumping your head isnt really an issue as you’ll have a helmet.  The biggest fear will be your being underground and in a small space for a prolonged amount of time.
 Capsizing is not uncommon. I myself was in a raft that capsized and yet it was pretty scary.  Not only does the cold of the water give you a shock upon entry, but the rapids are much more powerful than they look.  Even the best swimmers struggle against them.  Luckily however your life vest will see you right and carry you to the surface and stop you from sinking under.  Your helmet will also stop you from hitting your head.

 

Price

Black Water Rafting White Water Rafting
 Roughly NZD $120 – $220 (£60 – £110) per person for a 3 hour adventure.  Correct at the time of writing – Oct 2012
 Grade 5 adventure, half day = $175 (£90) per person.

 

Black water rafting vs White water rafting

 

My Experience

Black Water Rafting White Water Rafting
 I loved black water rafting!  It was something totally new and felt like a real adventure.  We started the day by jumping from a 6ft platform into the freezing river which led to the entrance of the caves.
After a leisurely float to the cave mouth we had to get out of our rings and proceed to squeeze ourselves and the rings through a series of tiny gaps so that we could tunnel deeper into the caves.  Some of the gaps looked very small, but by breathing in and twisting our bodies into all sorts of shapes, we made in from the cave mouth through to a series of vast caverns.A couple of times we had to jump from high platforms into pools of freezing water below us, luckily our rings took the hit as we would jump backwards, and with our bums already seated in the hole of the ring.  It was great fun!Whilst in the caves, we learnt about their history and what creatures dwell down in the darkness. If you all turned our head lamps off and looked up we could see loads of beautiful glow worms.  Nice as they may be to look at, the light emitted by the glowworms are actually the poo of the cannibalistic worm that it trying to attract moths so it can eat them too.
The whole trip lasted around 3 hours and was just about right.  Despite being fed chocolate whilst relaxing in our rings in a particularly tranquil cave with hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites  black water rafting is quite tiring work!  Upon climbing out of the cave, to freedom and sunlight, it was time for a shower and a late (hot) lunch.
 White water rafting was an absolute buzz!  Yes my raft capsized and yes it was pretty scary, and yes I took a mouth full over river water, but even so this was an amazing experience.The rapids on the day of our trip were between grades 4 and 5.  I believe 6 is the highest.  We went down waterfalls and though rapids, forwards, sideways, backwards, and on the occasion we capsized – upside down.  This was an absolute adrenaline buzz.  Slightly scary but it also left you wanting to do it all over again.
When not paddling for our lives (thats what it felt like) the surroundings of River Valley were absolutely beautiful and beyond peaceful. The simple sound of just the river water was so relaxing … until it became a rapid again.  Cue paddle mode!A day well spent that will leave your arms feeling like they dont exist the next day.

 

Recommended Link

Black Water Rafting White Water Rafting
 http://www.waitomo.com/black-water-rafting.aspx
 http://www.whitewaterrafting.co.nz/

 

Videos

Black Water Rafting White Water Rafting

 

So there you have it, hopefully everything you wish to know about both black water rafting and white water rafting, and how they compare.  Both are great fun, and i’d be torn to chose between calling either better than the other.  Whilst similar in name, they are both very different types of rafting.

**Two of the black water rafting images are taken from the photo disc I was given after completing my cave adventure with Black Water Rafting Co.  If anyone from Black Water Rafting Co. see’s this post and wished me to remove these images please just leave a comment or email me.