Treasures lie hidden beneath the cloak of forest that covers the limestone rock and ridges of the dramatic and rugged West Coast. A network of caves, carved from soft limestone over 200,000 years ago follow the pathways of the ancient rivers and form an intricate and complex systems. These subterranean passages vary from huge chambers to impassable cracks where only the wind wriggles its way through. While locals had been exploring these mazes for years, it was only in 1989 that Underworld Adventures with passion and a few wetsuits was founded to offer guided tours to the public of this hidden world.
Underworld Adventures was established in 1989 by Geoff, along with brother-in-law Stuart, friend Ray Moroney and father-in-law George Berendt. These West Coast cavers and educationalists were inspired by their educational and cave & karst exploration experiences to offer “novices,” an opportunity to gain a glimpse into their secret world that they were exploring.
With a sense of adventure, passion, a van, a few wetsuits and family support they began as one of the earliest adventure companies on the West Coast- albeit while they continued with their teaching day jobs. So as to cater for members of the public they crafted four distinctly different cave & karst experiences in both the Metro/Te Ananui and Te Tahi Cave Systems. Since the early 90’s, Geoff, Stu, Ray along with a team of passionate staff, have been responsible for guiding, developing and improving the company. The Company has emerged from a small struggling entity that hosted 5 visitors in its first year to one that now hosts around 10,000 visitors each year. It has become an internationally acclaimed draw-card for visitors to our spectacular West Coast “Untamed Natural Wilderness”
Now many years later, with many guides, managers, office staff, and maintenance staff in the field, the vision driving the company’s success and that that motivates the staff, remains as the founders first envisioned; “to share safely with visitors, our passion and knowledge of the spectacular fragile hidden wilderness of the truly unique West Coast Cave and Karst, and in doing this- protect the place and create an meaningful, unforgettable, fun, educative cave experience”.
Today we invite you to explore with us, this hidden wonderland, sculptured in rock, created by forces of nature and beautifully and decorated with calcite crystals and water filled passages inhabited by millions of surreal twinkling glowworms.
Our current manager Mira Schwill says; “There’s something about going underground, sharing the first light, the first breath, placing the first footprint. There’s so much unseen beauty within the caves. Cavers in New Zealand continue today discovering new caves, passages and solving subterranean mysteries, while conserving and protecting this very special environment- caves capture time and quickly they can be unchangeably damaged.”
In providing a safe well-managed access to this land below – the precious cave system within the Paparoa National Park – we allow visitors a glimpse, an understanding and an experience of the beauty end excitement of this subterranean world. We do this by minimising impacts and telling stories that reinforce the importance of respect, protection and conservation of these mysterious places.
We are inspired to “become one of New Zealand’s leading Adventure Tourism Operators by enabling guided transformative journeys in to unique and natural wilderness environments. In doing this we will educate our visitors while maintaining their safety and the integrity of the special environment in which they are a visitor. In balancing these three elements we will enrich the life of our visitors while ensuring that the host environment is maintained. “
Our guide team brings these journeys to life by interpreting and leaving the unique wilderness environments which we enter as close as is possible to how they were first discovered. In the spirit of the early cave explorers, we ensure that the environment is interpreted with a minimum of infrastructure in small self-contained groups accompanied by knowledgeable and passionate guides. By sharing stories we wish to inspire our visitors to obtain an appreciation, respect and value of the fragile underground wonderland that it has been our privilege to enter. Our training, guides, H&S systems, and infrastructure have been established to ensure the safety and integrity of you the staff and the environment.
We are guided in this effort by our five core values being creation: enabling extraordinary journeys of revelation, renewal and transformation, protection: preservation of the very special place that we share, safety: ensuring safe access, to what is for most, an inaccessible place, value: valuing and engaging staff to achieve our vision, and respect: Respect for the place, the people and the host environment.
The journey aligns itself with the NZ’s “Tourism Sustainability Commitment” and the TIAKI Promise where we proudly support the close relationship with the Department of Conservation and other stakeholders. To assist with this Underworld Adventures” is affiliated with TIANZ, NZSS , ACKMA and operates under a Department of Conservation Concession.
We are excited to share with you a voyage of discovery into a place that is seldom visited; a land beyond, deep below, silent, timeless, ancient, dark and breathtakingly beautiful.