Underworld Rafting

Experience a Cave Rafting adventure like no other – complete with spectacular formations, water-sculpted canyons and one of the World’s best GlowWorm displays.

Half way between Punakaiki and Westport, in the spectacular Paparoa National Park, lies the untouched Metro / Te Ananui cave, your gateway to the memories of a lifetime with the award-winning Underworld Rafting.

This is untamed, natural adventure at its best. Discover why

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Key information

  • Must be 10 years or over
  • Water confidence and personal fitness required – see Risk Disclosure below
  • Just bring your Swimwear and a towel – we’ll provide all other equipment
  • Allow 4 hours from our Underworld Adventure Centre in Charleston
  • Trips depart:
    • 9am & 11.30am Summer (October to April – Daylight Savings Time)
    • 10 am Winter ( May to September)
    • Please be here 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure
  • We photograph your trip and provide free downloads

Important Note: If you are booking an adventure within 24 hours of intended departure – please call us now on +64 3 7888168

About the activity

Your Underworld Rafting adventure starts with your friendly, local guide at our modern base in Charleston. They’ll provide you with all of the specialised gear you need to stay safe and warm and brief you on the adventure ahead. Dressed and ready for your experience, it’s just a short drive in our van to the Nile River Rainforest Trains, Dorothy and Cecil. They will take you deep into the stunning West Coast Rainforest with towering limestone cliffs and prolific native wildlife.

A short walk leads to the entrance of the Metro Cave / Te Ananui, high above the Nile / Waitakere River. Stepping into this subterranean wonderland, you will explore a calcite paradise of stalactites and stalagmites, cross huge chambers, follow a maze of passages and wander through the heart of an ancient multi-level cave system. Enriched with stories and explanations from your knowledgeable guide, your ultimate destination is an underground lake in an enormous cavern.

Here you’ll find our famous galaxies of GlowWorms, where they line the entire roof of the cavern. We’ll navigate by their constellations through the awe-inspiring display and gently float on the lake to the resurgence of the streamway.

You leave this special place floating in your tube down the fun but gentle rapids of the pristine Nile / Waitakere River surrounded by the lush rain forest. Returning with the Rainforest Train back to Charleston for a hot shower, this special place remains hidden, but your memories will stay forever.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Prefer to stay dry? Try our GlowWorm Cave Tour – set in the same stunning Te Ananui / Metro Cave system, this all-ages tour encompasses beautiful formations, fascinating information from our knowledgeable guides and of course our world-famous GlowWorm display!

Risk disclosure statement

Please be honest if you are unable to meet any of the following conditions as your inability to do so could put yourself and others at risk:

Underworld Rafting is a medium/high level physical activity. It requires:

• A reasonable standard of fitness
• Good balance – there are no handrails to assist you and walking poles are not permitted
• Ability to walk unassisted on very uneven and unpredictable surfaces – areas may be slippery due to mud or sand on rocks
• Ability to move while bent over through the low-ceiling sections of the cave
• Confidence in water – swimming ability is not essential but you need to be prepared to ‘float’ in your wetsuit and lifejacket

The Tour involves:
• Changing into a 2-piece 5mm wetsuit, complete with wet suit socks, boots & gloves. You will also be provided with a helmet (with light) and life jacket.
• A 10-min drive and a 15 min Train Ride into the Nile River Canyon.
• Carrying an inner tube across the Nile River and up 111 steps (equivalent to a 6-7 story building) to the cave entrance. Note that you are wearing a wetsuit for this climb, which has the potential to exaggerate the difficulty of these steps, particularly in hot conditions.
• Carrying your inner tube over natural unformed surfaces, both to the cave, then through the large, highly decorated upper cave passages, where it is possible to slip, trip or otherwise fall, potentially causing injury.
• Traversing several short sections with low ceilings (120-150cm high) that require the participant to be able to crouch and move through, where there is the potential to impact your head (helmets are worn) resulting in bruising, head, neck or spinal injury.
• Traversing a short “rift” approximately 3m deep, with the aid of your guide, where there is the potential to slip or fall, resulting in abrasions, breaks to limbs or impact to head.
• Floating through large GlowWorm-lit grottos, and paddling through the cave exit to the Nile River in your tube.
• Traversing a 700 m section of the Waitekeri/Nile River, including 4 short, shallow rapids and several deeper, still pools.
• In both the cave/lake and river sections of the journey, specific risks to water sports include: entrapment in water, breaks/damage to limbs and drowning.

Normal River Flow: In “Normal” river flow the rapids are short and shallow. You can stand and walk to the water’s edge if required.
Medium River Flow: In “Medium” river flow the rapids are fast and flushing. It is not possible to stand in the moving water and you are required to be confident in water in order to participate.
“High” river flow: The Te Ananui Stream and Nile River sections of the trip will be cancelled when the river is in “High” flow.

While unusual, there is a possibility that you may fall out of your tube while on the moving water. Should you fall out of your tube you may be under the water for a short time and you will need to be able to swim/paddle with your tube to the water’s edge prior to getting back into your tube. For this reason you should be confident in water.