Black Water Rafting in New Zealand

By Matt Baker, Chief Adventure Officer

At Terrapin Adventures, we practice what we preach. We truly love spending time outdoors and galavanting around the globe! During this time of social distancing, we wanted to share stories of adventure from our own lives.

Staff Story Time Series:

This is one of my experiences traveling through New Zealand. Enjoy!


Black Water Rafting: Cold, Dark, and Unforgettable!

Black water rafting is where you put on a wetsuit, grab a tube and float inside a cave! Where better to explore a world unseen than the adventure capital of the world — New Zealand!

Back in 2002, my wife and I were traveling throughout the South Island. It rains a lot on the South Island, so there are plenty of rivers. The water is cold, coming from the snow-covered mountains so having a wetsuit with booties is necessary to stay warm.

After we met our guide, we were told that we had to trek over to the put-in (where you enter the water). Hiking in a wetsuit is not something I would recommend but when you’re searching for adventure, you have to deal with discomfort! A mile into the hike, we forded a river and arrived at the cave entrance. Outfitted with a helmet and headlamp, we carefully went down into the cave, traversing over many slippery crossings.

For those that have never been inside a cave, it is very dark, like the absence of light dark! Just our wetsuits and tubes separated us from the frigid water. We floated a short distance before being forced to carry our tubes over to a waterfall…then we hopped into the tubes and the adventure truly began!

The caverns were massive! In one massive section, we were instructed to turn off our headlamps. But it wasn’t pitch black, far from it. Glow worms lit up the cave and gave us an unforgettable light show!

Glow worms are a larvae of a species of flies that attach themselves to the top of a cave and emit a cool, glowing light. There were so many surrounding us that it was like looking into a starry abyss on a clear night sky!

The relaxing tone of the trip changed, suddenly, when our guide noticed that the water level rapidly began to rise!  It wasn’t raining at the time. But flash floods can occur when upper altitudes receive torrential rain quickly. We had to evacuate in a hurry!

We deflated our tubes and moved quickly through tight passages, where you literally had to contort your body to get through a long, narrow tunnel.

Escaping the cave wasn’t enough. Once outside, we had to cross a river that, before, was as high as our ankles, and now was waist-high due to the flash flood. Linking arms, we relied on each other to create a human chain, we worked together to cross the increasingly dangerous river. Thanks to the power of teamwork, we made it to the other side, safely, and were able to warm-up, dry-off and celebrate!


Team Building Parallels

This adventure illustrates the importance for groups to work together. Leadership is necessary — having experience is a key factor when leading a team through uncharted waters. Seasoned leaders are able to make evidence-based decisions. Our guide was able to rely on their knowledge when the situation changed, instead of simply going with their “gut.” They helped us navigate the potentially dangerous event, carefully.

Keeping a group’s mental state in mind is equally as important as you must consider the group’s capabilities and attitude when facing new challenges. Even if a team hasn’t been together for very long, understanding group dynamics can help a leader designate roles in any situation. We had only just met the other adventure-seekers in our group, but when the flash-flooding began, we had to work together to escape.

Our customized Team Building Programs provide groups with challenges to overcome and teaches teams how to harness the power of collaboration to solve problems. Even during this time of separation, we’ve adapted our trusted team building and have added a Virtual Team Building Option!

When we’re back to safely running in-person events, we offer off-site events at your location, or at our very own Adventure Park in Savage MD. Each program is customized to fit your needs and will add insight into how your team works together.


Explore the Caves and the Waters of Central MD

At Terrapin Adventures we are all about adventure! While not everyone can go black water rafting, we do run Caving Trips to explore the many wonders underground — designed for first-timers and experienced cave-dwellers alike! We also lead Kayak Nature Tours if you’re looking to get out on the water.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 24th, 2020 at 9:48 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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