Ruakuri Cave

Cave of the Dogs - Den of Dogs

Useful Information

Location: Southwest of Waitomo Caves. From Auckland follow State Highway 1 south to Hamilton, then State Highway 3 south to Waitomo. Caves are signposted. 200 km south of Auckland, 70 km from Hamilton, 16 km from Otorohanga. 2 km from Waitomo Caves in Ruakuri Scenic Reserve.
Open: Black Abyss: all year daily 9, 10:30, 12, 13:30, 15.
Black Labyrinth: all year daily 9, 10:30, 12, 13:30, 15.
Guided tour: all year daily 9, 10, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30.
Closed 25-DEC.
Fee: Guided tour: Adults NZD 49, Children (4-14) NZD 18, Children (0-3) free, Family (2+2) NZD 110.
Glowworm, Aranui and Ruakuri Caves: Adults NZD 93, Children (4-14) NZD 39, Children (0-3) free, Family (2+2) NZD 200.
Black Abyss: Adults NZD 175, Children (0-15) not allowed.
Black Labyrinth: Adults NZD 90, Children (0-11) not allowed.
Tickets are sold at the cave entrance of the Glowworm Cave.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: Black Abyss: none.
Black Labyrinth: none.
Guided tour: electric.
Dimension: L=3,880 m.
Guided tours: Black Abyss: D=5 h.
Black Labyrinth: D=3 h.
Guided tour: D=2 h.
V=12,000/a [2000]
Address: The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co., 585 Waitomo Caves Road, PO Box 13, Waitomo Caves, Tel: +64-7-878-6219, Fax +64-7-878-5190, Toll Free: 0800-CAVING (0800-228-464). E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


~1500 discovered by the Maori.
1904 opened to the public by James Holden.
1905 75 ha of land protected by the foundation of Ruakuri Caves Scenic Reserve.
1906-1908 39 ha of land added.
1987 First Black Water Rafting of New Zealand started.
1987 show cave closed as facilities required upgrading.
2003 Black Water Rafting Co. sold.
28-JUL-2005 cave reopened to the public.


The entrance hall of Ruakuri Cave was well known to the Maori for many years. The name is derived from an old Maori legend, that wild dogs inhabited the cave entrance. Rua means den, and kuri means dogs, so Ruakuri translates dogs den. The cave entrance was used as a resting place for the living, and a hollow high in the cliff above was used as a resting place for the dead.

The cave was opened to the public in 1904, one of the three show caves at Waitomo. It is the longest and most complex of all three caves. The original entrance was through the natural entrance, leading into a large chamber known as Holdens Cavern. It was named after James Holden who rediscovered the caves. More highlights of the tour are the Ghost Walk, the Bridal Chamber and the Mirror Pool.

In 1987 the cave was closed as a show cave, although the black water rafting continued. The reason was the poor state of the paths and light. During 2004 and 2005 the cave was restaurated, and 1,600 m of path with new bridges and walksways constructed. The new route is different from the old one and avoids the natural entrance with the sacred ground of the Maori burial place. It was opened in Juli 2005.

This cave is the place of the first Black Water Rafting which was made in New Zealand. The idea is simple: every visitor gets a wet suit, helmet, lamp, rubber boots and a tractor inner tube and then everybody floats down a cave river. We are not sure if this sounds good or bad, although the guides insist that they have not lost a customer yet. However, the success approves the idea. Many other companies offer the same adventure in other caves of the country. New Zealand became the El Dorado of Black Water Rafting. The name, derived from the water which appears dark or black in the low light of a few torches, became the name of the whole sport.

The trip follows the underground Huhunui River, about 85 m below the surface. Some wild parts provide excitement and the calm parts are a good chance to see the star like glowworms. But the tour has an impressive highlight: at one point the rafters must jump from a small waterfall into the darkness below. Less a sportive challenge, but a matter of trust and courage.

Next to the entrance of Ruakuri Cave start short bushwalks, leading to natural bridges, canyons and several small caves.