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Legendary Ruakuri Cave re-opens

July 6 2005

Let the spiritual journey begin – legendary Ruakuri Cave re-opens One of Waitomo’s most complex cave systems

The spectacular Ruakuri cave system, one of the most complex of the three original tourist caves in the Waitomo region, will be officially re-opened by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, on July 28.

Ruakuri has been closed to visitors for 18 years. The cave is a place of ancient Maori lore, meandering underground streams, vast chambers with intricate stalagmite and stalactite formations, secret passages, fossilised sea shells and the distant thunder of subterranean waterfalls.

First opened to visitors in 1904 by James Holden, an ancestor of the family that still owns much of the land above the cave system, Ruakuri was quickly announced by early visitors to be visually impressive and an experience that was almost spiritual.

According to Maori legend, Ruakuri was first discovered 400-500 years ago by a young Maori hunter spearing birds for food. A pack of wild dogs inhabited the entrance way and the cave was subsequently named rua meaning den and kuri meaning dogs. Later, the cave entrance was used by Maori as a burial ground and it is this sacred area that has now been protected with the construction of a new entrance a safe distance away.

Over the past 18 months, Tourism Holdings Limited has laboured – mostly underground – to establish new walkways and bridges and a new spiral entrance way, allowing visitors once again to explore Ruakuri.

The project is one of the more challenging to take place in New Zealand. Workers were at times required to descend to their daily toil via a shaft not much wider than a man’s shoulder span. It was then necessary for them to swim along an underground stream and change into dry clothes before starting work on pouring concrete and building bridges and walkways. The end of the work shift required the process in reverse. Building materials and tools were brought into the cave in the same way.

Ruakuri will be open to visitors every day of the year except Christmas Day. Groups need to book ahead as the number of people in the cave at any one time will be restricted so as to enhance the visitor experience.

Tours depart at 9.00am, 11.00am, 1.00pm and 3.00pm Other tours are available on request, subject to cave management requirements Tours depart from the Ruakuri Information Centre (shared with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.) Tour duration is approximately 2 hours Adults $49, 5-14 year olds $16, children 4 and under free.

For further information phone 0800 228 464 or visit


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