NZ Adventure Walk: Step back in time in this ancient forest:
Step back in time in this ancient forest
It’s incredibly rare these days to walk through virgin New Zealand forest, where the trees have stood for over 1000 years and the forest floor is untouched by human hands.
But 500ha of paradise still exists northwest of Rotorua on the Mamaku Plateau and is one of the most ‘alive’ eco-systems in the country. Rotorua Canopy Tours has created an immersive way to experience this beautiful forest – from above and below the trees.
Small groups of up to 10 people are escorted by knowledgeable Kiwi guides into the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve and treated to three hours of fascinating commentary about the history, ecology and birdlife of this area. You’ll also get to zipline through the forest canopy and journey across swing bridges which will get your heart racing!
There are two options available – the ‘Original’ and the ‘Ultimate’ canopy tour. They are suitable for ages 6+ and 10+ respectively and differ in length and intensity of the ziplines. The oldest customer that has been on tour was 93, proving age is no barrier to exploring this forest.
The tours start and end at Rotorua Canopy Tour’s headquarters on Fairy Springs Road. There you will be kitted out with a helmet and safety harness by two friendly guides who will then drive you 10 minutes out of town to discover pure beauty.
The Dansey Road Scenic Reserve has never been logged and is home to countless species of native birds, invertebrates, reptiles and fungi.
When a nearby railway line was first built in 1860 to bring tourists to Rotorua’s famous pink and white terraces, this section of forest was left untouched to form an attractive ‘gateway’ to the city, leaving the trees, ferns and shrubs here flourishing for centuries.
A well-formed track will lead you into this ancient podocarp forest. Your guides will point out examples of rimu, kahikatea, miro, totara and other special plants, including New Zealand’s native ferns.
On the ‘Ultimate’ tour you will also come across a visual recreation of what the forest would once have looked like
before the extinction of major bird species. Life-size cutouts of moa and other ground-dwelling birds hide amongst the trees while the specter of the great Haast Eagle looms menacingly overhead. These visual queues are a wonderful way to transport your mind back 1000 years and imagine just how vibrant and full of life our forests once were.
Your guides are passionate about the birds found here and will share plenty of interesting facts about their nesting habits and behaviour. You’ll also learn about the devastating impact that rats, possums, ferrets and stoats have had on this forest, and the huge conservation effort that Rotorua Canopy Tours has spearheaded over the past six years to rid them from the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve.
A portion of each ticket sold at Rotorua Canopy Tours goes towards pest eradication efforts and the success of the programme means North Island robins will now visit you throughout the tour and eat mealworms right out of your hand! Other birds often seen during tours include wood pigeons, tui, fantails, kaka, bellbirds, whiteheads, grey warblers, tomtits and both long-tail and shining cuckoos.
You’ll spend about three quarters of your tour up in the trees attached to ziplines and admiring the forest from treetop platforms.
The other quarter you’ll be walking on the forest floor. In terms of fitness, you’ll need to be comfortable going for a one hour forest or hill walk and be able to walk up three flights of stairs unassisted to complete the ‘Original’ canopy tour.
To tackle the ‘Ultimate’ tour you’ll need to be comfortable going for a half day forest or hill walk, and be able to walk up six flights of stairs unassisted without stopping for a break.
Eventually, Rotorua Canopy Tours hopes to establish public walking tracks throughout the entire reserve. But for now, joining their daily tours provides an unforgettable way to experience this ancient native forest.
Book online at https://canopytours. co.nz 147 Fairy Springs Rd, Rotorua (07) 343 1001 or 0800 CANOPY (226 679)
Above left: A bird’s eye view above the forest.
Below left: Two walkers in the forest.
Above right: High above the native forest.