NZ Ad­ven­ture Walk: Step back in time in this an­cient for­est:

Step back in time in this an­cient for­est

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Pip Cox

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. 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.

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