A New Zealand-first zipline canopy tour through “magnificent” virgin native forest will open for business next month on the Mamaku Plateau near Rotorua. Rotorua Canopy Tours will take visitors deep into the New Zealand bush on an incredible journey from forest floor to canopy via a network of walking trails, treetop platforms, ziplines and canopy swing-bridges.
Otherwise known as flying foxes, zipline participants will literally fly from platform to platform through the majestic forest canopy. The 1.2km tour features six ziplines, two swing bridges and 10 treetop platforms.
With two guides accompanying small groups of up to 10 people, the three-hour experience is described as “a personal encounter with nature mixing the thrill and excitement of the treetop experience with forest observation and environmental appreciation”.
Rotorua Canopy Tours director James Fitzgerald says the tour is a safe eco-friendly experience that will have broad appeal. It is suitable for children from six years upwards and anyone with average physical ability.
“Many of our customers will have never walked in forest like this full of giant, centuries old native trees, let alone explored it at heights of 22 metres above the forest floor, where the views are simply breathtaking,” he says.
Fitzgerald considers it a miracle to have found a pristine wilderness that has survived the native logging industry of past centuries - and all within 10 minutes of the tourist resort town of Rotorua.
“We looked at other sites in other regions but nowhere else has such magnificent forest on its doorstep.”
The company, which has a concession from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) to operate on the publicly-owned conservation estate, is taking environmental responsibility very seriously.
Tour participants will contribute to a fund to eradicate predators from the 500-hectare area and facilitate the reintroduction of native New Zealand birdlife that once flourished in the forest, so that it again resembles how it was before humans arrived.
The trail infrastructure has also been designed and built with great care to ensure minimum environmental impact.
Global eco trend
While construction of the track has taken five months to complete, the project has been three years in the making and, in typical fashion, included a large dose of traditional ‘Kiwi-can-do’ to make it happen.
Fitzgerald, who has worked in tourism marketing, was first inspired when he observed the growing popularity for zipline canopy tours in the Americas and saw the potential to showcase New Zealand’s unique forest landscape and story with an interactive tourism experience.
Having spotted the gap in the New Zealand market, Fitzgerald teamed up with his friend, outdoors-man and structural engineer Andrew Blackford and set about creating an activity that was “the right mix of a moving and enlightening journey through an incredible landscape rather than simply a thrill ride”.
While still juggling full time jobs, the pair spent weekends - often with volunteering friends and family - negotiating vines, gorges and gullies and dense undergrowth to reveal an aerial route that would work without removing any trees and allow every piece of equipment and material to be winched into place by hand.
Now, with the hard work over and opening day in sight, Blackford says “I think we have got the balance right - people will soon discover that one of the most exciting, beautiful and engaging zipline canopy tours in the world is just a 10 minute drive from Rotorua.”
Rotorua Canopy Tours will begin and end at Rotorua.