Big fun, tiny footprint: How to have an eco-holiday in Rotorua

During the Covid pandemic and while stuck at home, we had more time to get outside, even if it was just to our backyards.

As the Alert Levels allowed, we walked, jogged, cycled through our neighbourhoods; we saw kids with fishing poles, proud of the trophy trout they snagged in the river alongside the park; we bought $2 fresh-cut dahlia bouquets for sale on verges.
Nature provided the comforting blanket we needed, and when we came out of lockdown Kiwis had a renewed appreciation for our planet, and with that, the demand for eco-anything grew. Lucky for us, the Rotorua landscape has lent itself to a wide range of eco-activities. Here’s a small selection of great options.

For those who love adventure that’s fossil fuel-free and includes a good dose of interesting conservation education, while also in an ancient native forest, you won’t do better than the Ultimate Tour at Rotorua Canopy Tours. This multi award-winning experience includes more than 2.5km of exhilarating ziplines, a 50-metre-high cliff walk, swing bridges, a controlled descent and more.
During the tour you’ll learn about Canopy Tours’ ongoing work to eradicate introduced pests from more than 220 hectares (543 acres) of the forest which has resulted in a restoration of native flora and fauna. A percentage of your tour fees will support their efforts. Children as young as 10 can join the Ultimate Tour, and children 6 years and up can go on the Original Tour.

Another awesome activity that uses only gravity to get you from point A to B is ZORB. At ZORB, you perform your best Superman dive into a giant inflated ball. You’re then topped up with a bit of warm water, handed a GoPro, and given a solid shove to roll down the side of Mt Ngongotahā. Choose one of the four different tracks or buy the four-ride combo.

For a real treat, book an exclusive private cruise aboard Tiua, a 53-foot luxury catamaran moored at Lake Rotoiti. While under sail, Pure Cruise owner and skipper Matt Horder will escort you across this stunning lake while sharing the rich cultural history, wildlife, and special places of this area. Partake in trout fishing, swimming, rope-swinging into the lake, and soaking in hot pools only accessible by boat or floatplane.
If immersing yourself in nature is what you’re after, Foris Eco-Tours offers personalised, authentic eco-tourism experiences in the incredible Whirinaki Forest. Breathing in the pure air here is the first thing you’ll appreciate, followed by seeing 500-hundred-year-old trees standing 60 metres high and hearing rare birds calling overhead in a unique rainforest that’s barely changed since dinosaurs roamed under the canopy.
Last but certainly not least is something that’s dear to every Kiwi’s heart: saving our beloved native kiwi. A very special team at The National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa – plus many volunteers and partners – are the champions in this mission, having hatched more than 2,000 chicks to date.
The hatchery is the only purpose-built kiwi conservation centre in the world that’s open to the public, and is New Zealand’s only open-to-view kiwi hatchery and rearing facility. Here you get an incredible behind-the-scenes glimpse of the passionate efforts to save our iconic bird from extinction. In fact, we wrote a story about their latest chick to hatch here, and they’re incubating one final egg for the season which should hatch any day now.

Every hatchery tour booked is a 100% donation to this kiwi hatching programme, and they’re open seven days a week during these school holidays.
Of course, we can’t forget the incredible Whakarewarewa Forest, mountains, and geothermal valleys and parks on our doorstep, all waiting for you to eco-explore on foot or bike. Some are even easy on the wallet wallet – check out this story on free things to do.

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