If you’ve never been to New Zealand, I would like you wish you luck pronouncing the name of this Forest which sits around 20 minutes south of Tauranga on the North Island. If you will permit me, I will try to give you what I see as a phonetic summary – Oh-Tar-Nay-Why-Noo-Koo.
It is a Department of Conservation site which is home to a kiwi conservation programme and there are native birds enjoying the predator-controlled forest too. I wanted to tell you about this because of the magnificent views you are treated to if you are willing to do the Summit Track at around 90 minutes return (moderate difficulty – including a beetle hitchhiker). You are treated to a magnificent (and enormous) view stretching as far as White Island (the marine volcano which is 50km offshore to the North) and Whakatane to the East. It is stunning. My photos don’t quite do it justice but it proves that to be treated to the wonders of nature, you often have to put in a bit of an effort yourself first.
There is also a lovely B&B just down the road in Oropi called Rolling Hills Country Stay, just in case you are tempted.
Just outside Rotorua on NZ’s North Island, to the top of Lake Rotorua lies perhaps the clearest water I have ever seen – even clearer than what comes out of the tap in the house!
Here is Hamurana Springs which contains the largest natural spring on the North Island with around 4 million litres of water coming up per hour. It takes 70 years for the water to get to this point which must yet again prove that it is worth taking your time over a job well done!
It is truly beautiful to visit and you can clearly see that the ducks love it too. Trout are happily (and clearly) swimming around and someone even told me they had seen a rat swimming across the river earlier that day.
Part of the 45 minute walk to the spring and back is the Dancing Sands (you can watch a lovely video of this on YouTube here – click this link), a peaceful location where you watch the water bubbling up through sand. There are also huge redwood trees to be dwarfed by and native birds flying around. So idyllic.
If you get chance, this is a must-see, and totally free too!
Just off the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island lies Kapiti Island.
Like so many off-shore islands in the country, Kapiti is also a haven for native flora and fauna due to the removal of mammalian pests like stoats and possums, and the re-introduction of native plant species.
You can take day trips on a 20 minute ferry journey from the mainland, or stay overnight with a Maori family who still privately own a part of the island. This was a wonderful experience to camp out (complete with private outdoor toilet) with the sound of kiwis and penguins waking you up! Such a peaceful and beautiful place!
There are the mischievous Kaka (native parrots), friendly North Island Robin, bold Weka, fat Kereru (wood pigeon), tuneful Bellbird, Tui, very rare Brown Teal, Morepork (nocturnal owl – named for its call)…and more besides (there are over 1,200 kiwi living here and Little Blue Penguins and Kokako)!
Part of the overnight stay involves going walking in the dark in search of wild Little Spotted Kiwi…and they remained little spotted as we did not see any due to the full moon and their talent for staying hidden…but what an experience it was! Great times, great place, great hosts!
If you are ever in the area, it is well worth a visit! Get away from it all!
The attentive reader may recall an older post I did regarding the largest tree in New Zealand, Tane Mahuta (see it again by clicking here).
I thought I would mention a trip I once made to Sequoia National Park in California to witness the enormous Sequoia trees there. Hopefully the photos will illustrate just how vast they are…and here lives General Sherman, the largest living tree on Earth by volume.
Interestingly, sequoia seeds require fire to germinate and therefore they carry out controlled burnings to facilitate this process and thus preserve this incredible tree for the future.
If you are ever in California and you are thinking of visiting Yosemite, make sure you also see Sequoia…nothing prepares you for this…even on pictures…