Rotorua Canopy Tours is the city's latest tourism venture set in virgin native forest near Mamaku. The Daily Post reporter Matthew Martin and photographer Ben Fraser took a tour that turned out to be both exciting and enlightening.
Awesome, invigorating, educational ... are just three words I'd use to describe Rotorua's latest tourism offering _ Rotorua Canopy Tours.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to explore and enjoy New Zealand's only native forest zipline experience with co-owner and operator James Fitzgerald a few days ago.
After getting kitted out with safety harness and helmet at their Old Taupo Rd headquarters, a short 15-minute drive took us to their site in the Dansey Rd Scenic Reserve.
The first thing you will notice is the spongy feel of the forest floor underfoot, a sign I was told of a healthy forest.
Then it's a short walk to a swing bridge and on to the first of six exhilarating zipline rides on the 1.2km eco-tour that's broken up by a couple of swing bridges and short forest walks.
Carefully constructed platforms set among some beautiful rimu and tawa trees _ some about 500 years old _ are strategically placed around the site so you don't visit the same place twice.
So, for almost three hours you can forget the cares of the world and immerse yourself in an experience you will never forget.
Life in the tree canopy is serene and almost other-worldly. It's hard not to get totally immersed in the experience and it's a feeling that stays with you for a couple of days. There's definitely something to be said about spending some quality time with nature.
And we were treated by a visit from a rare North Island robin.
Of particular note was the longest of the zipline rides, the 220m long Tui Song zipline, where you take off from a platform 22m high and walk down a set of steps into the void with only trees below you and the landing zone almost hidden at the end of the line _ a real buzz.
Getting to grips with riding the zipline was pretty easy, although I did end up doing some unintentional 360s.
I was most impressed by our guide Gary's knowledge of New Zealand's native flora and fauna, he has a passion for conservation, and it shows.
New Zealanders will be amazed with details of some of our lesser known animals.
Who knew the forest was home to the long-tailed cuckoo that, apart from being able to mimic the calls of the grey warbler and lay its eggs in their nests for them to look after, flies all the way to the Solomon Islands every year to escape winter?
On the heavier side Gary shared some shocking facts regarding the damage done to our forests and amazingly unique native wildlife by introduced species, including ``the big three'' possums, rats and stoats.
The site is part of the Dansey Rd Scenic Reserve, a 500ha Department of Conservation reserve near Mamaku.
Rotorua Canopy Tours share the reserve with another recently opened attraction, Rail Cruising Rotorua.
The company has a concession from the Department of Conservation to operate on the land and is taking its environmental responsibility seriously.
Customers contribute to a Forest Enhancement Fund as part of their ticket price which will aid in the eradication of predators from the reserve in the hope of reintroducing birds that once flourished there.
What is amazing is the site was left untouched by logging crews during the native logging boom that saw much of
the area stripped of it's native trees _ and wildlife _ in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Luck, or foresight, has seen this impressive patch of native forest preserved for future generations to enjoy and, with good management, will continue to improve the site and make it even safer for our native animals.
Admittedly, it would be a challenge for those people with a fear of heights but, it would be a great way to safely face those fears _ and there's a trap door in every platform in case the nerves get too much.
However, I'm told climbing through the trap door is even more of a challenge than riding the zipline.
This experience is bound to become enormously popular with tourists of all ages and fitness levels, but it's not for everyone. Even though the zipline cables are rated to safely hold a four-door sedan, anyone weighing more than 120kg is not allowed to ride.
Visit www.canopytours.co.nz to make a booking.