Monday 27 May 2019

Rotorua Canopy Tours is stoatally different

Ziplines. They're everywhere these days, hardly anybody ever calls them flying foxes any more, and I've done plenty. They're always fun, especially if you do a tandem one with a friend, and I'm always up for another. Because of my trust/lack of imagination issues, I never feel nervous about accidents, and simply enjoy whizzing along, just mildly irritated that I invariably end up going backwards. So it was easy to say yes to trying out Rotorua Canopy Tours recently. 

Of course, with so much competition, there's a strong focus on providing a point of difference, and RCT has two. For a start, they really are up in the canopy - and of not just your boring old pine forest, but between 1000 year-old rimu trees, above a pocket of the scant 5% of virgin native bush left in New Zealand. So that is special - and the engineering is impressive, too. The lines are fitted between the trees with as little trimming as possible, there are elegant spiral staircases up around the trunks of those big old trees, and dainty swing bridges linking the zipline sections. One of these has side-wires only knee height, so that's an enjoyable novelty (you're still safely clipped on to a line overhead). It's all been very well, and sustainably, done - and that's RCT's second focus.
When they started up in 2012, the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve was a shadow of its current self: full of bare branches, empty forest floor, and no birds. RCT set up a vigorous programme of trapping, and in the first two weeks killed over 800 possums, rats and stoats. They kept at it, experimenting with a variety of traps and methods, and decided to concentrate on the NZ-invented self-resetting Goodnature trap (I've got one - so far it's only caught one fat hedgehog, which is officially a pest but I'm still sad about it). Now they have a partnership with DOC, and some of each punter's ziplining fee goes into the fund for keeping the programme going. 

They're rightfully proud of what they've achieved: on my visit, it was visible from the moment we got out of the van. Virgin bush is thick!  I'm used to being able to see through the tree trunks, but here it was a, well, forest of green. Ferns, vines, fungi... and above it all, towering trees thick with leaves and epiphytes. And birds! Noisy, and bold - RCT has a special licence to feed native birds, so I held out my hand with a mealworm on it, and a bouncy little North Island robin flew down to grab it. Cute.
We heard all about the birds we might have seen, if people hadn't been so greedy and careless - moa, Haast's eagle, huia, NI takahe and lots more, all gone extinct in 800 years - and, later, the detail of the company's efforts to preserve what's left. And then we got on with the ziplining - six of them, 1200m altogether, one 400m long, one tandem set, and all way above the forest floor, invisible now under the solid green canopy of tree leaves and tree fern fronds (which are especially beautiful from above: like a crown). 

It was such good fun. There were only three of us - the others were a US couple three days out from their wedding - so we had time to sit on the cliff walk, dangling our feet over the void 50m below, and have a cup of coffee, a biscuit and a chat. The clipping on and off was reassuringly brisk and efficient, Kiwi guides Emily and David were cheerfully laidback and droll, the day was bright and sunny, and the zooming along was exciting. We finished with an 18m controlled abseil, which one of us (not me - you had to ask?) did upside down. 

Rotorua Canopy Tours - recommended.

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