|An inquisitive chap / meerkat, Hamilton Zoo.|
This time a week ago I was relaxing in the living room of my B&B in Cambridge, New Zealand after a big day’s driving and walking. Cambridge is an affluent, extremely photogenic little town in New Zealand’s Waikato region.
While it was primarily a visit to the hilly forest retreat of Maungatautari that had drawn me two hours south for a night away, the added lure of some luxury accommodation in the country was a strong pull too. With an early start leaving Auckland, I had one night either side of a couple of full days exploring. My eco-friendly B&B “Earthstead” accommodated me in their “French Chalet” and it was altogether very beautiful and de-stressing.
Maungatautari caught my eye a few weeks back when a New Zealand Herald travel article explained this was a 3600ha eco “island” in the centre of the North Island. What this means is that it’s a chunk of largely untouched forest now fully protected by a 47km electric fence. The fence plus the density of the bush gives the place a decidedly Jurassic Park feel on entry and the while dinosaurs are lacking, the native birdlife (and birdsong) is outstanding.
Less Jurassic Parky is Hamilton Zoo, but it was also a whole lot less “farmy” than Aucklanders might imagine. Larger in size than Auckland Zoo – though with fewer animals – Hamilton Zoo was surprisingly good. A very commercial-free feeling zoo in the sense that it’s not dominated by restaurants and cafes and doesn’t have an overwhelming entrance, by no means is this a sad, budget zoo either. Indeed some of the enclosures are widely regarded as being world-class, namely the chimpanzee enclosure. I was also particularly impressed by the enclosures for the red pandas, the bob-cat, the meerkats, the tigers and the giraffes / zebras. Hamilton Zoo – good on you!
|Red pandas, Hamilton Zoo.|
|Inside the French Chalet, Earthstead B&B, Cambridge.|
|One of the larger properties available at Earthstead B&B.|
|The French Chalet from the outside.|
|Part of the Maungatautari 47km fence-line.|
|One of the Velociraptor-recalling entrances.|
|Beautiful fern-dominated bush.|
|The view from a memorial seat.|
|A several-hundred year-old rata tree.|
|Same as above.|
|A viewing platform built to see the forest canopy.|
|From the viewing platform.|
|The view across the Waikato from the southern entrance of Maungatautari.|