To be consistently ranked the number one outdoor activity on Tripadvisor in a city famous for exactly that is no mean feat. It’s even more impressive when you consider this is one of the most-touristed areas of one of the most bucket-list worthy destinations on the planet. So yes, it’s a big congratulations to Rotorua Canopy Tours for all those ecstatic Tripadvisor reviews, and yes, at the time of writing, they’re still firmly at the very top of the heap on said website for Rotorua outdoor activities. But the truth is, Tripadvisor or not, the place is well and truly worth the hype.
These days it seems like there’s barely a country anywhere in the world that doesn’t have some sort of zip-lining experience, but what sets Rotorua Canopy Tours apart is not merely one thing alone. As in, other zip-line operations may boast lush rainforest, an inspiring conservation story, long and thrilling zip-lines, stunning views, abseiling, floating staircases, swing bridges and knowledgable, charismatic guides. But only a small percentage of rival companies will have all of those things combined and in a place still so accessible to a substantial urban area.
Rotorua Canopy Tours came into existence in 2012, establishing itself in 280-hectares of a 500-hectare forest a short drive from downtown Rotorua. On the face of it, the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve was a perfect little slice of New Zealand native bush, but the truth was an eco-system whose bird life had been silenced and whose foliage was being ravaged.
The culprits were the usual suspects of possums, stoats and rats and a decision was made to combine adventure tourism with eco-tourism and a community conservation project. The results have been stunning. In the seven years since Rotorua Canopy Tours had their first paying customers flying through the trees, the forest has visibly become much denser and much more lush. More than that, the pest-eradication programmes have proved such a success that the once sparse native birdsong is now a serious cacophony.
I first visited the forest in 2015 and rode what is now called ‘The Original Canopy Tour’ – a three-hour adventure with over 600-metres of ziplines, including one that’s 200-metres long. This was what put Rotorua Canopy Tours on the map, won them a bunch of awards and provided the funding impetus to reinvigorate the forest.
That would’ve been enough, but in 2018 Rotorua Canopy Tours lifted their game even further with the addition of ‘The Ultimate Canopy Tour’. This three-and-a-half-hour tour ups the ante with 1200-metres of ziplines with the longest a whopping 600-metres – the length of no less than six rugby fields. The experience is exhilarating, even more-so with the addition of the the 50-metre high cliff walk and the surreal feeling of climbing floating staircases high in the forest.
Those Tripadvisor reviews weren’t wrong and whether the ‘Original’ tour or the ‘Ultimate’, Rotorua Canopy Tours is a grand example of how tourism – when done the right way – can help save and protect the environment.
Click here for the Rotorua Canopy Tours website: https://canopytours.co.nz/
I stayed at the retro-cool 3-star Aura Rotorua. Located right in the heart of downtown Rotorua, the recently refurbished Aura is all about friendly service with a strong emphasis on sustainability. Bikes are available to hire, rooms are spacious and the pool and BBQ area is on point: https://aurarotorua.co.nz
Check out the nearby Arts Village Cafe for a great cooked breakfast in lovely setting in the gardens.
Free Must-Do Attraction:
For a different kind of forest from Dansey Road Scenic Reserve, I never leave Rotorua without a visit to the Whakarewarewa Forest, better known simply as “The Redwoods”. Huge Californian redwood trees combine with oversized native ferns for a truly stunning and serene landscape.