17 July 2014

Getting touristy in Rotorua

When we travel we usually avoid events and attractions that advertise on glossy brochures displayed in hotel lobbies.  This approach generally serves us well, but on this trip we have an enthusiastic 12 year old on board, so we're taking a somewhat different approach.

Yesterday we visited two high-visibility attractions in Rotorua: the Rainbow Springs wildlife park and Mitai Village, a Maori culture-and-dinner show.  Traveling without Daniel we likely would have given both of these attractions a miss, but we went and thoroughly enjoyed both.

Rainbow Springs is most known for its efforts to protect and restore New Zealand's kiwi population.  Although the kiwi is a nocturnal animal, daytime visitors can see them in a specially-designed indoor habitat that artificially replicates nighttime conditions.  Evening visitors can actually see kiwis in a semi-open environment, without any glass barriers between them and the birds.

We were surprised and charmed by these strange creatures. To begin, they are much larger than the robin-sized birds we imagined - the size of chickens! Then there's the whole "no wings" thing, and no tail... just an odd, egg-shaped creature with droopy feathers and a long, narrow bill, patiently scrounging for food in the brush of the enclosure.  Very interesting. We didn't get pics because photography would disturb the birds.

Rainbow Springs also features a number of clear pools filled with gargantuan, obese rainbow trout.  I usually enjoy seeing fish, but these were really kind of revolting, they were so oversized from eating the pellets provided by the park to visitors.

More enjoyable were the various bird exhibits, mostly parrots and similar, uh, birds.  We were all taken by the single African Grey Parrot who softly cooed "Hello" to each of us and made meaningful eye contact. Truly a remarkable bird, and kind of sad to imagine it spending its long life in captivity.

Finally, we took a ride on the park's low-key ride, a rather abbreviated boat trip through New Zealand's natural history, from the Jurassic to current time, ending with a fun plunge and splash.  It's an indication of how remarkably mild the midwinter weather is that we didn't mind getting a bit wet at the end.

After our visit at Rainbow Springs, we headed to the nearby Mitai Village for a Maori cultural show and dinner. 

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