A zeal for New Zealand

The city of Rotorua, which is located in the Bay of Plenty Region of New Zealand’s North Island, takes its name after a lake. Lake Rotorua is the second-largest lake on the North Island.

The sky was gorgeous. That was the first thing I noticed about New Zealand after we left Auckland airport. Just the right shade of blue. The right amount of sunlight and cloud. Underneath the vast blue expanse, rolling green hills stretched as far as the eye could see. We were on our way to Rotorua, a city 230km southeast of Auckland, and luckily we were able to appreciate all the surrounding nature that led us to it. Plenty of sleep onboard Thai Airways’ Royal Silk Class meant we landed feeling refreshed, ready to explore all the sights and adventures Rotorua has to offer.

The city of Rotorua, which is located in the Bay of Plenty Region of New Zealand’s North Island, takes its name after a lake. Lake Rotorua is the second-largest lake on the North Island.

If there’s one place that can boast of truly having something for everyone, it would be Rotorua, which is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone in the North Island of New Zealand. The city is famous for its geothermal activity, rich Maori culture, spa industry and tourism infrastructure that would satisfy anyone, from the most adventurous travellers to families with kids.

“Overall, our visitors want to experience the Kiwi life,” said Patrick Dault, manager of international trade at Destination Rotorua, a council-controlled organisation owned by the Rotorua Lakes Council.

Kiwi can mean a lot of things in New Zealand. The bird. The fruit. The people. And to get the genuine feel of the three Kiwis, Rotorua may just be the perfect place to go. Don’t expect big city life; prepare instead to bask in the richness of the culture and the beautiful nature that makes the city a unique concoction of adventure and leisure.

Dault further described Rotorua as the playground for Kiwis — the people — as there are plenty of activities and sights, from farm tours to geysers, that people indulge in. Learn the haka dance. Dip in hot pools. Stroll along the lake. Slide downhill in a giant ball. Feed sheep and alpaca. Many of these attractions are also just a few minutes’ drive from one another, making it very convenient to hop from place to place to make the most of your visit.

Annually, Rotorua gets over 2.5 million visits from both international and local tourists. The tourism industry in the city has been booming for over two decades, according to Annie Clare — director of the South and Southeast Asia market at Ngai Tahu Tourism, one of the country’s largest tourism operators — who added that Rotorua has always been able to attract Western visitors. It was in the last decade that more Chinese and other foreign tourists began visiting the city in search of something new, making the industry grow even more.

The growth of tourism benefits the city visibly in its improved infrastructure and in the construction of Eat Streat, the all-weather al fresco dining hot spot with a thermally heated public area that packs in the city’s best restaurants, cafés and bars.

Tourism also helps boost interest in the local lifestyle and in the preservation of Maori culture.

“Being able to showcase the culture and having an environment where you can showcase it is very important,” said Dault. “The reality is that a lot of us take for granted our heritage and culture. But when you have international audiences that say they want to see, experience and share it, it creates opportunities for people to make a living off that culture and perpetuate it.”

With the abundance of natural resources and the rich culture of its land, both the public and private sectors are working together under strict charter and quality standards to ensure that the growth of tourism is sustainable. This is so both locals and tourists can enjoy the grand sights — gorgeous skylines, hills, lakes and rivers — that have become a part of Rotorua’s attraction for decades and get the most out of their Kiwi experience.

There are different venues for exploring and experiencing Maori culture, though one of the top spots would be Te Puia — a place that packs culture and natural wonder to the brim. Here, you can visit the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve’s Pohutu geyser — the biggest geyser in the southern hemisphere. She erupts once or twice each hour, shooting water and steam as high as 30m. During my visit, I tried Te Po, the indigenous evening experience that goes on daily, 6-9pm, costing NZ$125 (2,800 baht) for adults. The programme features a traditional welcoming ceremony, an indoor performing-arts concert (join in the haka dance here), a Maori feast cooked in earth ovens, and a visit to the Pohutu geyser. There is also hot chocolate served during the twilight geyser viewing. xxxxxx

The first thing most people notice about Rotorua is the sulphuric smell in the air and the steam that shoots from different parts of the city due to geothermal activity. To witness the greatness of this part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, head to Waimangu Volcanic Valley — also known as the world’s youngest geothermal system, created from a volcanic eruption in 1886. A walk to explore the geysers, hot springs, craters and lakes — plus native plants and birds — can take anywhere from 45 minutes to four hours, depending on the trail you choose. xxxxxx

Meet New Zealand’s national icon — the kiwi bird — at Rainbow Springs Nature Park, home to the largest kiwi hatchery in the country. Spy on the flightless, nocturnal creatures inside a nocturnal house, or upgrade your Day Pass ($10, in addition to the regular $40 adult admission) to go behind the scenes of the conservation centre, where kiwi eggs are incubated and hatched. Only 5% of kiwis hatched in the wild survive to adulthood. The team at Rainbow Springs is giving its best conservational effort by rearing over 100 kiwi chicks every year before releasing them into the wild to boost the population. Aside from this main attraction, there is a daily bird show, a reptilian showcase and a big pool full of trout that swim in circles. xxxxxx

Do you know that there are more sheep in New Zealand than there are humans? Visit Agrodome, which offers a farm show and tour where you can learn more about the animals. Get up-close and personal with 19 breeds of sheep available at the farm, and attend sheep shearing and working dog demonstrations during the indoor show. Later, hop on a ride to get a behind-the-scenes look at the farm on a guided tour. Hand-feed the friendly and cuddly sheep, llamas and alpacas. You can also explore the fruit orchard and taste some of the natural products, such as kiwifruit juice and honey. The show and tour take about one hour each. A combo package is available at $68 for both activities. xxxxxx

Adventurous souls will be thrilled to try out all the adrenaline-inducing activities sprawled across the city. For a starter, head to OGO Rotorua for downhill ball rolling, in which you and your buddies can hop in and slide down the 350m track together for a good laugh. You can relax in the hot tub while you wait for another go. For roadbound adventure, visit Offroad NZ to try out the all-terrain ride through the forest. Buckle yourself up inside the 4WD ride and wade through the muddy climbs and descents. If you have a need for speed, be sure to visit Velocity Valley — an adventure park that packs the monorail racetrack Shweeb Racer, a 43m bungy jump (the only one available in Rotorua), an Agrojet that takes you on a 100kph ride on water, and more. For a great view, catch a gondola ride up the mountain at Skyline Rotorua, where you can bask in the beautiful landscape of the city and Lake Rotorua. Try the luge cart and zip down the hill at a gravity-fuelled pace that you can control yourself. Skyline is also a great place for downhill mountain biking. Buffet lunch and dinner are available at the top of the mountain, inside award-winning restaurant and bar Stratosfare. xxxxxx

One of the latest additions into Rotorua’s long list of attractions is Redwoods Treewalk, an ecological park with a 553m walkway that rises 6-12m from the ground. The skywalk winds through a century-old Redwood forest. While the place is picturesque on its own during daytime, the true highlight of the treewalk shines when the sky goes dark. Redwoods Nightlight, as the nocturnal experience is called, marks a collaboration between Redwoods Treewalk and New Zealand’s design and sustainability mogul David Trubridge to create a design-led tourism spot. Trubridge’s works of lanterns and colourful light spots illuminate the forest at night, transforming the place into a captivating enchanted forest. The treewalk night-and-day combo is available for $35 for adults. xxxxxx

While not technically in Rotorua, one destination you surely can’t afford to miss is the world-famous Hobbiton Movie Set, located just a 45 minutes’ drive away. Whether or not you’re a fan of the Lord Of The Rings, you will surely appreciate the magnificent sight of colourful hobbit houses and wildflowers that nestle along the green hills. Don’t forget to try the iconic Hobbit Crunch ice cream, which contains caramel, chunks of cookie and chocolate.

Travel Info

  • Celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Bangkok-Auckland route, Thai Airways now offers a daily roundtrip flight on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the newest aircraft type in the company’s fleet. The 298-seat aircraft reduces fuel consumption and noise, and comes equipped with electronic window shades. Its impressive Royal Silk Class has 30 seats that recline into full flatbeds, plus a 16-inch monitor to keep you entertained during flights. Economy class has 268 seats with 11-inch monitors. All monitors come with screen-swipe technology.Currently, Thai Airways is the only airline to offer direct flights from Bangkok to Auckland, all with premium services. The Bangkok-Auckland flight departs Suvarnabhumi Airport daily at 6.45pm and arrives in Auckland at 12.05pm the next day (total flight time 11 hours 20 minutes). For the Auckland-Bangkok route, the flight departs at 2.50pm and arrives in Bangkok at 8.50pm the same day (total flight time 12 hours). For reservations, visit www.thaiairways.com.
  • To get to Rotorua from Auckland, visitors can catch local flights to the Rotorua Airport, which takes around 45 minutes. Or, hop on the InterCity bus, which takes 3 hours and 30 minutes. For ultimate freedom, hire a car or camper van.

Article source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/travel/around-the-globe/1480377/a-zeal-for-new-zealand

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