It’s a national icon, a bird with the features of a mammal and lays an ostrich-sized egg although it’s barely bigger than a chicken. The humble kiwi is a symbol of New Zealand’s country and culture, so much so that residents happily take on the moniker of the native critter. Saving the endangered kiwi has been on the country’s collective mind for decades and is a mission particularly close to the hearts of the husbandry staff at Rainbow Springs.
Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park in Rotorua runs New Zealand’s largest and most successful kiwi conservation program, having hatched, raised and released 1000 kiwi chicks back into the wild since they joined Operation Nest Egg in 1995.
At Rainbow Springs’ Kiwi Encounter, these elusive, endemic animals, which are on the brink of joining the likes of the Tasmanian Tiger and the Dodo, waddle and forage right in front of you. An eye-opening experience for kids and parents alike, visitors can see the incubation, hatching and raising of kiwi chicks before they are sent off to help save their species.
The Encounter will quickly see you become a kiwi advocate; perhaps even sponsoring your own national treasure or taking home a plush kiwi to nest with. Aside from encounters with kiwi, Rainbow Springs offers the opportunity to feed the native birds their breakfast, learn about the living fossil, the tuatara, and hand-feed wild trout in the sparkling streams that run through the park. If you haven’t had enough of the action during the day, your admission ticket also allows you return at night when kiwis scurry about with enthusiasm and cooee to their mates.
The feathers fly at Rainbow Springs just before lunch, when macaws, galahs and colourful parrots show off their smarts with delightful antics that never fail to draw laughs and applause from the crowd. When energy levels run high, take a ride on the Big Splash – a nine minute journey through prehistoric New Zealand, where dinosaurs and the extinct moa come back to life. Hold on tight for the adrenaline-pumping “big splash” at the end before lining up for another round. When you’re all splashed out, take a breather against a waterfall-backdrop at the Wairere Cafe.
If you find yourself in Rotorua on a North Island holiday, Rainbow Springs is a fantastic experience with something for everyone. When you’ve taken in the best of New Zealand’s natural beauty and native species by day, why not meet the people of the land at the adjoining Mitai Maori Village and round out the evening with a haka dance and hangi feast? Before you leave, don’t forget to say hello to Jenny the cheeky kea who is always up for a chat.