Rotorua, New Zealand’s cultural and geo-thermal hub, is home to a brand new eco experience high above the forest floor.
Ever wondered what it was like to walk among giants?
High above the Whakarewarewa Forest floor, in New Zealand’s North Island, Californian Redwood trees tower above everything else. Until recently it was a world that only these massive trees were privileged to but Alex Schmid has created a way for all to enjoy beauty of the redwoods from high in the forest.
The Redwoods Treewalk in Rotorua is the first of its kind in New Zealand and showcases a lesser known tourism activity in a region that is renowned for its geo-thermal attractions and Māori culture.
“It is a special place, it is hard to explain,” Alex says. “You realise more and more when you start to work with trees. These redwoods are giant, massive organisms; they are magical inspirational things that I love to work with.”
Alex and his wife are Germans and were involved in a treewalk in the south of Germany which is what led them to New Zealand.
“I saw the trees and thought there must be an activity up there. And that was the birth of the idea. We got in touch with the manager of the redwood forest.”
“It’s completely different from Germany; the big redwoods are extremely fast growing. There is no redwood forest in Germany, there is nothing like it there.”
Alex has a background in engineering and it was important to him that they did not harm the trees in any way while constructing the treewalk.
There are no nails or screws connecting the structure to the trees and only four poles touch the ground throughout the 12 metre high, 550 metre long walk.
The walk consists of a series of 23 suspension bridges traversing the gaps between 22 majestic 110-year-old redwood trees. The bridge sections gradually incline from 6m in height to a stunning 12m at its peak before again descending to 6m.
“It was important to us to not harm the trees so our technical solution was very environmentally friendly.”
All the timber was carried into the forest by hand and the platforms were raised using a small motor winch.
“It is a little bit magic,” Alex laughs. “There are special technical slings attached to the trees by friction.”
Walking amongst the trees gives an entirely different perspective of the forest and this unique walk is the latest Rotorua must-do.
“It is an amazing interesting experience to see the forest from a bird’s eye view,” Alex says. “You can walk next to the ferns and be surrounded by the giants.”
This is just the beginning for The Redwoods Treewalk in Rotorua. Alex hopes to have lights installed for guided night tours soon and he has a vision to take the walk higher and higher into the tree canopy. The treewalk is an accessible, soft adventure experience that is family friendly that everyone can enjoy.
Alex and his wife now live permanently in New Zealand and they couldn’t be happier in Rotorua.
“It is a beautiful country with very friendly people,” Alex says. “We have all the things we enjoy so close to us. We can go mountain biking and the ski fields are so close to us. There is so much to do here in New Zealand it is a very nice playground.”
The Whakarewarewa Forest
The Whakarewarewa Forest is one of the oldest exotic forests in New Zealand.
Of 170 different tree species planted in the Whakarewarewa Forest as part of a trial in the early 1900s, only a handful remain today.
California Redwoods were first planted in 1901 and the 6 hectare stand of the giant trees is now called the Redwood Memorial Grove and is protected from tree harvesting. The shelter these trees provide to their smaller neighbours encourages growth creating a kaleidoscope of ferns, shrubs, flowers and fungi far below.
The famous fern or ponga tree has around 200 native varieties throughout the country. They have evolved into forms that can cope in just about any environment so it is no surprise that one of the most noticeable plants dominating the understory in the Whakarewarewa forest is the fern.
Since the early 19th century, tourists have flocked to Rotorua’s natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools, active geysers - spectacular thermal wonders on the ‘Pacific rim of fire’.
Māori culture and history infuse Rotorua life. The town of Rotorua, on the shores of Lake Rotorua, is home to the Te Arawa iwi - one of New Zealand’s larger Māori tribes. A third of Rotorua's population is Māori.
Rotorua translates as 'second lake' – one of 18 sparkling lakes, surrounded by magnificent native and exotic forests. This other-worldly volcanic landscape provides a dynamic backdrop to many adventure activities - mountain biking, trout fishing, bathing in natural hot pools, white water rafting, and air adventures.
Rotorua is a 2.5 hour drive or a 40 minute flight from Auckland. Considered the Maori tourism hub of New Zealand, Rotorua is the must-visit destination to experience the authentic stories and culture of New Zealand’s Maori people.