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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Travel: Walking on the Wild Side in Rotorua

Walking on the Wild Side in Rotorua New Zealand - Gluten Free Coeliac Travel Reviews
See more of our New Zealand Adventures & other travels here!

Well, I'm not going to lie... this next part of our New Zealand Adventures is another rainy one - but that doesn't mean it wasn't full of fun! Today I wanted to share one of our most action packed days. 

There's everything from dozens of ridiculously cute baby duckies (and videos... and squeals... I apologise to your ears in advance, but don't worry! I turned the sound of me WAAAY down on the video!), lions, deer a trip to the thermal spa and lots lots more. 

So let me share our adventures with you!

The Polynesian Spa Deluxe Lakeside Thermal Pool Spa Experience Rotorua New Zealand

We woke up early on Saturday morning and drove from Taupo to Rotorua where I had a busy day planned!

Since we had a busy day ahead, I decided we needed to start the day in the most relaxed way possible; at the Polynesian Spa. As one of the top 10 day spas in New Zealand, The Polynesian Spa was a no brainer and we decided to spend the morning enjoying the Deluxe Lake Spa

The spa has a variety of different options, depending on your needs. They have the Family Pools (complete with slide!), the Adult Spa (no kids allowed!), The Lake Spa (a more private, higher end experience) and the Private Pools (the ultimate spa experience!). Prices vary from $22-45 per adult, depending on which option you choose. 

Some options come with towel hire included, however, towels and bathing suits are available for hire if you don't have your own with you. 

The Polynesian Spa Deluxe Lakeside Thermal Pool Spa Experience Rotorua New Zealand
#reallife; Kristy doesn't do the drowned rat look well ;)

We picked the 42C pool (108F) to relax in for an hour or so before showering and getting dressed for the day ahead! The pools were incredible and so relaxing.  They're alkaline mineral pools with lakeside views (though we couldn't see much as it was foggy and rainy!) and even though it was rainy, we sat in a little grotto space which was protected from the rain. 

The spa also has a cold plunge pool so you can benefit from the gentle detoxification of hot/cold hydrotherapy. The idea is that the extreme temperature change between hot and cold causes your muscles to expand and contract - squeezing out those nasty toxins. 

Jesse feeding the fish at Rainbow Springs Kiwi Park Rotorua New Zealand

The next stop on our adventure was Rainbow Springs Nature Park which we had almost completely to ourselves! We learnt throughout the trip that it seems like most tourists are scared of rain - so if you want to beat the crowds, grab your raincoat and get out there! 

Footage taken on our TomTom Bandit Action Cam

Here's a quick 30 second look at Rainbow Springs, as filmed on our TomTom Bandit! There's everything from native birds and fish to kiwi (though we couldn't film those for you!) and The Big Splash (the log flume ride in the park which we had to ride three times just to be sure it was as fun as we thoughts :P). 

Rainbow Springs Nature Park Rotorua New Zealand - Gluten Free Coeliac Friendly Travel Reviews

Rainbow Springs was first opened in 1932 (that's 84 years ago!) by a man named Ted who wanted to create campground and caravan park in what was, at the time, a run-down swampy dairy farm.  They collected and transported hundreds and native trees, ferns and shrubs and planted them around the park, later adding aviaries and pathways and 12 California Redwoods. 

Today the park is no longer a campground, however, it is full of things to see with trout pools, a nocturnal kiwi house, aviaries, the big splash, waterfalls, playgrounds and even a restaurant. 

Rainbow Springs Kiwi Park Rotorua New Zealand - Gluten Free Coeliac Friendly Travel Reviews

The Kiwi House is brilliant as you don't only get to see real kiwis running around in their enclosure - you also get to learn things you probably wouldn't have otherwise known about these funny little creatures. 

Kiwis are an endangered species in New Zealand as they're under threat by predators such as dogs (and humans!) and the survival rate for kiwi chicks is only around 5% in areas where predators aren't controlled. Areas like the Coromandel on the North East coast are predator controlled and have a kiwi population that doubles every decade. 

They're a flightless bird and no one really knows how they arrived in New Zealand (because they definitely couldn't have flown there!). Whilst most people think kiwis are timid and shy, they're actually feisty and aggressive! They're strong, territorial and can have a seriously bad temper. 

In fact, they're so feisty that keepers and conservation workers often end up with scars from where the birds have slashed away with their razor sharp claws! 

Footage taken on our TomTom Bandit Action Cam

But don't worry! There were definitely some cute and cuddlies to see too! In fact, when we first entered the park, we were greeted by a gorgeous group of ducklings and their mummy!

Rainbow Springs Nature Park Rotorua New Zealand - Gluten Free Coeliac Friendly Travel Reviews

Rainbow Springs Nature Park Rotorua New Zealand - Gluten Free Coeliac Friendly Travel ReviewsThe grounds at Rainbow Springs are gorgeous - complete with waterfalls and pools filled with fish and bird life.

There's a natural spring that flows throughout the park which you can even drink! Be sure to stop at the fountain that's nearby the waterfall/pool to have a taste!
Rainbow Springs Nature Park Rotorua New Zealand - Gluten Free Coeliac Friendly Travel Reviews

And because you're sooooooo lucky, you guys get two awful Kristy and Jesse selfies in one post. Jesse decided we needed to join in with the other tourists and snap a selfie in front of the waterfall ;) 

Rainbow Springs Nature Park Rotorua New Zealand - Gluten Free Coeliac Friendly Travel Reviews

Before heading off to our next destination, we stopped for lunch at the cafe! There weren't too many gluten free options (I can only remember seeing a brownie), however, I'd brought my own lunch in my Roaming Cooking Collapsible Containers!

Just don't leave your lunch sitting there unprotected.... whilst I turned to pop my camera away, I had a little fantail come and steal a piece of my cheese! :P 

Jesse at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park Rotorua New Zealand

Soon we were at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park where we were feeding more fish ;P 

Paradise Valley Springs is split into two main sections; the Trout, Bird and Wildlife Park (complete with treetop walk!) and the Lion Park. We started at the Wildlife park section as we were planning on seeing the Lion Feeding later on which happens at 2:30pm.

New Zealand Wildlife at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park Rotorua New Zealand

On the left is a native cheeky mountain parrot called a Kea. They're unique to the South Island of New Zealand and have been scientifically proven to be one of the world's most intelligent birds. New Zealand locals know them as a bit of a menace though as they've been known to destroy parked cars (and other property left in their reach) with their seriously strong beaks. 

Katrina's boyfriend is from New Zealand's South Island and told us that they have to be careful where they park their cars as the kea will come and tear off every single bit of rubber on the car - leaving the windshield to collapse into the inside of the car if it has nothing left to support it. 

In fact, they're such a menace that their used to be a bounty on their heads. They were hunted in the 1970's as they were viewed as a pest, however, the Kea are now protected under New Zealand law. 

New Zealand Deer and Farm Animals at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park Rotorua New Zealand

We spent quite a bit of time feeding the gorgeous Fallow Deer on the property who were very happy to see us (and our food bags :P). Feed for the animals can be purchased from the shop on your way in - and be sure to pick some up as there are plenty of animals to feed!

Fallow deer are pretty unique and were first introduced to New Zealand by European settlers. The buck's (males) antlers actually fall off every year around October/November and they grow a brand new pair within 3 1/2 months! The antlers are soft and furry and are cylindrical at the base whilst flattened at the top when fully grown. 

New Zealand Fallow Deer and Farm Animals at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park Rotorua New Zealand

The deer we saw still had relatively new antlers (being early January) so they were still quite round, however,  when their antlers are fully grown they look like the above!

The Healing Te Waireka Spring at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park Rotorua New Zealand

After feeding the deer we headed to the treetop walk which is nestled amongst the native bush. The board walk is around 6 metres off the ground, putting you in the midst of the tree canopy so you can have a look at the unique plants and wildlife. There's signposts throughout the walk telling you about the different trees and plants and how they were traditionally used by the Maori people. 

The treetop walk finished at the Nogongotaha Stream and there's another walkway up to the Te Waireka Spring which is believed by the maori people to have healing qualities. According to Maori legend, a curse was placed on Hinemoa (heroine of the Te Arowa legend Hinemoa and Tutanekai) long before her birth and that curse was only removed when a great Tohunga (priest) took Hinemoa to Te Waireka to free her. 

Feeding Farm Animals at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park Rotorua New Zealand

Before heading off to the lions, we spent some time feeding the animals on the New Zealand Farm Walk. There's everything from alpaca and goat to miniature horses, donkeys, suffolk sheep and some seriously hairy kune kune (fat) pigs.

Sleepy African Lions at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park Rotorua New Zealand

We headed over to the lions around 1:30pm (an hour before the feeding) to get a good spot and we arrived to find some very sleepy lions. I don't know about you, but I think I probably look a lot like this guy when I'm waiting for my dinner too :P 

African Lion Feeding at Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park Rotorua New Zealand

There's seven lions at Paradise Valley Springs currently with all of those lions having been born at the park. Lions were first introduced to the park in the 70's when Australian born retired circus lions were moved to their new home. The park has been breeding lions for over 20 years with quite a few of those lions born at the park moving on to new homes at other wildlife parks and zoos throughout New Zealand, Australia and even Bali. 

The specially designed enclosure allows you to get really close to the lions and there's a keeper talk and feeding each day at 2:30pm so you can learn more about the lions. Each of the lions know their names and listen out for the keeper to call them as she throws their dinner over the fence. 

The highlight of their day? The big, fat, juicy rabbit they all fought over towards the end of the show ;) Whilst the others were growling and fussing at each other, trying to fight over the prized piece of meat, one cheeky lionness lept in and grabbed the rabbit before scurrying away to eat it in peace.

Driving from Rotorua New Zealand to Lake Taupo - New Zealand North Island Road Trip Review

And once the lions had full bellies, we too were ready to rest and so we hit the road once again ready to call it a night at our next accommodation.... though, I think we've shared enough already in this post so that will have to be a story for another day!

The Details;
The Polynesian Spa Premium Lake Spa - $45 NZD per adult for a day pass |
Rainbow Springs Nature Park - $40 NZD Adults $20 NZD Kids includes unlimited rides on The Big Splash - see website for special offers | Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park - $30 NZD Adult, $15 NZD Child includes farm trail, treetop walk and lion enclosure - Lion Feeding at 2:30pm every day|  Car Rental: 
Go Rentals Compact Auto Toyota Corolla | Kristy and Jesse explored NZ as guests of Tourism New Zealand.

But tell me, what is your all time favourite animal?
And are you a hot spa fan or would you prefer to cool off in a refreshing pool? 
I love elephants, lions and giraffes and have always been fascinated by them. They're the animals I spend the most time with at the zoo and I was so excited to just watch those gorgeous lions. Funnily enough the lionness you see on the top right corner of the picture above was eyeing Jesse off as dinner the whole time we were waiting. She followed him with her eyes as he walked around the enclosure and she kept watching him when we settled in the covered area.

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