Friday , May 25, 2018

Smoky Rotorua, a nature lover’s haven

THE picture of a fuming Mayon surrounded by a thick cloud brought me back to the time when I visited Rotorua in New Zealand’s North Island. I have witnessed a smaller version, without the orange liquid fire, as I watched a geyser erupted several times. Because of its geysers and geothermal activities, Rotorua has been dubbed as Sulphur City.

We traveled for three hours from Auckland to Rotorua, stopping briefly at Matamata and passing through the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Reserve. Along the way, since it was winter season during that time in New Zealand, we saw a blanket of fog covering the lowlands and some frost filling the upland areas of the Kaimai Ranges. As our car drove down, leaving the forest behind, Rotorua appeared before us.

The Geysers of Rotorua

Before we proceeded to the site of the geysers, our guide first brought us around Rotorua, where vents of steam are found. The Rachel Spring at the Government Gardens is like a well with smoke coming out. A portion of Lake Rotorua near Polynesian Spa was also like letting off steam. We also stopped at a spot overlooking the Ohinemutu Maori Village which seemed to be veiled in smoke.

The air was chilly, although the sun was up when we got to Te Puia. The 70-hectare area located at the historic Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley has over 60 geysers plus several mud pools. The main attraction is the Pohutu Geyser, which erupts almost every hour each day.

The climate was perfect because as the heat was emitted from Pohutu, the steam mingled with the cold winter air, creating a beautiful cloud that extended upward. We also roamed the area to view the other geysers and pools. Moreover, apart from being a natural attraction, Te Puia is also a heritage site of the Maoris.

The Lakes of Rotorua

The largest in this city is Lake Rotorua, which is the second largest in the North Island. There are plenty of activities within and around the lake, such as parasailing and paddle boarding, since it is located at the city center.

But away from the busy city scene is another lake, which is Lake Tarawera. It’s a perfect place for camping and fishing. Getting there, we also had to pass by the Blue Lake, which is Lake Tikitapu, and the Green Lake, which is Lake Rotokakahi.

The blue color of Tikitapu is due to the rhyolite and pumice found in the lake bed. The shallow waters of Rotokakahi and its sandy lake floor make the color appear lighter, which is more of green than blue. Apart from these four that we have visited, there are several other lakes and bodies of water found within Rotorua.

The Redwoods of Rotorua

The Whakarewarewa Forest is also called as the Redwoods because of the Californian Coast Redwood trees that fill the forest. The forest is a testament to the commitment of the government and the people to protect the environment. The trees were planted in 1901 and were never cut.

A century after, the forest now serves as home to many plant and animal species as well as a haven for families, adventure seekers, and nature lovers. People love to hang out here, do the treewalk, bike, or just hike through the woods.

Rotorua is a wonderful city where one can commune with nature. It’s a great place to relax and just let off steam as the place itself usually does.

All photos are by this author. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels blog.