When you think New Zealand, what’s the first thing that pops to mind?I’m willing to bet you it’s NOT the Giant Redwood Forest at Treewalk Rotorua
The US kind of has a monopoly over redwoods; and yet, you can enjoy a walk amongst the giants at the other end of the world – in Rotorua, New Zealand.
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Meet the Whakarewarewa Forest
The best kind of natural experiment!
Before the first settlers in New Zealand, around 800 years ago, most of the land was covered in native forests. A significant portion of these forests was then gradually cleared to make room for sheep and cattle farms.
As in many other places on the planet, the clearance of trees was so rapid that by 1913 a lot of native species became threatened with extinction.
So in 1925, New Zealand decided to test for suitability a bunch of non-native, exotic plants and trees, as part of a new financial incentive program to create plantations and reduce pressure on native forests. Because New Zealand’s native trees have a very slow growth rate, the state established trial plantations of faster growing exotic trees, to provide for the country’s timber needs.
The giant Californian Redwoods were part of the 70 species planted in the successful experiment, in this tree nursery just 5 minutes outside of Rotorua.
Redwoods loved their new home so much, they rapidly grew to 70 meters tall and 2 meters diameter in the span of only 115 years!
The reason they grow faster in New Zealand has to do with the wetter climate. Back in California, rain might not fall for five months at a time – so apparently, New Zealand’s weather conditions are better suited to growing redwoods than anywhere else on the planet. Take that, America!
Beside redwoods, the kiwis tested for suitability the Australian Eucalyptus, Tasmanian Blackwood, Japanese Cedar, Mexican Cypress and over 60 other species.
The Treewalk: Five Short Facts
1. Only half a km long, you can do the whole Treewalk circuit in 30 minutes, but you’ll easily want to spend an hour wandering among the 23 bridges & platforms.
2. Its main stars are the century-old redwoods, the tallest of which is 70 meters
3. The newest platform sits high at 20 meters in the air and opened this October. It has two glass viewing panels you can stand on, to see the forest and bed of ferns beneath you
4. Accessible during the day as well as after sunset – so you can enjoy the magic suspended withing light of its specially designed @davidtrubridge lanterns. Also dubbed, a “design-led tourism” experience.
5. An educational walk – where you learn about the trees, the history of the nursery and sustainability projects
Rotorua’s Redwood Forest delights over 500,000 visitors annually, and tickets for the Treewalk cost NZ$25 for adults, $15 for under 15 year olds and free for children under 5.
The Treewalk in Pictures: Rolling Credits