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Why You Should NEVER Eat a Kiwi…

September 21, 2017

Put your fork down and back away from the kiwi.

I mean it!

As we’re travelled more and more, it’s come to our attention that the majority of the world doesn’t really know what a kiwi is.

This is a kiwi…

Whereas, this is a kiwifruit…

When we introduce ourselves as the ‘Exploring Kiwis’ we often get quizzical looks.  You can almost see the cogs starting to turn…

Why would they name themselves after a piece of fruit?  What next?  The Adventuring Bananas?

With that in mind, it’s time we set the record straight for our international readers.

Kiwis aren’t food…

So, What is a Kiwi Really?

A kiwi is a small, flightless bird that is endemic to New Zealand.  That means that not only is it native to the country, but it is not found anywhere else in the world.

They’re special little things.

Fun Fact:  You might even have noticed that kiwifruit look surprisingly similar to our little kiwi birds.  It’s no coincidence that the Chinese gooseberry flourished down in New Zealand and was appropriate renamed ‘kiwifruit’ due to its similar exterior.

Due to Aotearoa’s geographic isolation and lack of native mammals, kiwis lived for years without any major predators.  Over time, they adapted to their environment – without any real threats, there was no need to fly, no need for good eyesight – and now, millions of years on, they remain genetically unchanged.  Unfortunately, however, their environment has changed significantly due to human settlement and these quirky characters have long been classified as endangered.

An average of 27 kiwi are killed by predators EVERY WEEK. That’s a population decline of around 1,400 kiwi every year (or 2%). At this rate, kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime. Just one hundred years ago, kiwi numbered in the millions.

A single roaming dog can wipe out an entire kiwi population in a matter of days

Approximately 20% of the kiwi population is under management.

In areas under where predators are controlled, 50-60% of chicks survive. When areas are not under management 95% of kiwi die before reaching breeding age.

Only 20% survival rate of kiwi chicks is needed for the population to increase.

Kiwis for Kiwis

Fortunately though, things are improving for some kiwi populations.  On the Coromandel, where kiwis live in a controlled area, free of predators, their numbers are doubling every decade.

… But can I call you a Kiwi?

Absolutely!

As our national bird, icons don’t get much more Kiwi than the kiwi.

When you visit our neighbours across the ditch in Australia, you’ll call them Ozzies.  When you refer to a New Zealander, you’re welcome to call us Kiwis – a name that has become so entrenched in our culture, it’s hard to imagine being called anything else.

To help you get to know these interesting little creatures a bit better, here are some kiwi facts to help you on your way…

  • They’re known as honorary mammals due to some of their habits and physical traits.  They have nostrils at the end of their long beaks, have feathers that resemble hair and lay massive eggs – proportionally they have some of the biggest eggs around, with babies being 20% of the mothers size (humans by comparison are only 5%).
  • Kiwis are nocturnal birds, spending the day sleeping whilst hunting at night.
  • Though you’re incredibly unlikely to find a Kiwi in the wild yourself, you never know.  Moonless nights are your best opportunity – a couple of hours after the sun sets or just as it’s about to rise.  Don’t let us get your hopes up though; neither Nathan or I have ever managed to spot one in the wild.
  • Part of the ratites group, these ancient animals can’t fly. You may be familiar with some of their larger cousins though – the ostritch, emu and another New Zealand giant, the extinct moa.

So, now you know.  We’re not named after a fruit at all, but a gutsy little flightless bird and a pretty cute one at that.

Though we can’t answer the age-old question of which came first – the chicken or the egg – we can say with absolute certainty that the kiwi came before the fruit!


Figure it’s time others know what a kiwi really is?  Pin this post to help them out…

Around the world people mistakenly think they're eating kiwis. Kiwis are actually New Zealand's national bird - a flightless, unique creature and the very reason New Zealanders are referred to as Kiwis. Around the world people mistakenly think they're eating kiwis. Kiwis are actually New Zealand's national bird - a flightless, unique creature and the very reason New Zealanders are referred to as Kiwis.

Thank you to WallpaperWeb , AgroProducts and ScienceDaily for supplying the images used.

 

Adventure New Zealand

Anything But a Light Paddle: White Water Rafting Down the Kaituna River (and the Largest Commercially Rafted Waterfall in the World!)

April 22, 2017
Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New Zealand

Kiwis sort of have a track record of being a little crazy, and white water rapids seem to bring out the worst of us as seen here and here, however could I really call myself a travel blogger if I didn’t jump on every opportunity to try out as many of the activities New Zealand has to offer?

Probably not.

So when my partner mistakenly tells me I would NOT be gate crashing a boys day out before his best friend got married (keyword here mistakenly), of course I jumped on board for white water rafting in Rotorua, before heading to Cambridge for the gorgeous wedding of our two friends.

I’m going to say it right away, I have not a single regret and thoroughly enjoyed the escapade, however it did leave me a little shaken.

I’m not the biggest adrenaline-junkie around but I do love giving things a shot.  I also have this strange habit of going gung-ho into these sorts of activities feeling no fear, but then once I actually experience them for what they are (e.g. a little bit dangerous) I’m left questioning my sanity.

I have to admit, this was definitely one of those times.

Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New ZealandWe booked with Kaituna Cascades, a really fun group of guys, who look like they truly love their job. We signed up for their highest grade of rafting, a choice I thoroughly recommend.  It’s not overly exerting, it’s not particularly dangerous and the views are beautiful.

The trip takes you down (up?) the Kaituna river, through ‘historical’ rusty old power plants, beautiful inlets of water, cliff sides covered in classic Kiwi foliage and sends you careering through some stunning green water.

But let’s be real here – you’re not going white water rafting for a peaceful row through scenic vistas!

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re the kind of person looking for the next opportunity to be pushed around, thrown about, tipped upside down, and in one unfortunate instance, smashed pelvis-first into a rock.

Ok. Maybe you aren’t looking for that last experience – but don’t worry, I’ve got some tips at the end to hopefully keep you bruised-pelvis free…

For my first experience white water rafting, I would say this was definitely a good fit. While it has a pretty significant waterfall drop at one point (OK, it might just be the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world!), as white water goes this was pretty easy-going and a good starting point for anyone who, like me, might be afraid of getting the technique wrong.

When it comes down to it, there’s really nothing to it but to listen to your instructor and do as much shouting as you can – and you will shout!

But wait – what was that I said about a smashed pelvis??? Don’t worry, no bones were broken, just a serious bruise and that’s definitely avoidable.

Rafting the Kaituna River, Rotorua New ZealandWhile the guys at Kaituna were awesome and made sure they did the utmost to ensure we all had the best time that we could, I still ended up getting hurt. Which I suppose is what you risk – or even hope for – when doing something like white water rafting.

There were two spots on the trip where they said we could get out and swim; the first being a lovely gorge-like area of the river, and the second being um… right before a waterfall.

So that first one sounds great, right?! And it was. It was like being swirled around in a giant pool – a pool surrounded by nature and people laughing from exhilaration.

That last one, though? Um, not so great. We all jumped at the opportunity to dive back in the water after the fun we had in the gorge!  Just quietly, I think the instructor was keen to get us in too, as he didn’t manage to get us to flip the boat going down the big waterfall.

In retrospect, perhaps this wasn’t the most strategic place to get out of the raft though?

We all found ourselves careering towards the waterfall and despite the instructors’ best efforts to call us back to the boat, our swimming was no match for the current. In the end, one of us went down the waterfall by himself – a fairly scary experience I would say – while my partner and I were instructed to hold onto the side of the boat as it went down.

Now, I’m not an expert – as I said this was my first time rafting – but holding onto a boat as it goes wherever it pleases down a rocky waterfall? It was less than ideal.

Not only did we have the full force of the current, but also the full weight of the boat on top of us.  Both Michael and I were slammed against the rocks and then dragged across them.

Honestly, the experience shook me quite a bit and from there I was kind of keen to get out of the water.

Regardless of this, I thoroughly recommend the Kaituna Cascades guys and I absolutely recommend trying out white water rafting.  I’d just encourage everyone to be a little bit more wary of when you get out of the boat. Oh, and please, PLEASE don’t hold onto the side of a raft as it slams its way down a waterfall.

Just trust me on this one.


Off to New Zealand?  On the hunt for adventure?  Pin this post!

Find out what it's like to go over the biggest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. New Zealand, home of adventure sports should be next on your list! Rotorua, NZ

As this was a last minute plan, I didn’t have my GoPro on me but I would like to give a big shout out to Jacob Laukaitis who went down the river with us and got some awesome footage. He hasn’t put the clips into a Youtube video but when he does you can find them here, or see a bunch of his awesome travel shots on his Instagram account.

New Zealand Oceania Taupo

Taking on Taupo: A Two Day Itinerary – Prawn Fishing and Huka Falls (Day One)

February 23, 2017

When you live in a place like New Zealand, it’s all too easy to over-look its beauty.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been to Taupo before and enjoyed it but mostly when I was a child (and would’ve enjoyed anything). As I grew older, I would generally drive through it, as a way to get to other destinations, stopping briefly but never for long. It’s not that I disliked Taupo by any means, it’s that I didn’t see much of interest for me there.

I was wrong!

This year my family decided to holiday there and I dragged my boyfriend with – the temptation of a swim up bar was too great to ignore.

As it turned out, there were plenty of exciting activities to enjoy – I had a blast!

I’ve decided I’ll split this holiday into two posts. Although I was there for four days, two of those were half spent travelling, so I’ve merged my holiday into two sizeable chunks – a highlights reel that could easily done with two days in Taupo.

This is, obviously, my “day one”.

Auckland to Taupo

On this first day, my partner Michael and I left at 7am (on the dot if my Snapchat is to tell me anything, although when has it ever?), in order to make it to Taupo before lunch time. We took only two stops along the way, the first being Huntly, for a healthy dose of caffeine (and for Michael to figure out his wallet was still in Auckland), and the second in Tirau, to make much needed use of those iconic corrugated iron sheep toilets.  It’s a reasonably long drive to Taupo but the roads are good and the scenery typically Kiwi, so it’s barely hard work.

We arrived in Taupo to meet my parents around 11, so besides the wallet mishap (thank the heavens for instant online banking), everything was going great!

Huka Falls

For anyone that’s spent time in New Zealand, you’ll probably be familiar with the saying ‘four seasons in one day’ when it comes to our weather.

When we gave up on waiting for the rain to die down we headed to the Huka Falls. We were so glad we got out of the car and into the rain for two main reasons: the rain graciously stopped for us almost at that precise moment, and also the Huka Falls are BREATHTAKING.

I’m not quite sure why I’d never gotten around to seeing the Huka Falls, because there was plenty of reason to, not the least of which being that it’s incredibly accessible (if you’re in Taupo), as there’s little to no walking involved, and the beauty of it is right there to see immediately. In saying that, despite the weather it was rather crowded with tourists, so if you’re wanting to get that perfect selfie or shot of the falls, you may be waiting just a tad longer than expected.

The falls were both enticing and terrifying. I wanted to jump in and back away almost at once. I’ve seen many beautiful bright blues before, but none that exerted as much power as these falls did. I would definitely recommend checking them out, but if the awesome power of mother nature scares you a little bit, you might find yourself trembling slightly.

Fishing with a Twist – Huka Prawn Park

Next on our Taupto itinerary was Prawn Fishing at Huka Prawn Park – something we’d been looking forward to all day! The park is a convenient 10 minutes from Taupo City and on the same road as the Huka Falls, so there’s no missing it.

I’d done a fair amount of fishing on our family boat as a kid and I had a keen eye for catching yabbies (freshwater crayfish) in my youth when we camped at Kai Iwi Lakes, so I figured I had this in the bag (or the bucket), but sorry to spoil the narrative for you so soon – Michael and I both caught a whopping NOTHING between us.

In the past, fishing without a catch hasn’t been much fun, but it couldn’t have been further from the truth here. We had tonnes and tonnes of fun – we just didn’t have a tonne of time, something I recommend having if you want to catch some yummy prawns to enjoy on the barbecue that night (like we’d initially planned).

Regardless, this is almost a must-see if you’re spending your holiday in Taupo – especially if you have kids. We ended up going on a day when my sister and her kids still hadn’t arrived yet, but we felt they would’ve had a blast. The staff are super friendly, and it’s crazy close to other tourist hotspots, like the Huka Falls, Huka Jet and Craters of the Moon so if you do find yourself finishing up a little early, you’ve got lots of local options (though you could easily spend the majority of your day here).

What I didn’t realise was that this was actually an amusement park, where there was so much more than just prawn fishing – literally a days worth of fun! For the entry fee ($28 for adults, $16 for children, $0 for kids under 5 years), you can stay for as long as you like and keep everything you catch. So you can see why turning up at 3pm, 2 hours before closing time, wasn’t the best choice.

Aside from prawn fishing there’s lots to do there, including water park games and activities, trout fishing, foot baths (using geothermal heat), a great walk along the river where we got to see the Huka Jet speed by, a restaurant, paddle boarding, boats you can go onto and plenty more. I feel a bit ridiculous for turning up with no time to enjoy this stuff!

But what about the fishing? Well, with your admission you get a tour of the park, where you see the hatchery and nursery, and you get to see some huge, small, and all very creepy looking prawns – plus the tour guide will teach you how to catch ’em.  As it turns out, there’s definitely a knack to hooking one.

In the end, an hour wasn’t long enough for Michael and I to get the hang of it – especially in the rain and wind which made it more difficult. However, we had a lot of fun, so if Taupo becomes our family holiday destination in a more ongoing sense, I’m sure we’ll be back. But this time in the morning!

Want to see what we got up to on our second day out and about in Taupo?  Stay tuned…


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Thanks to the Huka Prawn Park for inviting us along!  We had a great time trying something new and certainly recommend stopping off there (and don’t forget the gorgeous Huka Falls) whilst you’re in Taupo.  All thoughts are our own.

day trip New Zealand Oceania

Omaha Beach – One of the Best Beaches a Stones Throw from Auckland

January 12, 2017

If I had to describe my relationship with nature, my initial response would be… awkward. I don’t like the burning heat of the sun, and sand sticking to sunscreen isn’t so much nostalgic as it is uncomfortable. But that doesn’t change the fact that New Zealand lakes and beaches are just undeniably some of the best in the world. I’ve just got to do it for the ‘gram.

And while most of these amazing Kiwi beaches are situated a fairly decent distance out of Auckland, there are a couple of gems that exist within the Auckland, and Greater Auckland regions.

Praise be!

If you drive about an hour out of Auckland heading North you’ll reach the absolute stunner that is Omaha Beach, and you’ll be thankful you took that drive – trust me.

This isn’t going to be a lengthy post mind you, but Omaha Beach deserves a mention – especially this summer, when I intend to go there as often as possible.

Omaha beach is attractive to me for three great reasons – its proximity to Auckland, its soft white sand, and its aqua blue waters.

It’s popular, but not so much that you’ll feel crowded –  in fact you can easily take as many cute pictures as you desire without a photobomb in sight. It also has lifeguards, a shower, toilets, and a café and dairy right over the sand dunes. The convenience of it is almost unbeatable.

It’s also worth mentioning that the waves can occasionally be good enough to surf, but not so bad that there is much risk of drowning or other water danger. In saying this, if you aren’t a confident swimmer, or you’re with kids, there are lifeguards monitoring between the flags. Although staying in the flags should be a priority, no matter what!

If you’re wanting to make the most of this gorgeous beach, but don’t live say, within 30 minutes of it, I recommend you think ahead for what you will pack – don’t repeat my mistake and singe your skin within an inch of its life!

Kiwi Summers are harsh and unforgiving on those who don’t use sun protection so please, please, please, bring some shade, (beach umbrellas go as cheap as $12 at the Warehouse, and there’s one not too far from Omaha), bring sunscreen, and apply it as regularly (if not more) than the bottle recommends and wear your sunnies!

Plenty of water or some form of desired beverage, ideally in a cooler bag (again, the Warehouse is your friend), is also highly recommended to stave off dehydration, as well as fruit to prevent scurvy.

From there, don’t forget the fun stuff like blow up floaties (just don’t get unwittingly dragged out to sea!), perhaps some speakers to pump some feel-good tunes, and maybe a good book – I recommend ‘The Little Book of Hygge’. Once you’ve packed all this, and taken an adequate number of picturesque photos to stun all of your friends and family not lucky enough to be at Omaha, you’re well on your way to having the best day one could possibly have, and what’s more, it won’t cost you a cent.

Does life get any better?


Omaha Beach Coordinates: 36° 20′ 0″ South, 174° 44′ 0″ East

Download these diving directions to Omaha Beach to make the trip trouble-free.


Looking for some fab beach accessories to take your beach-day to the next level?  Check out these beauties!

         


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If you’re looking for another gorgeous beach not far from Auckland, check out Karekare – it was recently named as being amongst the best beaches in the world!

Activities Mid-Range New Zealand Oceania Reviews Tours

Not All Those Who Visit Matamata Are Lost: A Visit to Hobbiton

December 9, 2016
Exploring Kiwis Hobbiton review Matamata

What better way to kick off my debut travel here on Exploring Kiwis than with Hobbiton? After all, for many foreigners, Lord of the Rings is probably the first thing that springs to mind when they think of New Zealand – and I don’t blame them.

In truth, this isn’t my first visit to Hobbiton either – but I could never turn down a second trip! The first time was with my loving partner, Michael, as a birthday gift in winter. This time, I was doing the gift giving, with my family taking my nana for her birthday. Both trips were equally as thrilling, although with it being Summer in NZ now, this time around was a whole lot warmer. You won’t find me complaining about that!

So what is it about this place that has me coming back? I’m not a huge fan of tacky tourist spots, and while reading all of the books (sans Silmarillion) and watching the extended cut of all the movies might make me sound like a mega-fan, I’m actually not crazy about Lord of the Rings. No, it’s not the mere sight of a tourist attraction, nor a fangirl experience I’m looking for. When it comes down to it, Hobbiton really is just a magical experience, and a gorgeous part of New Zealand to explore – with a little production trivia in there that the film degree sitting in my room is very excited about.

It’s a gorgeous spot, that provides both a look into a hugely detailed film set, as well as a beautiful miniature town, that has you enjoying both the scenery, quaintness, and sheer dreaminess of it. It truly makes you wish this place was real – just so you can spend more time there!

I’m always impressed by the detail that went into it – and without spoiling any of the surprises, I can promise you’ll find yourself looking intently at each little hobbit hole!

It’s also fairly interactive at times – it’s not a museum, you can touch almost everything! There’s even a party field where you can play around with some of the party games. But only if the weather’s good.

But more than that, this is a great experience for those hoping to see a slightly embellished version of the Kiwi country life. There are streams, bleating sheep, and a gorgeous mini lake – in fact there’s even beer and meat pies at the end of it all!

It’s not all gravy though, I will say this, I wish you could have more time in Hobbiton. The sheer numbers of people who go through the site means that the tour is sped through, and there is little time to dawdle. If it were possible, it would be absolutely wonderful to be able to go at your own pace, and stay in the Green Dragon to drink your pint of mead as slowly as you’d like, or even kick your feet in the lake if you want to. It’s a serene spot – but the speed you have to go through it is anything but!

Unfortunately, if we all had the time to stay as long as we’d like, they’d find themselves overcrowded within hours. Logistical nightmares aside, it’s still a dream I like to contemplate.

So would I recommend it? Absolutely! It’s kid friendly (my 3 year old nephew had a BLAST even though he hasn’t the faintest idea what a hobbit is), it’s full of details and film trivia, it’s beautiful, and it’s a great little bit of excitement in a region of New Zealand where you might be wondering, what should we do today?

This was my second trip to Hobbiton, but I’m sure it won’t be my last!

Practical Information to Help You Plan Your Trip to Hobbiton

If you’re interested in hopping over to Hobbiton yourself, it takes around two or so hours of driving through the gorgeous New Zealand countryside to get there from Auckland.  Tour tour itself costs $79 for adults, $39.50 for kids 9 and up, and a gobsmacking $0.00 for anyone younger than that. I’d also recommend getting the tour that starts in Matamata – it’s the same price, but during the bus ride you’ll hear some solid Matamata and Lord of the Rings trivia, which is always nice!


Hobbiton Review Exploring Kiwis Worth the Visit

I hope you enjoyed reading my first travel post!  Granted this isn’t technically my debut blog (you’ll find that one here) but I’m excited to bring my travel experiences to Exploring Kiwis and to get to know you all better.  Happy travels.

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