For a truly authentic New Zealand nature experience don't go past the Otorohanga Kiwi House in the heart of the North Island. It's just 15 minutes from the world-famous attractions of Waitomo's Glowworm Caves, Black Water Rafting and cave eco-tours.
The Kiwi House & Native Bird Park is owned and operated by the Otorohanga Zoological Society Inc. - a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand's native wildlife through education, display and breeding programs.
We welcome New Zealand and international guests and offer concessions for schools and other interest groups.
Our native bird park is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. If you stay overnight in Otorohanga, you can arrange to have a night-time encounter with a Kiwi on our popular Kiwi Watch eco-tour. (There is excellent accommodation and dining nearby)
Living in New Plymouth whenever we drive North we always go past the fantastic Kiwis on the side of the road, decorated with the New Zealand flag on the outskirts of Otorohanga. We had always wanted to visit the park and we finally got the opportunity this past weekend. Finding the Kiwi House is very easy as there are sign posts all the way there.
Outside of the gates is a huge Kiwi which the girls jumped on and we got some lovely photos of. It got them both excited and they could not wait to get inside. Walking into the reception area there is a lot to look at and you are met by a friendly receptionist. We bought some duck food and received a map and then made our way into the park. Leaving reception you find a dark room and a huge Brown Kiwi. They are actually weird shaped and their beaks are huge. We stayed and watched for a good five minutes by that time the girls were itching to go.
I expected to see Kiwis everywhere. But this was the only Kiwi we saw. There was a door that said that Kiwi was on show from 1.30 - 5 and you could watch it being fed. From then on we saw heaps and heaps and heaps of Ducks. Every cage / pen / pond had ducks. Which was great as brought a lot of food for them but I really did expect to see more than just ducks.
There was a sign that said Eels feeding this way and looking in the dirty water we did see two eel tails but not the whole thing unfortunately. A lot of Wekas and a couple of Moorporks. A few Lorikeets and an Owl or two but mainly just more ducks. At the end of the walk you go into a large Aviary and I expected to find lots of exotic birds but again we were met with ducks. As we walked back into reception there is a sign that says you can go back and view the Kiwi again and so we did.
The girls really enjoyed the experience and loved getting up close to the animals and feeding the ducks, but both my husband and I were very disappointed and think they need to rename it "the Duck House' as I find the Kiwi House is very misleading.
My girls love animals and Miss 3 is particularly fascinated by the kiwi and kea. I wanted to take them to the Otorohanga Kiwi House for a while as this is the closest place to Hamilton to view Kiwi. It is less than an hours drive and well signposted. It is usually $20 for an adult but we got a GrabOne deal of $25 for a family pass. I really appreciated that under 5s are free as many attractions charge from a much younger age.
In the foyer there are displays about the kiwi egg including a preserved embryo. There were also some graphic taxidermy of animals attacking kiwi in the wild. This got us talking to the girls about the importance of protecting the kiwi and showed us that the Kiwi House wasn't just there to show off the birds but to protect and educate too.
In the Kiwi House I got closest I had ever been to a kiwi. The kiwi didn't seem affected by noisy kids stomping or us whispering. It came right up to the glass and poked its beak into the leaf litter. She was so big and fluffy. There are two kiwi houses. One for the morning and another for the afternoon so the kiwi are on display for a few hours each. The kiwi house has the right balance of lighting so you are able to walk through without fear of bumping into someone.
There are lots of other native birds throughout the park along with native reptiles. There were a few geckos that were well hidden but we were able to find all the others easily. I liked how they had a platform for kids to stand on to see many of the displays. We were fortunate to be there for the kea talk and the keeper was very knowledgeable and gave the kids a small piece of food each to hand feed one of them through the wire.
The Kiwi House has just opened a new walk in aviary for the kereru and kakariki. It was great to see the birds without glass separating us. The kaka were off display today as their exhibit was being refurbished. It is great to see that the staff are continually striving to improve the Kiwi House for both animals and visitors.
My advice for anyone thinking about visiting is follow their Facebook page so you know when the next special deal is coming up and grab a bargain visit. You won't be disappointed especially if you are a keen photographer.
Tucked away off the beaten track - in more ways than one - is a special little green gem. Some roughish signposts tell you where it is, but nothing prepares you for how tiny and professional - yet warm, friendly and professional - the operation is. We were fortunate enough to have been offered a "Behind the Scenes" tour by Paul, one of the senior crew. This entailed being walked around the park, stopping for info-bites and photo-ops with some of the most amazing critters.
Ever wanted to pat a Tuatara, or see one from 10cm away in it's natural habitat with no glass in the way? Want to be a bird-feeder to a bunch of crazy-fun kakariki? want to see a Kiwi in enough light you can actually see the individual feathers (which feel more like fur) and watch them feed? Want to see some of the biggest native eels in the area? It's all here, and more! It's a veritable smorgasbord of rare native species, including two of only three Great Spotted Kiwi in captivity... one of whom acts far more like a devoted puppy than an endangered bird! (Just ask Lou about that!)
What's more, if you want another really great experience, I have been told that the best trick is to rent a spot in the "Camp Kiwi" caravan and camping park right next door so that you can spend the day wandering around seeing all the amazing birds and reptiles, and then come back in the evening to do one of the twilight tours (Sparkly vampires not included ), then return to your portable accommodation for a quiet evening listening to the Kiwis calling. (For more details, check out the Camp Kiwi website: www.campkiwi.co.nz
Due to a slight delay in departure, we didn't arrive until just after 11am, and had to be on the road by 3:15pm, and I tell you this - 4 hours is NOT enough. Sure, you might be able to walk around everything in that time - I am positive it's possible - but you won't WANT to! If you are a bit of a shutterbug, you could easily spend a whole just inside the big domed enclosure alone! We were so frustrated at our self-imposed deadline we have decided this venue warrants a follow-up visit when we have more time... maybe while the kids are off at camp, so we can just wander around soaking up the amazing sights and sounds.
Overall, highlights were far too numerous to list, but they included an opportunity to handle a Tuatara, and a chance to act as a bird feeder stand for the Kakariki and have them eat walnuts out of the palm of my hand. As for let-downs... the only ones were entirely my fault and not those of the park. I didn't see the viewing platform in the dome, so missed out on a stunning view apparently, and we got there too late for the proper Kakariki and Eel feedings. Not too worried about missing the eels, actually. AND, if you are in a mobile accommodation, then you're less than half an hour away from the stereotypical tourist venue of the Waitomo glow-worm caves, so you can easily pop over here for a half-day or evening visit if you feel like it. The only other thing you might want to be aware of, as we saw on this visit, is that some of the tracks are not the best for wheelchairs and prams. Heavy-duty strollers are fine though.
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