(Update 2020: This post is a rough guide only, Rainbow Springs now have a few passes to choose from rather than a one off admission fee so different passes give different experiences, there is now no bird show and you can’t return at night to see a kiwi).
Some of the best dressed birds are at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua. There’s the Mandarin duck with its purple chest, layers of orange face feathers and bright red bill.
These smoochy masked lovebirds only have white ringed eyes for each other as they perch side by side in their yellow collars.
The plump New Zealand wood pigeon or kereru looks like it’s dressed in white painters overalls, its contrasting head, throat and wings the colour of iridescent mussel shells.
Fashionistas might say the kingfisher striking this pose looks a bit matchy matchy, but with a bill that long it can defend itself.
More well dressed birds are on display at the Exotic Bird Show at 11.30am. Charlie the yellow crested cockatoo may not be bright in colour, but he’s smart enough to stash coins in his money box.
Qantas the pink and grey galah flies over the heads of the audience – as you look up, mouth closed, just in case he makes a deposit of another kind. MJ the macaw is both bright and clever, he hung upside down before walking up, and sliding down a pole.
Another popular attraction aside from the colourful birds is The Big Splash. We were sceptical about how big a splash The Big Splash would make so as there was no queue we went right on in rather than watching a big splash first. Yes, well, at the top of The Big Splash I would say I was looking green around the gills, possibly the colour of the Eastern Water Dragon below.
The Big Splash begins sedately, you get into a little boat and start floating through time. You drift through some lush native bush before a dinosaur appears, mouth open and teeth bared. Then a Haast’s eagle flies over your head, and you enter a Maori village with a resident kiwi. Lovely.
You continue to float peacefully by signs of European settlement including small wooden buildings with horse tack on the railings. It was just past the little cabins that I started to feel sick because I saw this ……
It’s obvious Rainbow Springs are continuing the theme of what has been introduced to New Zealand, including the adrenalin activities the country has become known for. Although this wasn’t going through my mind as we entered a mine shaft and came out looking down the barrel of a steep drop ……….
There were no words, or air for that matter, it was sucked out of me as we zoomed down the water race. And the splash, it’s big alright, so big it obscured the boat and splashed me with enough water to bring back my senses, scepticism well and truly extinguished.
Back to the birds, this time our national icon, the flightless kiwi. You can do a behind the scenes Kiwi Encounter during the day. We didn’t do the tour on this visit but we did return to the outdoor kiwi enclosure at night. We were lucky enough to see quite a lot of 2 year old Frosty dressed in his cloak of brown feathers. We watched Frosty poking his long beak into his garden searching for snacks, he seemed oblivious to the crowd of admirers behind him.