Zipline Tours in Rotorua – How Rotorua Canopy Tours began

It took nearly 5 years from the spark of inspiration until tour first customers came on a zipline tours with us. Since then over 90,000 guests have enjoyed the magic of this native New Zealand forest.

So if you’re interested – here’s the story about how it all began…

Like all good things they take time – the concept for Rotorua Canopy Tours began way back in 2008. An idea that zipline tours could be a fun and exciting way to transport people through a truly awesome New Zealand environment.

James Fitzgerald was dreaming up his idea of a zipline tour company. It would be in a native forest full of ancient trees, birds singing everywhere and people laughing, learning and having the time of their lives. But there were a few hurdles – firstly where was this forest? How would we build it? How could we pay for this? And how on earth do you run a zipline company?

Andrew and Nick sitting on the new platform at the start of the longest ziplineAbove: Nick and Andrew having a break while building the highest platform on the course, 22 meters off the ground!

As the years went by the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place – James found the perfect native forest on the outskirts of Rotorua. He also found someone to share his dream, university mate Andrew Blackford, who happened to be an engineer! Andrew had some great ideas and believed he could design and build James’s zipline system. With a few research trips to zipline tours overseas James and Andrew learnt that with a bit of trial and error they could also run this company.

The real work began on 1 March 2012, James and Andrew left their jobs and walked into the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve to build what would become Rotorua Canopy Tours.

Launching a potato gunAbove: Testing the spud gun before putting it to work in the forest.

They discovered very quickly that the secret ingredient to building a zipline course in this forest was a spud gun – that’s how the lines were launched and the heavy duty wire pulled into place. Check out the video here

After 6 months, with a bit of luck, some weight loss, arguments and help from family and friends it was ready!

Next we needed some staff. Luck stayed on our side when we found some champions looking for a new path in life. Welcome Dan and Alex, our new zipline guides! Now bring on the customers…

These proved hard to come by in the beginning. Charlotte and John from England were our first. James found them brewing soup in their campervan at the lakefront. He banged on their window and didn’t let them go until they agreed to come ziplining. In fact that’s how we found our first few days of customers! Filling the zipline tours was hard work. While it looked cool, people weren’t prepared to take a risk spending a few hundred dollars on something unknown.

Slowly we gained momentum, papers started running stories and news channels started playing footage. People started arriving and writing incredible reviews online and we started to grow. Our little team went from 4 to 8 to 12 to 25 then 35 all within 3 years. It was awesome!!!

New Canopy Tours headquartersAbove: Our zipline tours depart from here. – Rotorua Canopy Tours brand new, purpose built headquarters at 147 Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua.

We soon started taking on more staff, and quickly outgrew our premises in the suburbs. We bought some land and developed a purpose built headquarters at the entrance to Rotorua (and closer to the forest). With the amount of customers coming through we could get on with our conservation dream also – that’s a different story in itself click here to hear about the conservation project.

And that brings us to today Rotorua Canopy Tours is 5 years old and is now well and truly entrenched as an exciting and educational adventure for holidaymakers to Rotorua.

And by the way – we have some exciting plans for the future – so keep an ear out!!

One comment shared

  1. Sue Schick says:

    I think it was you Andrew I heard on National Radio this morning, I absolutely loved hearing the Canopy Tours story. Congratulations on creating such a wonderful facility and more importantly helping to retain our precious bush and it’s inhabitants, brilliant. What huge pleasure and education you are providing. Keep up the great work.

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