Room Key: Treetops Luxury Lodge & Estate
Address: 351 Kearoa Road, Rd1, Horohoro/Rotorua, New Zealand
Phone: (011) 64-7 333-2066
Fax: (011) 64-7 333-2065
General Manager: Heiko Kaiser
Accommodations: Twelve villas plus a four-bed, four-bath family wing.
Rates: Family wing: June to August, $307 per person, per night; September to May, $512. Private villas: June to August, from $373; September to May, from $610. Rates include breakfast, cocktails, dinner and selected activities.
Commission: From 10%
Review: Part ecolodge, luxury hotel, and family adventure camp, Treetops immerses guests in New Zealand, especially native Maori, culture, cuisine, history, geography, flora and fauna. Accommodations are sophisticated and luxurious while ecofriendly. With just 12 villas spread over 25,000 rain forest acres, guests feel like they have the entire wilderness to themselves.
As the gravel road winds and twists its
way through the lush New Zealand forest, a handwritten sign assures
visitors they are on the correct path. Keep going, it reads. A mile
or so later, theres another. Nearly there, this one promises. And
when it seems that it surely cant be the right way, theres one more
sign: Just a bit farther.
But wait, was
that a hobbit poking its head above the silver fern? Nope, it was
just a possum, one of millions of the silky-haired, brush-tailed
marsupials in New Zealand. But the cheerful signs, the bumpy road,
the dense bush -- and the shadows of a fleeing possum -- are the
perfect introduction to Treetops Luxury Lodge & Estate, a
laid-back resort with abundant wildlife and endless open
adventure camp and ecolodge near Rotorua on New Zealands North
Island, traces its genesis to the 1980s, when real-estate developer
and New Zealand native John Sax purchased four adjoining parcels of
forest to preserve them.
I find it hard
not to be humble when I gaze into the canopy of a 800-year-old
forest giant, and I wonder about the generations that have come and
gone since that little seed sprang into life, Sax said.
On land that had
been deforested, he planted 175,000 native trees and bush to
provide a year-round habitat and food for protected species such as
the kereru, a native wood pigeon, and the New Zealand fern bird. He
created four lakes for wading birds and ducks. And when the
groundwork had been laid and the forest restored, he built
machines, were used to clear a spot in the bush, and buildings were
constructed from stone and naturally felled trees found on the
property. The main lodge is angled over a trout stream so as not to
divert the waters flow. Guests cross a timber bridge to reach the
With just 12
villas spread out over 25,000 acres, guests feel like they have the
wilderness to themselves.
Each villa is
like a private home, with a fireplace, in-room spa
tub, separate living room and bedroom, a view from every window and
a grassy backyard overlooking forested hills and dales.
The main lodge,
with its twig chandeliers, Maori carvings and stone floors, is
comfortable and cozy. Theres a game room, library, communal dining
room and kitchen.
Were as eco as we
can be, said lodge manager Heiko Kaiser, as he caught a black fly
in midair with his bare hands and released it outdoors.
A stay at
Treetops calls for plenty of time exploring the bush. All one has
to do is step outside to hear elk bellow and wild birds shriek and
sing, while peacocks and pheasants prance about. Even a walk to the
main lodge requires a hike through the rain forest (or a
three-minute ride on a golf cart).
Its as pure,
pristine and wild as anyone could want New Zealand to be, and as
luxurious and sophisticated, too.
immersed in local culture, cuisine, history, geography, flora and
fauna, with activities such as guided hikes, bird-watching and
four-wheel-drive safaris. Theres opportunities to spot elk, deer,
water buffalo and wild pigs. Maori crafts- people and artisans
visit the lodge to demonstrate weaving and woodcarving.
For an extra
charge, the lodge will arrange horseback riding through the rain
forest (from $94), helicopter excursions (from $628), lake cruises
(from $4,295 for three hours), trout fishing (from $410) or a visit
to Kiwi Encounters ($16), where participants meet kiwi chicks and
learn how to help the flightless birds, which are threatened with
Guests may also
participate in a tasting and wine-paired dinner ($58) hosted by
vintners from nearby wineries.
Indigenous Food Trail is the lodges most interesting offering.
Guests take a walk through the rain forest with Charles Royal, an
ecologist, chef and native Maori who sports holes in his earlobes
as big as quarters, tattoos covering much of his body and a
fist-size tiki pendant dangling from a chain around his neck.
(Thats nothing, he said: His grandfather wore a dead bird behind
guests to locate and harvest plants and herbs that the Maori have
used for food and medicine since they migrated from Polynesia a
millennium ago. Then he sets up camp under the towering Bridal Veil
waterfall and fries up grubs (yes, the maggot-looking, crawly
things), which he said are protein-packed and taste like peanut
If guests request
it, Royal can assist the Treetops chef in preparing a multicourse
meal incorporating native plants such as horopito, a chili pepper;
pikopiko, a fern; kumara, a type of sweet potato; and fried
kawakawa leaves, from the tree of the same name. The price for the
package is $115 per hour, including food and wine.
We want guests at
Treetops to enjoy a distinctive New Zealand experience and not
something they can get anywhere else, Sax said.
guests to experience what is all too rare in modern life, the joy
of simply experiencing ones senses. The cycles and dynamics of
natural life help put things into perspective.
To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail
to [email protected].