One of Waitomo’s most picturesque locations is a finalist in the 2020 Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards.
The Department of Conservation is responsible for the management of Ruakuri Nature Walk, a family-friendly loop track considered one of the highlights of the district for visitors.
The walk is in the Ruakuri Cave and Bush Scenic Reserve which encompasses 114 ha of native bush and limestone formations and is 4km from Waitomo Village.
DOC’s Maniapoto District operations manager Oscar Emery says news the Ruakuri Nature Walk was a finalist for the awards came as surprise to his team.
"An anonymous member of the public has nominated Ruakuri Nature Walk for this award, and so we’d like to thank that person for their time and effort – it shows they really love this location.
"We’re thrilled to be a finalist. This is a beautiful spot we’re very proud to care for on behalf of the people of New Zealand."
Ruakuri means ‘Den of Dogs’ in te reo MƒÅori and was named by the chief Tanetinorau who was travelling through the area when one of his party was attacked by wild kurƒ´ (Polynesians dogs) defending their den. The area is of much spiritual and cultural significance to local hap≈´.
Local hap≈´ are pleased with the nomination as an award of this nature will ensure ongoing maintenance and investment by DOC into enhanced visitor experiences at the reserve and in turn preservation of the taonga, says Piki Knap, general manager of Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust.
Oscar says DOC staff who planned and built the walkway showed great vision and foresight, creating an easy walk out of what is a very challenging gorge location. The spectacular Ruakuri loop walk incorporates caste rock formations and includes several small caves for visitors to explore.
The walk takes visitors through a forested gorge, past natural sculpted cliffs, and under low limestone arches. The track follows the stream and then winds up around a network of limestone bluffs and outcrops before descending to the Ruakuri Natural Bridge viewing platform.
The platform extends out over a large cavernous tunnel where visitors can see large stalactites and stalagmites and a stream running along the bottom.
Waitomo’s world-famous glow worms illuminate the banks of the track at night.
The Ruakuri Nature Walk has also become one of the Maniapoto DOC District’s most popular sites, with more than 50,000 visitors a year over the last five years. A picnic area and the easy well-formed tracks provide for a great family-friendly experience.
A number of native birds fly through the scenic reserve, around the car park, and around the track. More commonly seen forest birds include kerer≈´ (native wood pigeon), t≈´ƒ´, p≈´wakawaka (fantail) and tauhou (waxeye). KƒÅ¬Årearea (New Zealand falcon) are often seen and heard from the car park.
Through a partnership with Discover Waitomo, DOC has predator control work underway in the area to protect native species.