A rare bad review

As my followers know, I rarely give bad review but today I will.

Against my better judgment, but having only seen one hornbill in Borneo, I decided to visit a “zoological & botanical garden” in Bintulu, Sarawak as brochures say they have a walk-through aviary, and one says a walk-through hornbill aviary. (Not the facilities flyer in that case) so my expectations were high for a photo. And you know what expectations do … set you up for disappointment.

There was no walk through aviary: it was announced as a walk through “aviary” which led through some bush and trees: using their criteria, the world is an aviary which of course it’s patently not.

The setting is lovely; the plants are great, but I was upset at the conditions for all the creatures there. Maybe I’m over reacting but my concerns were.

The birds of prey did not seem to have enough room
The crocodiles could not lie in their water without their tails being curved
And the hornbills were in cages alone each as a single bird and did not seem happy

I didn’t explore any further so have no idea about the tigers

I know it’s not easy to have a good zoo, but this one needs more space given to some creatures … maybe reduce the varieties of the birds of prey so they have more room.

Sadly, this is not a place I’d recommend.

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Five top tips for while in Wellington: New Zealand’s capital of cool.

Here are my five top tips for outdoor activity in Wellington – New Zealand’s capital of cool.

Te Wao Nui, Auckland Zoos’ latest development

Te Wao Nui,  Auckland Zoos’ latest development opens in one month (Sunday, 11 Sept. 2011) and, one of the benefits of being a travel writer is you can get off the beaten track – or in this case, behind the fenced off area! With my ‘high-vis’ jacket on, I’m taken on a mini tour of the area by Jane Healy who is enthusiastic about the project.   

“Much of the work the zoo has done with native species has taken place behind the scenes. The Archey’s frog, for instance was housed off-display. Now, with Te Wao Nui, people will be able to see them and many more New Zealand native species” she tells me.

Covering one fifth of the Zoo, the area gives locals and tourists a unique experience of New Zealand with over 100 New Zealand native plant species and around 60 different animal species through six habitats’

I cross over the Old Stone Bridge and can see most of the area which is very close to completion and have the birds move in and settle before the public come to see them.   Here is a little of what is saw … in no particular order!

Jane tries to duck from the camera as we enter one of the areas of Te Wao Nui

The Islands area has a large Kauri Dam (originally a working one that has been moved here) and a large aviary where Tuatara, the Campbell Island Teal and Antipodes Island Parakeet, skink and geckos will live.

Wetlands has a large walk-through aviary, backed by a high mock-rock wall,  will hold: native eels, Kotuku, Pied Stilt, Kingfisher, Ducks  such as Shovellers,  Scaup, Grey Teal, and one of my favourites, the Paradise Shelducks.

The Night Forest is a large shed and will house the North Island Brown Kiwi, Ruru, and Short-tailed Bats. Its great people will be able to see these natives up-close, in the middle of our largest city.

On an island like New Zealand, the Coast is highly important. In this area of the zoo, Sea Lion and Fur Seals will be on show, while in the refurbished shore-bird aviary, Little Blue Penguins, White-faced Heron and Spotted Shags will be resident.

The Forest is the old walk through aviary (upgraded and re-fenced) which I well remember as that is where I first saw the beautiful black and tan saddleback (tieke). Evidently, Kokako, Kakariki, Brown Teal and kereru will be just some of our wonderful birds that will live in there.

Waiting for the whio!

As a Cantabrian, I was of course interested in The High Country. This will house the cheeky, and intelligent Kea, and the Blue Duck (Whio) – in its fast flowing ‘mountain stream’. The Whio is a unique and threatened species of waterfowl endemic to New Zealand. It is the only member of its genus and has no close relative anywhere in the world. Curious weka will also be here: a children’s playground is sited here too – a great place for parents to sit and chat while kids burn off some energy and natural surroundings.

I look forward to returning to the zoo to see the birds (and others) in their new, reproduced ‘normal’ native habitat. Te Wao Nui will be an asset to Auckland Zoo with its current and future conservation efforts on behalf of New Zealand’s native species.

Have a short break in Auckland

Fancy a short break in Auckland? I’ve just had one, and before I get those stories written, here’s a brief overview of my few days before the stories are written.  I’m happy to recommend all the choices I made. Bookmark this page so you get to hear about them in more detail very soon – some in the print media, and some online on this blogs pages.

My little holiday started with a train trip on the Overlander, a 12-hour journey from Wellington to Auckland. What fabulous scenery is hiding from those who usually drive up there!  Paul Theroux says ‘trains are the only way to travel’ – it certainly was relaxing.

My choice of accommodation was the Quadrant Hotel  in central Auckland. With four stars, green goals and very handy (often walking distance) to many of the places I wanted to visit. For the others, it is also close to the Britomart transport hub and wharf.

So, as well as the train and hotel, what else will I be writing about?  Well, Kelly Tarlton and the Auckland Zoo are ’must-sees’ for kids and adults alike.  Also, the zoo has its fabulous new Te Wao Nui opening in September (2011) so make sure you bookmark this page as that’s the first story I will be writing. The Auckland Museum is a traditional museum with interesting flourishes – it seems it’s also the only place in Auckland where you can experience a Maori cultural performance daily.

Local Maori also host guided walks (Tamaki Hikoi) and I had a Prince show me around the volcano that the museum sits on the rim of (well, not exactly A prince, but Prince by name!) This was the perfect way to start an Auckland trip with family and local tribal history – it sort of set the scene!

So, there’ s a taster of what’s to come . . . in the meantime check out the links above and come back here soon.

Editors are of course welcome to contact me for stories about any, or all, of these topics.