KIWI FACTS: New Zealand's Precious Native Bird

Posted: 13 March 2017

In the lovely region of Rotorua, New Zealand, you’ll find quite a few amazing attractions such as Lake Rotorua, Kuirau Park foot pools, Lake Okareka Boardwalk and Rainbow Springs Nature Park, just to name a few. Rainbow Springs Nature Park nestles itself alongside the beautiful rain forests of Rotorua, NZ. The Park offers a family friendly, educational experience that aims to educate anyone and everyone about New Zealand’s diverse, fascinating and dynamic natural history. Rainbow Springs Nature Park also offers its guests a chance to get up close and personal with the creatures of New Zealand that call Rainbow Springs’ home.

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One of the little creatures that calls Rainbow Springs home is the cute little Kiwi! The iconic Kiwi bird, a national treasure to New Zealand is quite the odd little animal… Unlike most birds, the Kiwi is renowned for its incredible sense of smell and being a nocturnal animal. Similar to the kiwi fruit, the kiwi bird is more furry then feathery and is also flightless. Most birds have light, hollow bones which allow them to fly, but the Kiwi has adapted to life on the ground as they have heavy bones and very strong leg muscles. In fact they’re so unlike normal birds that the feathers on the Kiwi itself have more similar qualities to the fur on mammals than it does with the feathers of other birds.

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The Nature Park prides itself on the conservation work they do with this endangered species. Rainbow Springs first became involved in Kiwi conservation in 1975, and in 1995, joined the Operation Nest Egg programme (O.N.E) when they received their first egg from the Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary. Since 1995, Rainbow Springs has helped greatly in boosting the population of the Brown Kiwi in New Zealand’s North Island.

Rotoruas' Rainbow Springs now receives eggs from 15 different sanctuaries and reserves around the North Island of the country, meaning that it is New Zealand’s’ leading Kiwi hatchery as over 1500 eggs have been hatched at Rainbow Springs since 1995! An incredible achievement in the contribution to the survival of such an endangered animal!

The Department of Conservation staff, along with the field teams, keeps a close eye on the male kiwis during the breeding process and at the right time, the teams will safely take the eggs from the burrows of the kiwis and put them into incubation in the Kiwi Encounter Centre. This process allows the team to monitor the hatching process and let the young chicks hatch in peace, away from the very real danger of predators.

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Here at AAT Kings, we aim to do all we can in support of the conservation of New Zealand’s iconic native Kiwi bird. We contribute to the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Breeding Program in Rotorua which, in turn, helps the Department of Conservation staff raise and hatch the chicks, perform necessary health checks, monitor their well being day by day and research further into the incubation and rearing of the iconic Kiwi bird. All in all we aim to assist Rainbow Springs as much as we can by helping raise awareness about the vital protection of this national icon and play a vital role in their survival.

To read more about how AAT Kings support the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Breeding Program and other wildlife conservation programs read more about the Treadright Foundation.



1)  Even though the Kiwi Bird has wings, it cannot fly.

2)  Kiwi Birds are nocturnal and therefore feed at night.

3) In relation to the size of the bird laying the egg, the Kiwi Bird lays the largest egg in the world.

4) It is the only bird in the world with nostrils at the end of its beak.

5) It has marrow in it's bones, just like humans.

6) Female Kiwi Birds have 2 ovaries, whereas most other birds only have 1.

7) Its feathers are more like fur.

8) The Kiwi Bird has whiskers, similar to those of a cat.

9) At night, the Kiwi Bird predominantly uses it's smell of smell to find it's way around rather than its eyes.

10) The Kiwi Bird is able to dig and hunt for food with its beak to the depth of 12cm.



Dane Hinchy, AAT Kings

New Zealand’s Top 5 Romantic Destinations

Posted: 13 February 2017

romance in queenstown

With its glacial lakes and mountain vistas, it difficult to think of anywhere more romantic than New Zealand. Why not explore its sights with the one you love the most?

New Zealand may be touted as the adventure capital of the world but for those looking to take things at a slower pace, there are an abundance of places where romance can flourish. And if you’re looking to treat someone special in your life this Valentine’s Day, then why not book a selected AAT Kings guided holiday and save 10%.

For some inspiration, here’s our list of five of the most romantic spots New Zealand has to offer.

1. Lake Tekapo
With the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo as a backdrop, it’s not difficult to understand why brides flock to the Church of the Good Shepherd to get married. Even if nuptials aren’t on your mind, a romantic walk around the grounds shouldn’t be missed.

nz lake tekapo

2. Milford Sound
If serenity is your idea of romance, then a cruise through the ancient glaciers and mountains of Milford Sound should top your list. You really will feel as though you and your loved one are all alone.

nz milford sound page

3. Arrowtown
Take a step back in time to the gold-mining ‘hub’ of Arrowtown. The preserved late 19th century architecture helps you to fully appreciate what life would have been like during the gold-mining boom. The pace of life here is slow, making it an ideal place to simply do nothing other than enjoy the company of your partner. 

nz arrowtown fall folliage page

4. Glowworm Grotto, Waitomo
It may not be a night beneath the stars but the luminescent light of these tiny glowworms will ensure you radiate romance. As you meander through the caves, guided by the light emanating from the arachnocampa luminosa, to give them their proper name, you really will be at one with nature.

nz waitomo glow worm caves

5. Winery - you choose
Whether it’s a cool fruity Sauvignon Blanc or a light and delicious Pinot Noir that takes your fancy, a walk through one of New Zealand’s numerous wineries, followed by a glass of wine shared with someone special is the epitome of romance.

nz hand holding a bunch of wine grapes at a new zealand winery

Save 10% on AAT Kings Guided Holidays in New Zealand when you book and pay in full by 26 April 2017. AAT Kings brings the very best that New Zealand has to offer and its friendly Travel Directors and Driver Guides bring each destination to life.

Credit: Your Life Choices




New Zealand Wine Country

Posted: 17 January 2017

What makes New Zealand wine so good? From world famous Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris varieties, this small but influential country in the South Pacific has got what it takes. Could it be the climate… Or could it be the rich alluvial soil that covers much of this island nation?

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New Zealand has a farming tradition dating back to the first settlers, the Maori, around 800 years ago, a very short recorded history. The Maori cleared land to plant gardens of kumera and yams amongst other crops and when European settlers arrived more land was cleared and large-scale farming began. Along with the sheep and cattle farms, grapes were introduced with the first vineyard finding its feet in the Hawkes Bay region in 1851.

There are nine major wine producing regions in New Zealand with five located on the North Island, the most famous region being Hawkes Bay. While in Auckland, take some time to visit Waiheke Island. Just a short ferry ride across the harbour you can explore around twenty vineyards with tastings, restaurants, vineyard cafes and spectacular views of the city on offer.

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The remaining four wine regions are located on the South Island with Marlborough the most renown. It is here that some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blancs are produced. British talk show host Graham Norton was so taken with the quality of the wine that he purchased a stake in one of the wineries (Invivo Wines) apparently drinking it exclusively on his show and lending a hand with its production.

With all of this amazing wine it is no surprise that there are some fantastic eateries to be found on both islands. Auckland has an array of cutting edge restaurants and Wellington has more places to dine per capita than New York City. Queenstown, home to the Central Otago wine region, is brimming with hip cafes and smart relaxed dining.

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There is something special about New Zealand. You only truly realise it when you visit. With its friendly people, great natural attractions, immersive culture and brilliant food and wine, you will not want to return home.

Travel through the striking Central Otago wineries and indulge in unique flavours in the Marlborough wine region on our 15 Day 'New Zealand Experience' Guided Holiday.


Peter Rasmussen, AAT Kings

Exploring the waterfalls of the Top End!

Posted: 2 August 2016

The sun was burning, the humidity was extreme and we’d been driving for an hour and a half. We hopped off the coach, eager to climb down the 150 stairs that would lead us to Florence Falls. After a quick pit stop at the viewing platform to catch our first glimpse of the two cascading waterfalls, we continued.

At the bottom, we crossed over a small, freshwater, crystal clear creek. The falls were out of sight, but we could hear water crashing down into the rocky pool. After manoeuvring over and around a few small boulders we had finally arrived.

florence falls litchfield blog

Florence Falls

Pictures were taken and then shoes were coming off as everyone made their way into the refreshing waterfalls. It was a hard task to swim to the base of the falls and I highly recommend you do it without holding a waterproof camera in your hand. But it was worth the struggle to experience the power of the water falling onto your head and giving you what could be considered an ‘outback shower’.

Experience an oasis of waterfalls only 2 hours south of Darwin

The falls, the swimming hole and its surrounds were incredibly beautiful and natural. We could have spent all day here lying on rocks, taking underwater pictures and basking in the sun, but we had to press on, so we scaled the 150ish stairs again. This time it was a little more difficult as we were going up, not down (there is an alternative trail to take if stairs aren’t your thing).

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Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls and the termite mounds were calling. We boarded the coach and continued on our mini outback adventure, certain that it couldn’t get any better than what we had already experienced...but oh how we were wrong!

Visiting the Norther Territory? Check out our Litchfield National Park Waterfalls - Full Day Tour for more information.

BIO: Travel addict, experience collector and culture seeker Ash has a never-ending bucket list. She loves foreign accents, food markets, and sunsets. You'll find her sharing her travel tips and destination advice on Instagram and Facebook as Travel Into Living.

Ash Fanning, Creator of Travel into Living

Field of Light Uluru by Bruce Munro

Posted: 1 August 2016

Last week I was fortunate enough to be part of the Media launch for the Bruce Munro Field of Light. We boarded the coach at 5am bound for a unique desert destination. Our Driver Guide gave us a brief welcome and introduction, but also kept us in a certain amount of suspense. We ventured down a short dirt road, disembarked the coach and had a small walk to the first viewing platform.


What makes Uluru Field of Light so special?

This is where my early morning start was rewarded by a scene never experienced before. The silent morning air was filled with ohhhhhhs and ahhhhhhhhs as we looked towards the direction of Uluru to where we were met with 4 acres of flowing fibre optic lights. The ohhhhhs and ahhhhhhhs soon turned to a tranquil peace and quite as everyone stopped to enjoy the fibre optic display gently changing colour with the backdrop of the Milky Way and night sky.


After a cup of tea I wandered down to begin my walk amongst the lights, this was a magical and breathtaking experience unlike anything I have ever experienced before! You can find a place all to yourself to stand or crouch in amongst the changing fibre optic lights that gently change from green to red to purple to blue. The lights are so gentle and don’t distract from the clear night sky. I found myself looking at the Milky Way then back to the Field of Light without having to adjust my focus. As the morning progressed I could see the Desert Oak trees and spinifex grasses start to appear as the sun began to rise. This added another spectacular element to the morning, the sun slowly rising and taking over as the fibre optic lights ever so slightly started to fade away. So many wow factors in one morning.


This experience was breathtaking, tranquil, mesmerising and is one that will remain with me for the rest of my life, a must see by all who visit the amazing Red Centre. Find out more about our Field of Light Sunrise Tour.  


Brett Holmes, Day Tours Manager, AAT Kings

AAT Kings' Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Getaway!

Updated: 2 August 2016 Posted: 2 May 2016

I was recently very lucky to be apart of a photo competition run by AAT Kings which offered the entrants of the top 2 most unique and creative photos a spot on the ultimate behind the scenes Wildlife Warrior Getaway at Australia Zoo.

The day started off early as we all filled up on breakfast before our drive from Caloundra to Australia Zoo. The anticipation of our exclusive and behind the scenes experience was building as we arrived promptly at 9am at the Zoo. First up was our morning tea and presentation from koala expert Rosie who shared with us the history and important work of the Wildlife Hospital. The hospital has treated over 8000 koalas and on average treats between 600-800 koalas every year.

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It was now time to head outside for a guided tour of the hospital’s surrounds. We walked around the different koala enclosures and met a number of the patients that were recovering from a variety of injuries and diseases. We learnt about the process of collecting different eucalyptus branches and leaves for each koala to eat…fussy bunch they are! Every day a shed is filled to the brim with an array of eucalyptus branches; you wouldn’t believe that all these branches would last just a day, with the process to be repeated each and every morning. We then split into two groups with one heading off to refill the food stock in the plantation area, where recovered koalas spend 1 month before being released back into the wild and the other group was to help tidy and clean the enclosures.

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Next on the itinerary was to head over to the zoo to have our photos taken with a resident koala. Diesel was a cuddly little koala, however deceivingly heavier than you would expect. Nonetheless he put on his best poses for the group! After this we were in for a slightly different experience as we took our VIP seats for the live Croc Show at the Crocoseum! We witnessed an amazing bird show and a few lucky attendees in the group had a rather close encounter with an eagle! The excitement started to build in the arena as an enormous crocodile made its way through the water. It was such an exciting experience to watch the keepers feed the enormous croc as your heart raced! After all that excitement it was time for a well-deserved lunch at the Feeding Frenzy Food Court.

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After lunch we made our way back to the Wildlife Hospital for our VIP and behind the scenes tour. It was a truly amazing experience to witness the vets providing world class care to a range of different animals and to see what’s possible through the Australia Zoo and AAT Kings partnership. We were lucky enough to witness koala Brash receiving his pre-release check up after recovering from being hit by a car; miraculously he had no broken bones! We saw a bird having its bandage removed after a leg injury and a carpet python by the name of Snape who had been hospitalized with deep lacerations as a result of being attacked by a duck.

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We finished off rest of the day at the zoo at our leisure. It was a fantastic experience and one I will not forget; I hope our winners enjoyed their experience just the same.

Interested in visiting Australia Zoo? See below for AAT Kings tours that include a visit to Australia Zoo.

East Coast Islands and Rainforest Guided Holiday
East Coast Beaches and Reef Guided Holiday
Crocodile Express & Australia Zoo Day Tour
Brisbane & Australia Zoo Short Break

Blog contributed by Bridget Toogood, Digital Marketing Executive, AAT Kings

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