Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Nine Weeks in Napier- Part 3; Taupo Prawn Park


Actually, there's now going to be four parts to the Napier posts; I was going to tag this one under the last blog but it was starting to get too long and this one really needed it's own post.

Not long after Christmas, we took a road trip to Taupo for the day to meet up with our Southland family who were holidaying in Tauranga over Christmas. We thought the Huka Prawn Park would be a great meeting point, we could have lunch at the restaurant and then the kids (big kids included) could have a go at catching some prawns.

It's not cheap, but keep in mind it can be a whole day's entertainment if you stay long enough. It's $75 per family or $30 per adult and we decided it was a lot of fun and worth the expense. Admission includes a talk on the history of the park and a short tour of the prawn hatchery and holding tanks before you're let loose on the large fishing ponds full of mature prawns.

Feeding baby prawn in the hatchery
Huka Prawn Park is quite unique and is New Zealand's only prawn farm; waste geothermal heat from the geothermal power station next door is used to heat water brought into the ponds and tanks from the Waikato River. Female prawns spawn five times a year and can produce up to 50,000 eggs each time. Prawns grow very fast and are ready to harvest at 8 months of age. With 19 ponds in total the Prawn Park has can produce over 5 tonnes of prawns a year. From memory, I think they said that all their prawns are used in the restaurant, they don't have enough to on-sell or export.

Here's a mature male prawn (blue arms) in one of the aquariums on display.

There are also a number of free boating activities and quirky water attractions, a bush and riverside walk, trout to feed and thermal hot water foot baths (while you fish and a bigger one at the end of the river walk).

We had lunch on the deck overlooking the Waikato River, watching the Huka Jet race up and down the river taking tourists to the base of the Huka Falls. We decided to have lunch (several tasty prawn dishes) before we went fishing, that way, it wouldn't matter if we didn't catch any afterwards. You can either cook your prawn catch in the cooking hut near the ponds, or take them home for to eat later.

After lunch the family headed to ponds, collecting our bamboo poles with a string and tiny, tiny hook on the end. We were also given small buckets of water to hold the catch and a tiny pottle of chopped ox heart for bait. 

Ollie & Ruby started out with great enthusiasm but it wasn't long before boredom set in when they didn't catch anything. We'd been told not to pull the line up too soon after feeling a bite. Once a prawn locates the bait on the floor of the pond, it'll nibble it, then grab it and take it away to hide and eat it by itself. That's when you pull it up. Some people obviously had the right knack as they had several prawns in their buckets.  

With Poppa being the fisherman in the family, Ollie and Ruby shifted to fish beside him; hoping they might have a bit more luck. It wasn't forthcoming.

Frustration set in with everyone in the end, so we decided to have a walk around the park, ride the water craft, try the various water features, feed the trout, meet Shawn the Prawn and soak our feet in the foot bath. 

We found this 'meatball' of tiny fish swirling around beside the outlet from the large foot bath. They're not prawns though, I'm not sure what they are, some looked like tadpoles.

By the time we left mid-afternoon, the Prawn Park was extremely busy and the carpark overflowing. We definitely arrived at the right time (10am) and having lunch just before 12pm, as the large restaurant (seating for 400) was now overflowing with people with many more queuing for a table. 

We decided to drive down to the lake waterfront so the kids could have a swim but when we got caught in a very slow moving traffic queue just past Huka Falls we decide we'd had enough and pulled in near the giant cycle to say our goodbyes. We then turned around and headed for home; the family back to Tauranga and us via the by-pass back to Napier.

We stopped for a cup of tea at the Waipunga Falls which are about halfway along the Napier-Taupo Road. As we turned into the road up to the lookout David commented that there was a row of cars with indicators going approaching the turnoff from the other direction. By the time I took a couple of photos and turned around, the carpark- that only had us parked in it a minute earlier- was now full of cars and people pouring out every door and filling up the viewing area. Our peace and quiet shattered, we decided against a cup of tea, pulling out and heading home. We're fast learning how many people are on the roads up here in the North and especially how many are visiting tourist attractions over the holiday period. 

Many people don't realise this magnificent waterfall is just off the Napier-Taupo road in the middle of nowhere. In fact there's not just one waterfall there are two, although it's a little harder to view Waiarua Falls which are hidden by the bush to the left of the Waipunga Falls.

To be continued...

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