We’ve been attached from the beginning


Co-founder James Fitzgerald envisioned creating the most engaging zipline experience in the world.

Once the idea was planted, James set off to experience zip lines worldwide. He travelled to the USA, Canada, and Australia to experience various tours. He noticed that most zipline experiences focused solely on the ziplines rather than the location, environment, and overall experience. James wanted the opposite and aimed to design, construct and deliver the most engaging, immersive, world-class zipline experience that would be like no other in the world. As importantly, the adventure had to have minimal impact on the environment it was going to be experienced in. 

James scoured New Zealand for a suitable forest to build the zipline course he envisioned. Upon hearing about the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve (Okoheriki), he snuck out on a lunch break to take a helicopter ride over the forest. He quickly realised this incredible and ancient piece of land was the perfect location.  

When it came time to design and build the course, James lacked the practical skills. Despite approaching contractors, a worldwide boom in zipline courses made it challenging to find a suitable builder. Eventually, he enlisted the help of his friend from university, Andrew, an engineer with nearly a decade of experience.

Their partnership marked the beginning of realising New Zealand’s premier tourism experience.


Okoheriki is the ancestral land of Tura Te Ngākau Ki Ngongotahā and is managed by the Department of Conservation (DoC, Te Papa Atawhai ). To operate on this land, Rotorua Canopy Tours needed approval from Manawhenua and a commercial concession from Te Papa Atawhai.

James met with Ron Kyzer, DoC’s local Operations Manager, and proposed building a zipline experience, enabling the ancient forest to be restored and raising awareness about the biodiversity crisis.

Ron supported the idea, recognising the positive impact Canopy Tours could have on the vulnerable environment. Conservation became a significant part of Canopy Tours, aligning with New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 ambitions. 

After being trained by an arborist, Andrew led the construction of the Original Canopy Tour course, which took six months to complete and had minimal impact on the forest. The challenge of connecting zip lines between trees led Andrew to create our unique spud gun. This innovative tool facilitated the process, and despite initially taking a week to fit a zipline cable, we can now change a cable in a couple of hours.

James, who wasn’t allowed on the tools due to his lack of construction skills, lost 17 kgs from the labour-intensive carting of materials during construction. The course build was now complete, but sales and marketing were limited. How do you get customers to commit to being the first to try a new product? Resorting to knocking on camper van doors, after many failed attempts, James convinced an English couple. 

Jon and Charlotte became the first full-paying customers with a bribe of pizza and beer. They embarked on the adventure on August 17th 2012.

We always envisioned building a second experience

When James flew over the forest in 2010, he saw the depth of a valley and the extraordinary freestanding ancient volcanic rhyolite pillar that rose out of the Waiwhero Creek.

It stood fifty metres high. It was perfect and would be a showstopping feature for another experience. The Ultimate Canopy Tour was an opportunity to create something even more significant, taking guests further into the forest and unveiling New Zealand’s volcanic history. 

This build was different from the first. Andrew had six years to imagine what new features he could bring to life. Supported by more income than in 2012, we were able to prefab many of the features and have help from additional expert contractors alongside our team.

Ten members of our team spent months digging anchors, building platforms, and working with a local helicopter company as they flew the steel structures into the forest.

The Ultimate Canopy Tour has six zip lines and four bridges, similar to the Original Canopy Tour, but the design is on another level. The lines are faster and twice as long, including a 400m tandem zipline and a 400m tandem zip-line, which we had to design ourselves and was unique in itself. 

Then, a fifteen-metre-high spiral staircase wraps around a 1000-year-old Miro tree, a five-story floating staircase hangs between two Rimu trees, and a controlled descent lowers guests 18m from the canopy.

To say Andrew and the team nailed it is an understatement.




The remarkable engineering feat that is the Ultimate Canopy Tour was completed after 11 months of construction. Its first dazzled guests embarking on the adventure in July 2018. 

In just two years of operation, the Ultimate Canopy Tour has been named the #11th best adventure experience in the world by travellers on TripAdvisor.

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, Canopy Tours invited all past and present employees for an evening of food and drinks and shared stories. We contacted Jon and Charlotte, who shared photos from their inaugural tour, which they greatly enjoyed. The event highlighted the enduring vision of creating the most engaging zipline experience.

Over the years, Canopy Tours has attached over 260,000 customers, prioritising safety, delivering exceptional visitor experiences, sustainability, and restoring an ancient forest. The business thrives with 8,000+ 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor, numerous awards, and a positive workplace culture. Although James and Andrew moved on in December 2022, the company remains under the capable leadership of GM Paul Button and a committed Kiwi investment group.

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