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By Joleen Lunjew
"Let's go on a date" I said to my partner. "Where to?" he said. "How about Huka Prawn Park?"
Now before you go 'but Huka Prawn Park is only for families.." let me tell you that it is a great place for an adult outing as not only was it different and educational, it was fun as well.
Saturday came and we were there on the dot for the hourly guided tour around the centre. Do time your visit with the free guided tours as it was the highlight of our trip.
Originally from Malaysia, I was very amused to find out that the prawns are actually from my country as we are not known much for seafood. The species is called Macrobrachium Rosenbergii (Giant Malaysian River Prawn) and was chosen because they are good for commercial production. Basically because they breed fast and grow big, they can be harvested at 8 months. Our guide told us that their largest prawn was named “Horse” - an amazing 68cm. He died of old age at 2 years old.
Coming from tropical waters, the prawns won’t be able to survive in the cold Taupo waters so the park uses the nearby geothermal water to heat up the fresh Waikato River water up to 20c which they then circulates throughout the ponds. Their bill would be $40000 each month if they used electricity to heat the water up!
Our first stop was the educational tour through the Nursery & Hatchery where more than one billion babies are born each year. There are quirky signs placed at the various stages of their growth. A male stud has SEVEN girlfriends who spawn up to five times per year - a 50-gram female can produce up to 50.000 eggs. Had fun hand feeding the baby prawns – very ticklish and they bite!
Our guide showed us how to fish for prawns too. You need to be very very patient to fish for prawns which I am NOT. Draw in the line THREE minutes after you feel the first bite beacuse the prawns will want to take the bait away, run and hide, and then only start eating. It was torturous waiting.
Another popular attraction is “Shawn’s Walk” which incorporates an Interactive & Educational Hatchery Tour where guests can stroll through the park experiencing Shawn’s Jumping Rocks, Riverside Nature Walk which includes feeding wild trout and a Geothermal Foot Bath where visitors can soak their feet and enjoy fantastic views of the Waikato River.
We were getting hungry so we headed to their Riverside Restaurant where you can sample their prawns whole and other prawn dishes. Was a good feast indeed!
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