Fantasy Cave cries out for visitors

SUPER SIGHT: Logan Forrest, 3, outside the Dannevirke Fantasy Cave.
SUPER SIGHT: Logan Forrest, 3, outside the Dannevirke Fantasy Cave.

The Dannevirke Fantasy Cave is being ignored by Palmerston North people for the first time in the cave's 23-year history.

Ces Edwards, president of the Cave Dwellers Inc, a not-for-profit organisation that runs the fantasy cave, said no Palmerston North groups had made a booking since the Manawatu Gorge road's reopening.

"We're wondering what we've done wrong, because we can't work out what the reason is, really," Mr Edwards said. "Not when we can get people coming from Feilding and Whanganui and even further afield than that, but we can't get anyone coming from Palmerston North."

In previous years, school groups, kindergartens and Probus groups from the Manawatu's main city had booked in, but this year, the cave dwellers had seen only one or two casual entries who had made the 45-minute drive.

Although the city had similar attractions at Te Manawa and in The Plaza, the Dannevirke cave offered more, he said.

"They won't see anything else like this in the country, it's pretty special and we're pretty proud of it, actually."

Overall, numbers had picked up since the gorge road's reopening, he said.

In August, just 83 people came through the cave doors, but yesterday's numbers reached 204.

This included visitors from Feilding Playcentre, Pongaroa Playcentre, Kumeroa and Hopelands Playgroup near Woodville, Tikokino School from the Hawke's Bay and Takapau Playcentre from the Hawke's Bay.

The cave is now spread out over four levels from the entrance on High St to the back of the building and has a number of different attractions, including Santa Claus during December.

Feilding Playcentre treasurer Sara Dann made the 55-minute trip from Feilding with her 3-year-old daughter Carley Bateman and 23 other children and 18 adults yesterday.

"The kids really enjoy coming over on the bus and a lot of them don't often get to come over this way," she said.

"Last year we went to the Feilding one, but this one is bigger and is something different for them."

Mr Edwards said he hoped the cave continued for years to come because seeing the smile on children's faces made it worthwhile.

Since 2002, more than 150,000 visitors have walked through the attraction and in 2008 a record 17,000 people visited.

Manawatu Standard