I battled through the flax, chasing Ms 7’s green jacket as she charged up the hill. My phone blinked helpfully: “24 metres!”. We were on the hunt for a hidden treasure cleverly concealed in a secret spot – a geocache.
Never heard of geocaching? Neither had I. It’s a real-world treasure hunt that is happening all around the globe, and has been growing in popularity since 2000. Think of it a bit like hide-and-seek mixed with orienteering. There are over 2 million geocaches waiting to be found worldwide, including some in space! Sign up here, install the app (available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone), and you are away. Look for a nearby geocache, then head off with GPS enabled on your mobile phone to track it down using the app to guide you.
I was pleasantly surprised to find just around my local area there are about 10 or so caches. To give it a whirl though, we headed out to the beautiful Muriwai Beach on a stormy afternoon. There are a couple of caches out there to find, we tracked down the one by the gannet colony which involved scaling a small hill and navigating through flax and bushes to hunt it down. Once found, you sign the log book, and log it online as ‘Found’ in the app.
Beginner caches are helpfully highlighted in green when you are looking at the search results. Clues on size and terrain are given, plus sometimes a hint. You can also see what other people have said about the cache (which can be helpful so you know how difficult it is to find), and most importantly when it was last found. If it hasn’t been located for a while, it might have been moved or lost. The ones I looked at had all been located in the past week – there is a real community of geocachers even in Auckland!
Membership is free, although you can upgrade to premium level if you are keen. which allows you to do more on the website and app, such as bookmarking caches, searching outside of your current location and more. Some caches are only visible to premium members – to unlock these you need to be a paying member. Cost of a membership is US$9.99 for 3 months, or US$29.99 per annum.
So what did I think? And more importantly, what did the kids think? Geocaching is a fun, free outdoors adventure – easy to do, everyone gets involved and there is a great sense of accomplishment when you find the cache. Also a terrific activity for families while you are travelling, and a wonderful way to see parts of the world you would otherwise miss! My 7 year-old girls are a perfect age for it – still young enough to be excited by the thrill of a treasure hunt (and to be bossed around by Mum), but not old enough to want to hang out with their friends 24/7 and avoid boring family outings during the holidays.
I heard them yelling excitedly ‘This is FUN!’ – I rest my case.
You can join in the Geocache adventures here.