Rotorua - New Zealand's geothermal paradise is famous not only for it's hot springs, but for maori culture as well. One of the best places to learn about Maori lifestyle and traditions as well as whitness the power of Mother nature is Te Puia. One can spot errupting geysers and walk the beautiful Whakarewarewa geothermal valley in less than a day.
arrive before the crowds do
Te Puia is gorgeous, but could be very crowded as well. Especially during the high seasons when cruise ship guests are brought here for a day visit. Than you will have one group breathing in the back of the other. Who want this? Try to arrive early to have the most of your visit before the tourists groups arrive.
You can book all your tickets on-line, which will also save your time at the counter.
go with a guided group
I never thought I'd say this, because 99% of the time I travel on the self-organisatory basis, but I would highly recommend you taking a guided tour of the area. All the guides are of Maori origin and apart from useful information will share plenty of insides on Maori culture and lifestyle based on their own experience. So we learnt that due to the high geothermal activity in the area many families have their own private mud pools and steam sources popping up in their gardens.
go for Te Rā + Kai Ngāwha experience when with family
Te Rā + Kai Ngāwha experience combines a guided tour of the area as well as the Maori culture experience, flax weaving workshop and steambox lunch. It is entertaning and educational at the same time. And you also get to have a delicious lunch at the end. It's also great for families.
We started our visit by actually preparing our lunch box - a piece of chicken, a corn chank, some sweet potatoes and cabbage - to be later cooked on a geothermal well. You choose what and how much food you want.
Than all the lunch boxes were placed on a steam well and we proceeded to our tour. By the end of the tour the lunch was ready and we enjoyed al fresco lunch with a view over famous Pohutu Geyser.
Flax weavin workshop was also fun to attend - we made a flower out of palm leaves and one of the flowers made it back home with us.
Traditional Maori Perfomance is a great way to learn about Maori culture in an entertaining way. After a special ceremony you are invitied inside a traditional house where in songs and dances you will get to have a glimpse of the Maori traditions. I think that our little one enjoyed this part of the visit the most - she was dancing happily in her stroller to the beats.
NOTE: This is the tour with the fixed time! It runs only one time per day, so be sure to book in advance.
If you are traveling without kids be sure to go further and walk through the Whakarewarewa geothermal valley. You can spend the whole day wandering there and it is way less packed, because most visitors stay on the main route.
don't miss the pohutu geyser erruption
The largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere is not so easy to miss, but still watch out for the erruption times - it usually gets active once or twice per hour.
check out the kiwi house
Even though we would have loved to go on a special night kiwi spotting tour, traveling with a 2 year old made it close to impossible. So the only chances of seing a kiwi were recreational areas which are popular in New Zealand.
If like us you can't go on a special kiwi tour take your chance and combine you Te Puia visit with visiting a Kiwi House located on the premises.
Your eyes have to be well trained though, because it's pitch dark inside the kiwi house. With a bit of luck you will spy the inhabitants - two tiny fluffy birds living there.
During our visit kiwi decided to stay inside their birdhouses, so we didn't ge a chance to have a look at them. Wish you better luck!
- Don't forget to bring a hat and a strong sunscreen with you. You will be walking a lot through the open areas.
- check an Emotiki - a fun Maori emoji app for your phone.
- If you are curious (I was) to learn how Manuka plants look like - there are plenty in the area. Just ask your guide to point you one.
- Pay attention to the Maori architectural sights placed all over the Te Puia premises.
- Stroller is ok to take along if you are planning on taking the Te Rā + Kai Ngāwha experience. If you want to explore on your own and walk further into the Whakarewarewa geothermal valley you better take a trecking backpack for kids or a baby carrier.
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