Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua
Following a day touring the Hobbit holes in Hobbiton we had an exciting evening ahead in the Tamaki Maori Village. Founded by Mike and Doug Tamaki, the Maori Village evolved from their original bus tours and concert performances in tents which educated visitors about Maori culture. As their vision evolved and grew, combining traditional and contemporary elements, local Maori people were able to get jobs working within the village and establish cultural links within Rotorua.
The evening is comprised of a meal and concert as well as participating in a variety of outdoor activities in the Maori Village. We were collected from the hostel by Tamaki Tours by a very friendly driver who was keen to fill us in about what to expect from the evening and he gave us useful information regarding the Maori culture and informed us that the village was a recreation of a traditional village from the 1600s which is set in a 200 year old native Tawa forest. Our first task of the evening was to nominate someone on the tour bus to act as our ‘tribal leader’ who would greet the leader of the tribe within the Tamaki Maori Village. The challenge was to see if you came as friend or foe in the traditional welcoming ceremony! The guy we nominated looked a little nervous as he was addressed by the leader of the tribe but thankfully, he passed and was visibly relieved! The rest of the tour group sat by in respectful amusement! The welcome also includes the Maori talking about their spiritual existence and their rivers, mountains, and waters. They perceive the environment like a religion and show respect and appreciation for everything that has a life force.
We enjoyed our walk through the Pre-European Maori Village and engaged in a variety of traditional games and customs. We were invited to learn the haka or the poi and were also able to take part in some of the games such as stick games and warrior training! There were plenty of opportunities to take photographs and videos and enjoy the rich cultural heritage that was on display with the friendly and informative Maori people. We were also given the opportunity to witness our traditional hangi meal being lifted from the pit, where it had been cooking on hot stones for several hours.
The evening concert allowed us to witness powerful performances from the last 150 years of Maori history, which involved singing and dancing and of course the haka. We were invited to film the experience and share it with family and friends. Sharing the deliciously prepared hangi buffet meal is an important Maori custom and we thoroughly enjoyed the food! We were also treated to an awesome New Zealand dessert buffet which included home made pavlova and steam pudding! The evening was absolutely fantastic, with a wide range of Maori cultural experiences and the delicious food and an excellent send off at the end of the evening we listened to inspirational closing speeches and more traditional songs and dance and then a relaxing ride home escorted by the friendly Maori drivers. Together with the experience of Hobbiton and the Tamaki Maori Village this was an unforgettable day of my New Zealand trip.