One of the most highly recommended things to do on your trip to New Zealand is to enjoy a Māori cultural experience. The Māori people and culture are truly unique to New Zealand so this is something you can only experience when visiting Aotearoa, the Māori name for NZ.
While you will notice the Māori influence throughout the country, the region around Rotorua on the North Island is the most popular place to attend an interactive culture experience geared towards curious visitors. At Kirra Tours, we have a unique Māori cultural experience as part of our North Island tours.
What to expect from a Māori cultural experience
Our North Island tours take you from Rotorua to the shores of Lake Aniwhenua, a small lake fed by the Rangitaiki River. This is the longest river in the Bay of Plenty at 150km in length.
We will spend the day at Kohutapu Lodge, owned by a local Māori family who is passionate about sharing their heritage and culture, as well as developing their local community. The lodge itself is situated on the lakeshore, overlooking the tranquil water and forests.
Sacred Māori rock carvings
The experience begins with a guided tour of the ancient sacred Māori rock carvings in the Kaingora forest. These carvings depict traditional Māori canoes, wave patterns and human faces. The carvings are the oldest in New Zealand and are thought to pre-date the local iwi Ngati Manawa. In fact, they have been carbon-dated back to 1050AD.
A traditional Hangi lunch
From there, we’ll head to Kohutapu Lodge for a traditional Māori Hangi lunch. The family are proud to tell you that their ancestors have been cooking in this way for hundreds of years. You will see them prepare the feast, where the food is cooked on hot rocks, which are placed in a pit. Once the meats and vegetables are placed on the rocks, they are covered with wet sacks and more earth, before being cooked for up to 3 hours.
Then, your unique buffet lunch is ready to share. The results are delicious smokey and earthy flavours imparted to the food slowly cooked in this traditional way. After experiencing a beautiful Māori Hangi feast, you’ll never want to eat a burnt sausage on a barbecue again!
Whirinaki Forest Walk
After your Hangi lunch, you’ll enjoy an amazing guided walk through the Whirinaki native rainforest. As well as exploring the Rongoa trail, you’ll have the chance to see a number of New Zealand’s endangered native birds as your guides call them out of the treetops! You’ll also hear about the ancient Māori history of the forest as well as discover traditional Māori medicine plants and learn how they were used.
Your guides will recount more of the Māori myths and cultural tales that have been handed down through the generations, while you enjoy a hot kawakawa tea brewed in a billy can in the forest. The tour ends with a Karakia, Māori prayers and incantations that symbolise greetings, spiritual guidance and protection.
Your Māori cultural experience at Kohutapu Lodge and in the Whirinaki rainforest will be a truly special day on your Kirra Tour of North Island. It will leave you with unforgettable memories and a glimpse into the ancient Māori way of life. Browse all our tours here to see which include this unique Māori experience.
If you would like to speak and understand a few Māori words and sayings, then browse through this article about Te Reo Māori.