Experiencing New Zealand Maori Culture

Arts & Culture

An enriching evening awaits those fortunate enough to experience a live cultural show in Rotorua.

Situated in the heart of the North Island, Rotorua is recognized as the cultural centre of Maoridom. For well over 100 years an infusion of culture has permeated the region, delighting and educating visitors with an experience that is as unique as it is enriching.

The magnificent Pink and White Terraces, situated on Rotorua’s doorstep, drew visitors to the region for a decade prior to their destruction during the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption. Then, in 1908, the Great Bath House became a major drawcard, with people from all over the world flocking to Rotorua to experience the healing powers of the local geothermal waters.

Maori cultural experiences geared toward tourists developed to capitalize on the fame of the Bath House. With over one third of the population of Rotorua being of Maori descent, the spirit of cultural sharing, hospitality and friendship is alive and well. The modern tourist industry is a major source of employment in Rotorua, pumping valuable dollars into the local economy.
Maori Live Shows

The unique culture of the Maori people is magnificently showcased in the live shows for which Rotorua is famous. A live show allows the visitor a unique hands-on experience that takes them to the very heart of Maori culture. From the traditional sacred welcoming ceremony to the awesome, spine tingling haka and the sumptuous multi-course hangi feast, an enriching evening awaits those fortunate enough to experience a live cultural show in Rotorua. 

There are four major Maori cultural shows to choose from. Let’s consider them one at a time...

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village is New Zealand’s most awarded cultural experience is located 30 minutes south of Rotorua. Nestled in the midst of a native forest, the authentic Maori village transports you back in time, to a Pre-European era of spiritual purity and oneness with the land. Amidst the crackling of fires, you’ll see warriors training with traditional weapons, women weaving and traditional tattoo being applied, all the while having the opportunity to question the local people.

The haunting sound of a conch will beckon you to the sacred meeting house where you will be immersed in the local culture through speeches, song and dance. Then it’s on to a relaxed, sumptuous 3 course hangi meal. You’ll also be able to feast on traditional maori bread, fresh salads and seafood, as well as mouth-watering desserts. Your Tamaki Village experience concludes with a Poroporoaki, the official closing ceremony. Tamaki Maori VillageMitai Maori Village

Situated alongside the Rainbow Springs Nature Park, Mitai Maori Village allows for a magical blend of culture and nature. You will be escorted to the depths of an enchanted forest, where the stillness of the night is broken by the chants of approaching warriors by war canoe (waka). Song and dance await and then the fearsome haka (challenge) will be unleashed, followed by the beauty of a synchronized poi performance. A three course hangi meal follows. Then comes a question and answer session that allows visitors to gain insights from local Maori expert craftspeople and historians. The evening culminates with a guided bush walk and glow worm tour. 

Te Puia Village

Situated in the Whakarewarewa thermal valley, just 5 minutes from the centre of Rotorua, Te Puia is a 60 hectare living Maori Cultural experience. It is also home to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. The site features a live kiwi enclosure, set in the midst of hundreds of geothermal wonders, including bubbling mud-pools and the world famous Pohutu geyser.

Surrounded by natural flora and fauna, your Te Puia experience includes fascinating nature walks and tours of the historically accurate Maori architecture. Visitors can choose from the Daytime or Nighttime experience, or combine the two into an unforgettable all day experience. Master weavers and carvers can be observed and questioned as they ply their trade. Your indigenous hosts will prepare a sumptuous steam-box, featuring local meats and vegetables. The evening culminates with an intimate concert performance under the stunning vista of the geothermal activity under lights. 
Whakarewarewa Village

Whakarewarewa is the only living geothermal village in New Zealand. Although sharing the same geothermal park as Te Puia, Whakarewarewa is an actual Maori village, with the local people still living as they did hundreds of years ago. Your visit to Whakarewarewa takes you beyond the normal tourist experience and into the intimate inner workings of Maoridom. The hangi meal offered here is unlike any other in New Zealand. While others use heated rocks, a Whakarewarewa hangi uses geothermal vents to steam and cook the food to perfection. Show packages include an overnight stay in a Marae to really immerse yourself in the culture of the Maori.
Maori Protocol: Key Tips

Being a Polynesian people, the Maori have a unique protocol. Here’s are some quick tips to make sure that you don’t unwittingly overstep them:

- Do wait outside the main gate in readiness of being called onto the marae.
- Do move slowly toward the meeting house (wharenui) during the karanga (calling). 
- Do form a line and greet the hosts by shaking hands and rubbing noses after the powhiri. 
- Do not smoke or eat during the formal welcome.
- Do not wear shoes, eat or drink inside the marae.
- Do not wear a hat inside a building.
- Do not sit on a table or any other surface used for serving or preparing food.

Photo Credit: Main Photo and Tamaki Village Photo, courtesy of Tamaki Maori Village.Ohinemuto Village