Top 5 Ways to Discover Maori Culture in New Zealand
Published in the Spring 2013 Issue of Canadian World Traveller
By Ruth Atherley
Many visitors to New Zealand want to learn more about the Maori people, their history and traditions. Below are the top five Maori focused activities in New Zealand.
Step Into It
Tour with a Maori guide whose ancestors date back to before Europeans arrived in the region at the magnificent Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Considered the birthplace of New Zealand and overlooking the breathtaking Bay of Islands, it was here on February 6, 1840 that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori chiefs and the British Crown. Visitors can enter an awe-inspiring, fully carved marae (meeting house), stand at the exact spot where the treaty was signed and check out the artistry of one of the world’s largest wakas (ceremonial war canoe) – which is approximately 117 feet long, can carry 80 paddlers and was made from only two pieces of wood.
Rotorua is home to Te Puia, New Zealand’s premier Maori cultural centre. Te Puia gives visitors the opportunity to not only learn about Maori history, traditions, art and culture, but they can also get hands-on experience at the National Carving and Weaving Schools of New Zealand. This fun, interactive learning experience gives everyone who participates a new appreciation for Maori traditions and art.
For most people, walking around the forest gathering plants and herbs for lunch wouldn’t be a highlight of their day. However, just outside of Rotorua, at the award-winning Treetops Lodge & Estate, this very activity is a popular way to gather and forage in the forest much like the Maori people did hundreds of years ago. Guests embark on this adventure with a noted Maori chef. He not only guides them, sharing his knowledge about native Maori cuisine and the indigenous herbs and plants, but will also prepare a fabulous lunch with the herbs and plants from the forest.
Te Hana, a new Maori cultural centre near Auckland, offers guests the chance to travel back in time just by walking through its doors. The Maori village provides visitors with unique 17th century insights into pre-European Maori life. Led by a guide, visitors experience authentic Maori events such as a powhiri (a traditional welcome ceremony), they tour the village and learn by first-hand experience and participation about Maori culture. There is also the opportunity to taste the foods cooked in traditional Maori style. As an added bonus, visitors can stay overnight in the marae, which is a rare, bucket list opportunity.
Play With It
Located in Wellington, Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum. Visitors are often surprised and delighted at how fun and interactive Te Papa is. The five areas of its collections – art, history, Pacific, Maori and natural environment – are shared with visitors in a highly creative and innovative manner that fully engages all the senses. It’s impossible not to get involved at Te Papa.
For more information about New Zealand, please visit: www.NewZealand.com.