This journey begins in a land before time. A prehistoric time. A time that still remains untouched. Experience this land of pure natural history on the North Island of New Zealand, at Orakei Korako thermal park. Orakei Korako “the place of adorning”, is undoubtably, one of the Southern Hemisphere’s finest geothermal areas.
Located within the Rotorua-Taupo region of New Zealand, Orakei Korako is not as well-known as the other thermal attractions of Rotorua. Some may say this hidden wonderland is “off the beaten track”. But, within the Taupo volcanic zone, Orakei Korako is only a 25-minute drive from Taupo and a 45-minute drive from Rotorua, allowing easy access from both neighbouring cities.
Orakei Korako opens as early as 8.00am, which is beneficial in the Summer months as the thermal park can reach high temperatures throughout the day. Vehicles remain at the main carpark opposite the riverside café and shop. Toilets appropriately named “Guysers” and “Galsers” are only located at the café. There are no restrooms within the thermal park which is located across the beautiful Lake Ohakuri. To reach the park, a short ferry ride, which is included in the admission price, takes you across the tranquil waters to the active fields beyond.
Once across the river, the self-guided adventure begins. Winding wooden boardwalks and accessible trails enables you to discover the geothermal reserve at your own leisure and be transported to another world altogether.
What awaits is breathtaking. An experience like no other and one that I have personally never encountered. It makes me wonder if this is the feeling one experiences when in the presence of a powerful volcano. To be among nature in its purest and most active form was simply stunning.
As you disembark the boat and enter the park uphill, the steaming Emerald Terrace “Kakariki”, resembles an old lava flow. This colourful silica terrace, one of the largest of its kind in New Zealand, actually continues another 35metres under Lake Ohakuri.
Continuing ahead, the active fields display unpredictable erupting geysers. Lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, these boiling sulfuric pools can be viewed from various lookout points throughout the reserve. One of my favourite areas of Orakei Korako, was the “Kei Runga Ite Mania” or The Artist’s Palette. This section of the resort is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable areas, though as its name suggests, the colours displayed here are transformed to mirror a steaming rainbow.
Orakei Korako is home to one of only two geothermal caves in the world, the other found in Southern Italy. “Ruatapu Cave” (Sacred Cave) is more than 36 meters deep and can be seen safely from the viewing platform. At the bottom of this incredibly rare cave is a jade coloured pool of water. It is told that Maori women used this thermal pool as a mirror prior to rituals.
As you make your way back to the Lake, the gurgling sound of bubbling mud pools can be heard. Clay heated by the underground energy, create the boiling mud pools, which are also determined by season. They are more active in Winter, as the amount of rain which moistens the mud is higher.
One of the final attractions is the Soda Fountain. This hot spring which was dormant for seventeen years, suddenly resurrected in 1984. Its activity is highly unpredictable and can fill and empty at any given time.
Beautiful lush bushland surrounds the pathways. Native trees and shrubs all clearly labelled guide your way back to the ferry. Elaborate ferns wave you goodbye and New Zealand’ s national emblem, the Silver Fern, replicate a guard of honour on departure.
Orakei Korako is an extraordinary unique geothermal experience. I would recommend allowing two to three hours to explore this natural wonderland, even though it may be visited in one. But, please be mindful when visiting to preserve this significant gift given to us. Polluting or littering is prohibited, and sticking to the designated paths and tracks is mandatory. We must not disturb this pure environment that we were blessed with from thousands of years ago. Conservation is crucial.
“It is our goal to deliver to our visitors the highest standard of service and present to them this very special phenomena known as Orakei Korako in as natural a state as possible. It is our responsibility to care for, protect and nurture this magnificent feature’s environment and its heritage.”Orakei Korako Cave & Thermal Park
Disclosure: Sponsored post in collaboration with Orakei Korako Cave & Thermal Park. This post contains my own personal photos. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I choose to write this honest review to inform you of my experience.
494 Orakeikorako Road
Phone: +64 (0) 7 378 3131