Kia Ora – Welcome…
We met at the Tamaki Office in Rotorua. Though not compulsory, it was advised we join the coach trip to the sacred village, situated 20 minutes away. Upon arrival at the office we were assigned a bus with the other tourists. Our guide would explain to us along the journey, the basic instructions and rules upon entering the Pre-European Maori Village and the interesting story of how this family business began. The bus we were travelling on was now our “waka” (means of travel; boat, bus). Those onboard were now part of a tribe, and our tribe was called “Takahe”. We were all eagerly anticipating our evening ahead. In addition to this, our guide’s job was to select a chief of tribe “Takahe”. This all-important role of Chief, was amusingly allocated to my husband! Within Maori culture the position of Chief is considered an honourable role and one that was not to be taken lightly.
Before leaving the bus, our guide and newly appointed Chief explained and demonstrated what would be expected of us at the opening ceremony. This powerful ritual “Powhiri” (formal welcome) is customary for the hosting tribe to perform and send a challenge of peace “Te Wero”, for the visiting tribe to accept. Our tribe follows our Chief who carries a branch of the sliver fern, New Zealand’s national emblem, into the courtyard before entering the village grounds. There, the visitors gather in a half circle behind their Chiefs as the welcoming ceremony occurs, including the “hongi” (pressing of the noses). This is a serious and significant part of the evening and one that must not be laughed or smiled at in respect for the Maori culture, as we were previously instructed by our guide.
After the initial welcoming rituals, we proceed into the village with the echo of the welcome call and the warmth of the bonfires encircling us. It is here we learned about customs, ancestors and the Old World of the tribe through re-enactment and demonstrations. Men participate in the dance of the fearsome “Haka” (Maori warrior dance) and women are taught the meticulous rhythm of the Poi. Wandering through the village and learning from the Maori people is a personal and educational experience you cannot find in any textbook. Activities of an era gone by, such as stick and hand games and reciting chants, are recreated and performed by the younger people, enforcing traditions and skills to continue.
Before the evening meal, our tribes gather in the Meeting House to listen to stories passed down through song and dance. We, as the Chief’s family received “Chief benefits” as I liked to call it, and sat in the front row for the performance. Compelling yet calming, the presentation is highly entertaining, including a traditional love story and a dynamic “haka” dance.
Throughout this time, our evening meal was being cooked in the “Hangi” (earth oven). This being the traditional cooking method of the Maori, is demonstrated and then shared together for dinner in the “Wharekai” (the food house). Baskets of meat (beef and chicken), vegetables and delicious pudding were laid into the deep pit over steaming hot rocks and native timber. With wet cloth, hessian and earth to cover, the food is left to roast for three to four hours.
Seated in the dining hall the Maori bless the buffet style feast with a prayer. The traditional Hangi prepared was delicious and feasting altogether in the dining hall was a perfect opportunity to get to know others on the tour. The evening concludes with “Poroporaki” the official closing ceremony. A beautiful native song is sung accompanied by the guitar by the tribal members, farewelling their visiting tribe for a safe return home.
Back on the bus with full bellies and smiles on our faces, our tribe of Takahe head back to the Tamaki Office in Rotorua. Laughing and singing together on our “waka”, our guide kept us entertained right to the very end where Takahe’s experience came to an end. It was definitely a privilege to be able to share an unforgettable evening with the amazing people of this sacred land.
This particular quote, regularly reiterated throughout the experience, is one that left quite an impact on me. I believe it is a great reflection of the Maori people in general.
“Ki mai koe ki a au, he aha te mea nui o tea o? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!”
“If you should ask me what is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!”Tamaki Maori Village
Disclosure: Sponsored post in collaboration with Tamaki Maori Village. 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.
Address: 1220 Hinemaru St, Rotorua city, Rotorua 3040, New Zealand
Phone: +64 7-349 2999
Tamaki Village Experience includes the following:
- Return transfers to and from central Rotorua accommodation (hotel, motel, backpacker, holiday park)
- Traditional welcoming ceremony
- Interactive tour in a pre-European village
- View the hangi meal being lifted
- Powerful and entertaining cultural performance
- Feasting on a traditional hangi buffet dinner and NZ desserts
- Water, tea, coffee, kawakawa tea (Maori native plant) included
- Special dietary requirements catered for upon request
- Licensed bar available
What to bring:
Warm jacket, Comfortable footwear, Digital devices