Experiencing Maori Culture at Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua

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If you’re anything like me, you were probably first drawn to New Zealand for its beautiful landscapes or adrenaline junkie vibes. Maybe both. But as soon as you get there, you’ll realize that a trip to New Zealand is incomplete without learning about and experiencing the Maori culture, which is still prevalent across New Zealand today. While you can learn about Maori culture just about anywhere in New Zealand, I recommend experiencing Maori culture at Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua. Not only will you have the opportunity to learn about Maori culture, you’ll also be able to partake in Maori games, dances, songs, and even a traditional Maori meal.

Tamaki Maori Village

Booking your Tamaki Maori Village visit

Booking your Maori village visit could not be any easier. Simply go to the Tamaki Maori Village website and click “Book Now.” Tickets cost $130 NZD for adults, and discounted rates are available for children, students, and families. You’ll spend approximately three hours at the Tamaki Maori Village, so plan for 4-5 hours total, including transportation to and from your hotel in Rotorua.

What to expect when visiting Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua

Maori History

The first part of the Tamaki Maori Village experience starts with a short film viewing, which gives a good overview of the history of the Maori people. Even though you’ll learn about Maori culture throughout your time at Tamaki Maori Village and have an opportunity to ask as many questions as you’d like, I always find it helpful to go in with at least some background knowledge so I’m not completely clueless.

Tamaki Maori Village

With that in mind, here’s a very brief history lesson: The Maori people are the indigenous people of New Zealand who arrived from eastern Polynesia between 1320-1350. Since they were the only people on the island until Europeans arrived in the 17th century, they were able to develop their own traditions, customs, language, and way of life. After the Europeans arrived, however, the Maori people began to assimilate into western culture and adapt to a western way of life while still maintaining their own language and practices. After much turmoil and reconciliation between the Maori and the European settlers, roughly 15% of all New Zealanders identify as Maori today.

Maori Traditions

You’ll be immersed in Maori traditions as soon as you finish watching the introductory film and board your bus for the Tamaki Maori Village. Before you even arrive at Tamaki Maori Village, your guide will assign a “chief” for your bus, who will partake in Maori traditions on behalf of your group. I’ll just leave it at that so as not to spoil your trip for you.

After a warm welcome from your hosts at Tamaki Maori Village, you’ll have the opportunity to go around to several different stations to learn about different aspects of Maori traditions and culture.

Maori games

Maori Haka

One of the major aspects of Maori tradition is the haka, a traditional Maori war dance. You’ll get to see the haka performed several times throughout your time at Tamaki Maori Village. If you’re lucky, you might even get to try your hand at it. And for the rugby fans out there, you can see the haka performed by the New Zealand All Blacks team before the start of every game.

Tamaki Maori Village welcome dance

Maori Hangi

The performances, learning, and interactive demonstrations are all great, but the part that everyone (or maybe it was just me?) anticipated the most was the Maori hangi – the delicious dinner feast. The Maori people traditionally cooked their food in underground ovens and referred to food made by this process as hangi. Many different foods can be included in a hangi, although it usually includes some form of starches and meats for special occasions. Because hangi takes longer to prepare (3-4 hours), the meat cooked in a hangi tends to extra tender, with an earthy flavor. I ended up going back up to the buffet line for seconds because I couldn’t get enough of it.

Maori Hangi

What to bring when visiting Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua

Because much of the experience takes place outdoors, I would recommend bringing a warm jacket with you. You’ll also be walking through the forest a bit, so I would keep your brand new white shoes and your heels at home and wear something a bit more comfortable that you don’t mind possibly getting a little dirty. Other than that, make sure you have your camera handy as you’ll want to be able to look back on some of these memories one day!

Even though it may not be as thrill-seeking as jumping out of a plane, experiencing Maori culture at Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua is a must-do in Rotorua, and in New Zealand in general. If you’re unable to book a ticket with Tamaki Maori Village for whatever reason, you can also check out Mitai Maori Village, which offers largely the same experience.

Looking for other fun things to do in and around Rotorua? Check out these posts for more ideas:

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