Learn About Maori Culture At Te Pā Tū (Tamaki Maori Village), Rotorua

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Tamaki Maori culture has, in some ways, shaped New Zealand’s cultural landscape. While ancient traditions are no longer practiced aside from tourism value, the traditions and customs have continued to be past down through generations.

One of the best ways to experience authentic and historic Maori culture is at the Te Pā Tū (Previously Tamaki Māori Village) in Rotorua, which was founded in 1989 by two Maori Tamaki brothers, who serve as a gateway to experience the essence of Maori heritage.

They share traditions, stories, and ancient practices, through various art forms – either storytelling, live demonstrations and workshops, to showcase the Maori rituals, values, and ways of life.

Their dedication to preserving and celebrating Tamaki Maori culture shows just how much the enduring spirit and cultural identity means to the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Water next to  rock carving

“We are a proud Maori culture who has had dramatic changes over the past 150 years,” said the Maori elder on our visit to Tamaki Maori Village.

I resonated with his words, so impressed with how the Maori people have managed to thrive in the current times whilst retaining so much about their culture and sharing it with others.

He left us with these words, “We changed 80 % of our culture so that we may adapt and survive; now we ask that you enjoy that 20% that we have retained and share with the world our relationship to the land, to other people, and our traditions and values.”

In this guide, we share with you our thoughts based on our personal experience visiting the Tamaki Maori Village in New Zealand.

Reasons We Loved Our Tamaki Maori Village Experience

Craig and I spoke about the Tamaki Maori Village experience before we even arrived there; “Do you think it’s just going to be one of these touristy things?”

Like that is a dirty word.

“Maybe, but you know what, there is nothing wrong with it, it’s how you find out more about the past and work out how you can learn from it to apply it to your future.”

True, there are some cultural experiences around the world that are too touristy in the fact that they are done for the tourists and to make money for the tourism industry. Which I have no judgement on, we are all here to make money so we can live our dreams.

Te Pā Tū has many accolades that make it a must-do in New Zealand. It’s the only cultural experience to have a Supreme New Zealand Tourism Award, and was even voted as the Seventh Best Attraction in the World in the Trip Advisor Travelers Choice Award in 2018.

We left thinking it was one of the best Rotorua attractions for these reasons…

1. Sharing of Moari Culture

What I loved about the Tamaki village experience is that it was more about sharing Maori way of life and Maori history than anything else.

Sharing a culture, knowing that they had something of value to offer the world, and how true they are.

The Tamaki Village experience is the BEST “touristy” cultural experience I have had anywhere around the world. Not only did I learn a lot about the Maori culture, but I felt as if I was part of a family enjoying an experience together.

I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of learning about the Maori culture and I can’t wait to learn more. To me, they seem like a fierce people with an extremely gentle and connected side.

The true ying and yang that we need to be working towards attaining.

2. Greeted With The Fierce Warrior Spirit

a man sticking his tongue out

I have grown up experiencing the haka through our nations sporting events. It was always the thing, and really the only thing, I wanted to watch when the sporting matches came on.

This fierceness was a part of our time with the Tamaki tribe from the very beginning of the evening.

Upon entering the village, all the guests stood in a semicircle outside the ancestral meeting house in the sacred welcoming space for the Powhiri, the formal ancient ceremony of welcome.

A guest from each bus had been chosen to be the Chief for the evening and was given special tasks. Christian from Romania was the chosen one from our Waka Huia- the Huia canoe which was the name given to our bus.

He played the role with pride, reverence and good humour. We enjoyed having him as our Chief.

The four chiefs had to stand in a line, representing us as we were welcomed in a traditional Maori greeting. I’m glad it was not me, as I would have either laughed from nerves or cried through fear.

Four warriors came out one by one chanting with weapons drawn, eyes as round as saucers and tongues darting in and out, as they demonstrated warrior training to their guest the fierceness of their spirits.

Each of our chiefs remained still and one was selected to approach the warrior and pick up the leaf of peace from the ground. No smiles and no show of fear was given.

Once that was done the chief of the village came out to welcome us and each bus chief with a Maori welcoming kiss- the nose rub.

two men rubbing foreheads in traditional maori greeting
traditional Maori greeting

3. Serene Atmosphere

We could then all peacefully walk through their village set in an ancient Tawa forest, while we listened to the Maori stories, watched dances and listened to Māori songs that are aligned to the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar), watched re-enactments, demonstrations of ways of life such as basket weaving, and finally followed by a delicious traditional hangi feast.

I absolutely loved the ancient forest dwelling scenery of the village and made me instantly want to crawl in one of the huts to spend the night beside the crackling bonfires and under the canopy of the trees.

We discovered later on that you can actually have an evening experience, staying the night in a traditional Maori communal sleeping house. Each sleeping house has been created with attention to detail to ensure an authentic experience.

It is something I want to come back and do one day.

4. Learned About The Haka

craig doing the haka

Kalyra was mesmerized, as was I, by the fierce, yet peaceful spirit that shone through the Maori words and music.

She refused to have her photo taken with the scary warriors, but was enamored with her father’s rendition of the haka–who was an easy target to get dragged into doing it with his Wallaby jacket on.

5. We Tried A Traditional Hangi Buffet Feast

The smell of vegetables cooking underground wafted through to the village before the conch signalled for us it was time to move to the fire pit.

Here we sat and watched the chicken and lamb meat and vegetables pulled from the underground stove, revealing under it all the remains of the burnt French!!

The traditional hangi meal was a fantastic celebratory experience and a great way to learn about Maori cuisine. The buffet style food was delicious and the hangi style potatoes rocked the house.

Kalyra and I enjoyed feasting on crème brulee for dessert, Pavlova, and steamed pudding and dancing to the music.

FAQs About Visiting Tamaki Maori Village

Can you visit Tamaki Maori Village in a wheelchair?

Yes, the Tamaki Maori Village is wheelchair and stroller friendly.

What are the opening hours of the Tamaki Maori Village?

The village is only accessible on a guided tour which runs in the evenings from 5pm in the months of Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

My Thoughts on the Tamaki Maori Village Experience

I felt such gratitude for my experience of the evening, but mostly for my daughters. I was so happy that at Kalyra’s young age of four she was learning from a culture who understands so much about prospering, living in connection with each other and the earth in a positive and empowering way.

I want her to learn that in life she needs to be peaceful, gentle and kind, but she also needs a fierce warrior spirit to guide her.

The Maori connection to the Earth, to each other and the power higher than them was so evident. Everything they do has purpose and meaning.

How did we in the western world get it so wrong? Why are we so far removed from these things, it seems as if we are lost souls, so disconnected with anything, desperately trying to find our way back.

How did we manage to take all these indigenous cultures around the world and drag them away from their own cultures that seemed to have it so right?

These questions I cannot answer, all I can do is look as to how I can take what I have learned and merge it with my own traditions and beliefs the best way I can.

totem artwork

It’s destinations like this that give us cause to reflect, to try to learn other ways and think about what this means for my future and who I want to be.

I am so happy and honoured as a travel blogger to be able to share the Maori culture with the world as they so wish.

I’ll leave you now with one of my favourite sayings, which happens to be a Maori blessing and one that I felt as an intention from the Maori during the Tamaki experience, “May the rays of sunshine forever dance along your pathway.”

Visiting the Tamaki Maori Village was one of the best experiences of our trip to New Zealand and is something we recommend all travelers add to their itinerary.

Disclaimer: Our visit to the Tamaki Maori village was part of our hosted stay in New Zealand by Tourism New Zealand, but all thoughts, ideas and opinions in this guide are our own.

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Have you had a cultural experience like this before that you thoroughly enjoyed and learned from? Let us know in the comments.

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