Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua – Sharing Maori Culture with the World

“We are a proud Maori culture who has had dramatic changes over the past 150 years.” The pride of the Maori elder as he spoke in farewell to us about his culture was evident.

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.

“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.”

The Tamaki Maori Village Experience

Water next to the rock

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. Which I have no judgement on, we are all here to make money so we can live our dreams.

One of the best Rotorua attractions

What I loved about the Tamaki village experience is that it was more about sharing. 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.

a man sticking his tongue out

Maori Culture-Fierce Warrior Spirit

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 in the sacred welcoming space for the Powhiri, the formal welcome ceremony.

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. 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 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.


We could then all peacefully walk through their village set in an ancient Tawa forest, while we listened to the Maori stories through re-enactments, songs and dances, followed by a delicious traditional hangi.

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

We discovered later on that you can actually have a Marae 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.

The Haka

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

craig doing the haka

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.

A Maori Hangi

The smell of vegetables cooking underground wafted through to the village before the conch signaled for us it was time to move to the fire pit and watch the meat and vegetables pulled from the underground stove, revealing under it all the remains of the burnt French!! (All Black celebratory comments have not stopped)

The hangi meal was a fantastic celebratory experience. The buffet style food was delicious and the hangi style potatoes rocked the house.

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

My Thoughts on the 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.

Relevant Reading:

Too touristy?

No at all, it is places 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”

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Have you had a cultural experience like this before that you thoroughly enjoyed and learned from?

Our visit to the Tamaki Maori village was part of our hosted stay in New Zealand by Tourism New Zealand. 

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32 thoughts on “Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua – Sharing Maori Culture with the World”

  1. Great post! I get worried about ‘tourist-y’ events and tours too…but it sounds like they’re doing it right, making it a fantastic experience that lets you fall in love with the culture, and therefore make it your best interest to help preserve it. Tourism doesn’t have to kill culture, a compromise is possible!

    1. A compromise is possible and places like this help you to reflect and do just what they hope– share their culture with the rest of the world so we all might learn and gain something of value.

  2. I went to this years ago when I was in Rotorua. It’s definitely not a tacky touristy thing, well worth going to learn about the Maori culture.

    1. No tackiness about it at all, a really enjoyable experience with the opportunity to learn so much. I loved the warmth of the place and the setting was really cool

  3. I also did this in Rotorua a few years back. It was a great experience but I have to say, yours looked even better. Great job on the haka, Craig.

  4. What a cool experience!! That is amazing, how you all got to experience the culture of another world, and be asked to take part in the Haka!! Love the dance Craig. Your daughter (even at the age of 4) is learing about life – something that cant be taught in a classroom!

    The photos are amazing..I so want to go to New Zealand after looking at your photos and reading about your amazing stay!


    1. Thanks Lisa. As you know travel can be such a gift to your children. I love seeing her reaction to different things as we travel. She gets excited about some of the funniest things, and she is learning so much!

  5. Sounds like a wonderful introduction to Maori culture! Glad you and your daughter got to experience it together.

    Have you ever seen the film Whale Rider? It provided me with some interesting insights on the role of women in modern Maori society.

    1. I watched it so long ago, I can’t remember much of it. Thanks for the reminder, I think I am going to watch it again, would love to now after experiencing the Maori culture firsthand

      1. Actually, the corn boiled in the bottomless pool tasted just as it should have–no mineral-y taste at all. The rest of the meal was cooked by steam in the ovens buried in the ground (the ultimate crock-pot!)

  6. What a beautiful experience you and your family had. After reading your post, I feel part of it, too. I totally empathize with your feelings about letting our indigenous cultures slip away.

    Loving your NZ posts, really want to visit!

    1. Awesome Juls- you will have to visit, it is a cool place.
      I think it is really sad how we don’t acknowledge and learn from our indigenous cultures more. They know so much

  7. Gotta love the fact that you are doing the Haka while wearing a wallabies jacket! Are you crazy! 🙂 Just kidding.

    Great post! I’m actually in New Zealand now, so it’s strange to read a travel blog post about New Zealand.

    Do you guys have any awesome recommendations for free stuff to do?

    1. Who do you want to be? a wallaby…. If only we played as good as the All Blacks this year.
      Hope you are having a great time in NZ.
      Did you want free stuff in Rotorua? or NZ?
      We always head to the tourist offices and see what info they have and see what we can do ourselves. Usually walking tours you can manage for free and getting outdoors,, hiking and exploring is always good.

  8. I’ve stayed on a marae twice before, neither time in tourist/traveller situations. But I’ve never seen a wharenui (building that you sleep in) with actual beds in it! Usually it’s just mattresses on the floor, side by side (not with space between like in the photo).

    That being said, I’ve always heard lots of good things about Maori cultural experiences in Rotorua and at the Tamaki Village, and it certainly looks like it was.

    1. I think they are working on bringing the beds closer to the ground to make it more authentic. They did say how it was a more upmarket style of a marae. Sounds like a great experience!

  9. Wow, this must have been awesome experience! I am impressed by the pictures, it is always pleasure to learn more about new culture!

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