Tamaki Maori Experience in Rotorua - Day 292

Tamaki Maori Experience in Rotorua – Day 292

Today we’re getting the unique experience of staying in a Maori village overnight.

Alright guys just a quick word of warning this episode is much longer than our usual because there is just so much to unpack at Tamaki. We start by joining the group from Kiwi Experience for their early evening Maori tour.

The first thing that happens when you go into a Maori village is that the tribe introduces themselves to us and we introduce ourselves to the tribe and another part of the custom is to actually sing songs to each other so the guys from the Kiwi Experience bus did a very amazing song that represents our tribe.

[Singing] Why do you build me up, buttercup baby just to let me down and mess me around and them worst of all…

Obviously after a good welcoming you want food there’s nothing that makes you feel more welcome than traditional Maori fried bread as soon as we finish stuffing ourselves we head to the forest for some traditional games.

3, 2, 1, go. go. go. 3, 2, 1, go.

This game is called poi rakau, I hope i pronounce that right, and it heaps of fun especially with a big group we need to basically follow the rhythm and pass each other that stick while doing this little bit of a dance move as well. Once the game gets trickier it gets darker and we head to learn a better song to perform tonight.


As part of this group that arrived earlier at Tamaki Maori village our duty is to learn a traditional Maori song to them perform to their evening guests so we take that really seriously.


But there is one thing that I can guarantee this I, A, E, O, U song is gonna stick in my head for years to come.

The idea of this song is to get us all to pronounce the Maori words correctly and their vowels and that’s something that Robin and I really do help with as we have butchered many Maori names on the road throughout this trip so it’s actually great to learn this through such a a really fun way. And once we’ve learned our song it’s time for the show to start.

Kia Ora! Haere mai welcome to Tamaki Maori Village.

Our guide goes through some of the customs that we’ve expected to follow during this initial part of the ceremony. Called a Powhiri which is a traditional welcoming ceremony that visitors will experience when they are stepping onto Maori village or Maori land for the first time.

As soon as the shell horn resonates though the village a massive Maori war canoe called the waka appears from the darkness and a bunch of Maori warriors com out of it. The first thing that they are doing is to showcase their skills at fighting they want to scare our tribe and show them that they are not to be truffled with.

The next step of the ceremony is to determine if we are friend or foe the way Maori tribes do that is by dropping a token on the floor in front of the opposing tribe if the tribe picks up the token that means that they are friend and they are coming in peace if the tribe doesn’t pick up the token that means they are here to fight. So it’s o no surprise that they are extremely threatening to get a Maori warrior dropping a token right in front of you and it’s to no surprise that our elected leaders decide to pick it up there is no way i’d like to fight against those guys.

Once the greetings are done then the Maori chief finally arrives.

Welcome to our home. Now to complete our formalities myself and your chiefs must undergo the greeting of our people we call the Hongi.

The final step of the powhiri is when our elected chiefs of our tribe do the Hongi with the Maori chief and the Hongi is the pressing of the head and noses gently together.

The chief goes through why exactly we did the powhiri and gives us more insights into each aspect of that welcoming ceremony and then we are welcomed into the Tamaki Maori Village itself where we are gonna be learning loads more about the Maori culture.

Throughout the night we go to different stations and the first station that we’re going to is the waka station so the waka is the traditional war canoe used by the maori and we are told about the early voyages of these Polynesian explorers that found the land of Aotearoa which is the Maori word for New Zealand.

We then move onto this next station about the poi which was originally used as a weapon but is more commonly used nowadays in song and dance so we are chosen and that includes me to learn how to use the poi to do a traditional Maori dance I have to say I do need to work a lot on my poi skills.


Moving onto the next station of our little exploration of the Maori village at night we’re arriving at another game and this is another stick game so all the stick games in Maori are called poi rakau and our chief again selects a few competitors.

This game is really simple our host is gonna say left or right to us in Maori and we’ve got to grab that stick. if we drop it we’re out of the game so we start at four people and quickly move onto three people and then we’re moving onto a duel.

And it turns out that my opponent and I are both super competitive so we are battling it to the bitter end it’s only out of the mistake of is that I actually get the victory this seriously such a simple game but so much fun I really did enjoy playing that game before moving onto our next station which is gonna be learning the Haka and guess what our chief is gonna pick me again.

Yep it turns out our tribe is made of mostly women and for the Haka it can only be guys so we are all the guys of the tribe performing the Haka with our hosts. They first take the time to teach us a bit of the wording and the movement and then we have to bring it on.


This haka is the Tamaki version every single tribe has a different version of the Haka and you probably know best the one from the All Blacks the New Zealand rugby team.

But obviously we are not leaving before taking a tonne of pictures of ourselves with our awesome warriors.

At the next station we learn more about the Ta Moko which is the traditional style of tattoo in Maori. And as you’ve seen from a lot of these warriors they have a tattoos actually on their faces and they all have different designs and our guide here tells us more about the different designs and what they actually mean we also learn about flax weaving which is type of plant found in New Zealand used to make all sorts of things like baskets and clothing and then after that we are moving onto another section of the tour which is going to the Hangi lifting.

Hangi is the Maori style of making food which takes hours to prepare. It is food that has been cooked in an underground oven for hours and hours slowly cooked away until it finally needs to be lifted and we actually get the honor of watching this ourselves. But while, these guys are gonna prepare our food for later this evening we are taken to another room where we’re going to being learning more and watching an awesome kapa haka.

We walk into this amazing room with all sorts of paintings and carvings on the walls and we all sit down ready for this really awesome Maori show and kapa haka is basically the style of Maori song and dance.

The Maori show is super captivating to watch and both the men and the women are pulling faces with bulging eyes their tongues sticking out it’s terrifying yet we can’t look away.

Their chants are mesmerizing and they are using all sorts of weapons and tools during their performances.

After this really powerful performance our host is taking the time to tell us a little bit more about the story behind the next song that we’re gonna be hearing and of course it’s about a woman because every culture has that one love story.


It’s quite cool to actually be able to hear and witness a little bit of every single part of the Maori culture all in one evening. I really did not expect to see that much especially during this kapa haka show the next thing we see is being amazing with a poi. I am not trying to take anything away from Laura but come one that is so much more cool.

Then after the Maori chief is coming back to tell us a little bit about their weapons. He’s telling us how they’re made, how they’re used and giving his warriors a few commands to demonstrate the power of those weapons.

And obviously this show cannot finish without the demonstration of an absolutely amazingly powerful Haka.


I have to be honest this is not the first Haka that we’ve seen but honestly it never gets old.the power the sheer power that those warriors are putting into that dance is absolutely amazing and it actually comes from their very roots where warriors were actually facing Haka against Haka before battle in order to Gage if they had any chance to win the fight at the was about to happen.

It’s kai. Kai is food. Yum yum yum. It’s the only word I know in Maori.

As soon as we enter the buffet room there is so much food in front of us it’s absolutely amazing it’s an all you can eat buffet with a ton of amazing Maori culinary delights and obviously as we are backpackers we’re going absolutely nuts.

We do feel like we have a good excuse though because at the end of this dinner we’re gonna be performing in front of all these people with that song that you saw us practicing earlier the girls are doing the song while the guys are then going to take over and perform the Haka in front of everybody. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite have the same effect as when the Maori were doing it but it’s a pretty awesome way to end this amazing tour at the Tamaki Maori Village.

It’s not quite the same effect when a skinny white French guy does the Haka compared to a big beefy Maori guy so yeah. But it looks like it’s heaps of fun to do even if Robin is not scaring anyone with that.

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