For my last full day in New Zealand I decided to go back to Rotorua to one of the geothermal parks, as it’s an aspect of the country which is quite unusual and therefore a must-do on my list.
After researching the different geothermal parks around Rotorua I went for Te Puia as, although it’s more expensive than some others ($51 instead of around $35), it has Pohutu Geyser which is the biggest active geyser in the southern hemisphere and also more reliable than many – erupting around once an hour on average. It has lots of other attractions too and I ended up staying there for three hours.
I arrived just in time for one of the guided tours which leave hourly (free with a day ticket). My group’s guide was a Maori man who lived in a nearby village, he said, which meant he was able to share interesting details about how he and his family still use methods of cooking and more that his ancestors developed using the natural hot pools. His stories of the past and present gave the guided tour and overall visit an extra edge and a more complete understanding of the environment, rather than just viewing the (nonetheless still spectacular) landscape.
Very soon after our tour began we went to a viewing point to see if there was any geyser activity – and there certainly was. So we headed straight down to see Pohutu erupt alongside her smaller indicator geyser just a metre away; Prince of Wales Feathers (named after a royal visit in 1901) erupts just before Pohutu but doesn’t go as high.
The spectacle of the two sending water and steam into the air was brilliant – and I was lucky enough to see it all over again a couple of hours later, when my solo stroll around the park ended back there with excellent timing.
Our guide then took us to a mud pool – which could definitely cook/kill you if you fell in. Later on I found more mud pools and hot pools further into the park; the bubbles were quite fascinating to watch.
Next stop was the kiwi enclosure which currently holds one of the native birds (the park has two, but they have been separated). Sadly I had less luck than at the Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park – I spotted the kiwi on the infrared camera, but didn’t manage to see it in the nocturnal habitat itself, despite multiple attempts. I’m still a very big fan of this long-beaked bird though!
Finally on the guided tour we went to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, where visitors can see wood carving and weaving students in action as they study traditional methods to ensure they are preserved and carried forward. It was a bit weird to watch people at work, but interesting to get a glimpse at their culture.
If you pay extra, you can get more of a Maori cultural experience which includes going inside the marae (meeting house) and being treated to a concert.
I then spent around an hour wandering around the park the long way and found the other dormant geysers, as well as other natural attractions. It was such an unusual landscape to enjoy and the whole place is well worth a visit. I’m so glad I used my last day there.