Tamaki Maori Village – The 7th Best Experience in the World
Yes, it’s true. The Tamaki Maori Village experience was voted the 7th best experience in the world by TripAdvisor. It was truly an amazing experience I will remember for the rest of my life.
You could argue that at it’s core, it’s just a tour around the village followed by a dinner. But it is so much more than that.
To the readers who don’t know about the Maori people, I’ll quickly explain that. The Maori people are the original inhabitants of New Zealands. They arrived in canoes from Polynesian islands around 800 years ago. Their language is an official language in New Zealand alongside English, and after a few hundred years of oppression by the European settlers, more or less all Kiwis (what you call people of New Zealand nationality) are proud of the Maori history of the country.
Because of the popularity of the Maori people, Tamaki Maori Village is a very high profile tourist attraction. Due to the popularity of the place and a fear of the village having a zoo-ish feeling with people on display, I was a bit skeptical. But my friend talked me into going anyway.
A Big Welcome
While it is possible to get picked up by a bus in Rotorua, the nearest city, we drove there ourselves. It was quite easy to find, although it’s out in no man’s land. Because we were there early, we had to wait outside in the freezing weather due to the fact that they had no indoor waiting area.
When everyone arrived with the bus, we were invited inside through the gate to the village. There, we were instructed to stand aside as the people of the village would welcome us. What the Kiwis probably knew but I didn’t was that the Tamaki people would perform a Haka to greet us.
And holy crap that was intense. We were not allowed to record the welcoming Haka, but it was was extremely intense. About 10 men from the village arrived in a canoe and started shouting rhythmically in the Maori language. Then got out of the canoe and continued the rhythmic shouting. But now a dance was also performed. Because I couldn’t understand any of it and it was so foreign to me and my own culture, it was quite intimidating. Not in a bad way. I was fascinated by it.
Inside Tamaki Village
After the Haka that moved us all, we were invited inside the Tamaki village. It was evening, so the village was lit by torches as they obviously didn’t have electricity back when people actually lived in these sorts of villages. Consequently, the lighting was very dim which really set the mood of the place.
We came in and saw the beautiful huts, fireplaces, and the Tamaki people dressed in traditional Maori clothing.
Groups were made so we could split up and go around and see everything without there being too crowded at all places at once. My group stopped at the spot where two Maori women showed us a traditional game that was popular among children. I was chosen to play against three other people from my group. We all had a stick. This stick we had to let go of when one of the Maori women said either ‘right’ or ‘left’ in the Maori language. Then we had to quickly grab the stick to the correct side before it fell to the ground. Otherwise we would lose! Of course, I won the game.
One of the other stops was at the chief’s hut. A Maori man would tell us stories about the people and about the tattoos. The tattoos actually tells a story about the person and his family. Different patterns mean different things. They can tell something about what you excel at and who your parents are or were. Whether you are a great hunter or the wise person of the village. It’s truly fascinating that they had some form of patterns that meant something without them actually having a writing system.
Time for Dinner
After we were done with the tour around the village, we were taken to their dinner hall. They prepared a dinner for us while we were walking around the village. It was pork roast, but unfortunately it was really obvious that it was very cheap meat. The food was the least good part of the entire experience. Following the dinner, we were lead into another room where the Tamaki people would perform one last Haka for us. See the video below.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience. As mentioned, TripAdvisor rated it the 7th best experience in the world, and I will any day recommend anyone to visit this place. I was skeptical at first, but I was blown away by the Haka and the stories they told. If you are in New Zealand, you should not miss out on the Tamaki Maori Village.