Celebrated for its rich culture and style of life, New Zealand offers inimitable opportunities for experiencing the food, history and customs of its people, as well as enjoying the landscapes to which much of the culture is tied.
New Zealanders are proud of their Maori roots. The famous haka offers an intriguing sample of this Pacific island heritage, and increasingly travellers are keen to learn more. Maori song, dance and mythology are prevalent, towns are adorned with carvings and rooms are dressed in flax weavings. ‘Kiwiisms’ are scattered through everyday conversation, a hybrid of the two national languages, Maori and English, with words such as kia ora (hello) commonplace in the Kiwi vernacular. Most physical locations have Maori names with literal translations: Waimakariri River (Wai = water, Makariri = cold), Mount Maunganui (Maunga = mountain, Nui = large). The unmistakable Maori culture is omnipresent.
In recent years, many iwi (tribes) and individual Maori whanau (extended families) have opened up their spiritual heritage to To Pakeha (non-Maori) visitors who seek a more fulfilling insight into their culture. There are a number of tours that will provide an opportunity for you, no matter how brief your stay, to perhaps become tangata whenua or ‘people of the land’.
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!
What is the most important thing in the world?
The people, the people, the people!
This is the prevalent Maori philosophy, and to keep their culture alive they recognise that it must be made accessible.
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Kauri Tree, Waipoua Forest, Northland
Te Mata Estate, Hawkes Bay
Maori dancing, The Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Paihia & The Bay of Islands
Footprints Waipoua Twilight Encounter Kauri Coast
The spiritual environment of the Waipoua Forest provides a natural stage for an unforgettable encounter with some of the largest remaining kauri trees in the world. The local guides who operate here will take you on a journey to meet their ancestors, and explain how these remarkable trees are intertwined with the lives of the local Maori. You will meet the mighty 'Te Matua Ngahere', the Father of the Forest, whose girth is over five metres in diameter. He is estimated to be over 4000 years old. You will also take a walk to the Four Sisters, and finally 'Tane Mahuta', the Lord of the Forest, who stands a mighty 51 metres tall.
Long Island Tours, Hawkes Bay
Long Island Tours have been running trips throughout this region for many years, and have access to many areas and individuals which no other operators can include. Local resident and font of regional knowledge, Brigid Ormond, will guide you through the highlights of the Hawkes Bay region, sharing with you her enthusiasm and insights. There is a unique opportunity to meet fascinating local characters, including artists in their studios, as well as exploring the stunning scenery and absorbing the local history. Amongst other activities you will experience a 'powhiri' (Maori welcome) with one of the local tribes, and weather permitting climb the legendary Te Mata Peak.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds Northland
Waitangi is not only an area of great natural beauty, it is also New Zealand's most renowned historical site and is known as the birthplace of the country. At the heart of the National Reserve is the Treaty House, constructed in 1832 and originally the home of the British Resident James Rusby. In 1840 this house became the setting for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and has since been restored and maintained as a national memorial housing photographs and displays, and a copy of the original treaty. In the visitor centre, an audiovisual presentation runs all day describing the events surrounding the signing, and on certain evenings a high-tech sound and light show is held, incorporating live performances of Maori customs and dance. To celebrate the centenary of the treaty, a magnificently ornate Maori meeting house, 'Te Whare Runanga' was constructed, which is carved to represent all the major Maori tribes. The world's largest Maori war canoe is also housed onsite and is launched every year on Waitangi Day, a national holiday and the day when Maori and government leaders gather at the Treaty House.
Maori history tells of the demi-god Maui hauling up from the ocean Te Ika a Maui, the fish of Maui, New Zealand’s North Island. His waka, or canoe, is today the South Island, and Stewart Island his anchor. Travelling by waka from their mythical homeland Hawaiki, the Maori soon established themselves as the dominant inhabitants of New Zealand, and their vast oral history is woven seamlessly into the land. The European influx introduced foreign diseases, and the Maori population dropped from 100,000 at the time of the Treaty of Waitangi to just 43,113 in 1896. Although today Maori constitute less than 10% of the population, their culture is very much alive.