Day 26 – 30th January 2020 – Tauranga

Viking Sun at Tauranga

Departing Auckland last evening we had a quiet and peaceful voyage down the East Coast of New Zealand, docking in Tauranga about 06:00. Our day started with an early breakfast in the World Cafe, where we met all of our group on today’s tour.

We drove the 40 miles to Rotorua, where our guide provided a full and detailed tour of Te Puia, a geothermal park with the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser.

Read on for details of our tour and lots of photos.

Te Puia our group for this tour

Our group for today’s tour


  • Tour type – Private excursion
  • Vendor – Archer Tours (
  • Duration – 7 to 9 hrs, as he adjusts tour to guarantee safe return to ship
  • Summary – small group tour with a Maoiri owner/operator. Drive through Tauranga, followed by a guided tour and cultural performance at the geothermal centre.

Our group of 10 met at the bottom of the gangway, then walked to the gate to meet our driver/guide – Jim Archer. Within minutes, we were underway, heading for Marine Parade, which runs parallel to the coast. Great beach and foreshore on one side and expensive houses on the other.

Papamoa Beach looking towards Mt Maunganui

Papamoa Beach looking back towards Tauranga

Our first stop was Papamoa Beach, which provided great views in both directions. Good surf running, but nowhere near enough for surfing.

Judi at Papamoa Beach

Judi at Papamoa Beach

After a quick stroll on the beach, it was back to the van for the trip to Rotorua, which is about 40 miles from Tauranga.

Lake Rotiti

Lake Rotoiti

We stopped at the side of the road, for a photo stop, overlooking Lake Rotoiti. Rotorua consists of 2 lakes, with Rotoiti being the smaller one. The Maori word “Roto Iti means small lake.

Te Puia welcome

Welcome sign at Te Puia, the geothermal valley

Continuing onwards, we arrived at Te Puia shortly after 09:00, well before the flotilla of buses from the ship. As we lathered with sun screen, got cameras primed for action and donned hats, Jim picked up our tickets, distributing them, as we arrived at the gate.

Enrance circle

Te Puia entrance

Just inside the gate is the above structure, which has multiple pillars, each with a Maori carving and in the middle was a large chunk of Jade.

Guide Jim explaining origins of Maoris

Maori arrival board

Jim explained how the Maori’s arrived in New Zealand, with 8 main tribes arriving ashore at different locations.

Guide Jim explaining origins of tribe settling this valley

Jim breaking above word into syllables and pronouncing it

He explained the meaning of each syllable, which made it easier to understand, but certainly still couldn’t pronounce it.

Guided tours are available with local guides, but Jim provides a full service, walking us around the entire facility for almost 4 hours. He started with an easy stroll through a forest area, stopping every few feet to name trees, provide information on displays, etc.

Silver fern

Silver fern

Above is the iconic New Zealand icon seen on many sporting shirts, etc – the silver fern. While the top of the leaves are green, the bottom is silver.

Sleeping house with low door

Early tribal sleeping hut

Jim explained that the sleeping huts all had low doors, which was a security measure in the event the village was attacked. Intruders had to duck to enter the buildings and were then ready targets.

Readitional cooking fire

Cooking fire

The process started by heating the rocks, then they poured in water and covered them with wet burlap and wood. The food to be cooked was inserted in a basket, then covered by a wet burlap and more wood. The entire cooker was covered with dirt, to retain the steam, with food cooked in 2 to 3 hours.

Sharp posts for village fortification

Village fortifications

The tribes used sharpened posts around the perimeter, as a first level of defense.

War canoe

War canoe, which was smaller than the one at the Treaty Grounds

Walk up to the apprecticeship centre

Curved walkway up to Maori Cultural Training Centre

Carved statue on walkway to apprenticeship building

Maui, one of carved statues on walk to training centre

Completing our walk through the forest, Jim walked us through the Maori Cultural Training Centre. This is an amazing program that accepts Maori’s between 18 and 30, and trains them in the traditional ways of working with stone, bone and wood. Each participant receives a scholarship, so the program is at no cost. On completion of the program they receive the traditional tools of their trade, free of charge. The stone/bone program takes 2 years and wood 3 years.

Apprentice centre stone carving sign

Bone Carving School

Apprentice centre bone carving

Bone carving samples

Apprentice centre Jade carving

Jade figurine

Apprentice centre Jade carvings

Stone carvings

Apprentice centre wood carving sign

Wood Carving School

 Some examples of the wood carving

Our guide has commissioned them to produce a number of authentic pieces for him. His walking stick was carved at the school and tells the story of his family heritage. He also requested carved paddles for each of his sons.

Apprentice centre casting sign

Casting workshop

Apprentice centre castings

Samples of castings

Apprentice centre weaving sign

Weaving school

Apprentice centre weaving flax sign

Flax tools

Apprentice centre weaver at work

Weaver at work

Apprentice centre weaving demo

Flax demonstration

Jim asked the weavers if they could provide us a demonstration, which they willingly completed. Starting with a single leaf, she cut it to length, then made some shallow cuts at the top, for the design. With a shell, she scraped the green off, leaving lots of thin strands, which she split into 2 and rolled on her leg to create a 2-strand rope. At the initial cuts, she again scraped away the green from sections to create the pattern, seen above. The entire process took only a couple of minutes.

Te Puia cold river at Pohutu Geyser

Cold river and hot thermal rocks

Departing the teaching centre, we headed downhill for a hike around the geothermal valley. First stop was the Kiwi House, which was totally dark inside, since they are nocturnal. You walk along a single passage, waiting for night vision. We finally saw a Kiwi, just before the end.

Te Puia river looking up at entrance

View from the bridge looking up towards the entrance

Te Puia Pohutu Geyser and river

Pohutu Geyser

Pohutu Geyser is the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere, erupting on an irregular basis, but often once or twice per hour.

Te Puia Pohutu Geyser sign

Pohutu Geyser sign

The eruptions can last up to 1 to 2 hours. It can reach a height of 100 feet. The Maori word “Pohutu” means constant splashing.

Te Puia Pohutu Geyser 2Te Puia Pohutu Geyser 4Te Puia pool below Pohutu Geyser

In addition to viewing the geyser, we walked around the many trails through the valley, with Jim stopping frequently to explain the various sights.

Te Puia small cone

Relatively new cone

Jim explained that this one appeared suddenly a couple of years ago, then stopped about 10 months ago.

Te Puia tea tree plants

Tea tree plants and tree

Te Puia bubbling mud pit close-up

Bubbling mud pit

Te Puia boiling water pool

Boiling water pit

Heading  up the hill, Jim stopped to show us a Maori invention which was used to trap birds. Since they had no spears, they required help to catch birds in the trees.

Te Puia device for catching birds

Bird catching invention

It had raised sides, which were covered with string to snare the birds.

Once reaching the top of the hill, Jim took us over to the tribe’s community house, where we were booked for the 12:15 cultural performance.

Marae or traditional gathering place

Tribe’s community building

Marae storehouse with guide Jim

Jim at the Storehouse, our meeting place after the tour

The ceremony starts outside, where we elect our “Chief” who is challenged by a warrior to determine if we come in peace.

Marae ceremony warrior backs-up

Warrior performing the initial ceremony

Marae ceremony lays down fern leaf for Munro

Warrior drops a peace offering before our “Chief”

Marae ceremony Munro back up after lifting fern

Our “Chief” accepts the peace token and backs away

Since our intentions are peaceful, we are invited into the hall. Normally, no footwear is permitted, but NZ Health and Safety dictate it is a safety hazard to walk in socks. The Chief’s family, all 10 of us were shown to the front 2 rows.

Enjoy some photos of the show – select each one to view full size.

Marae ceremony our group with performers

Group shot with the performers

This brought an end to an amazing 4 hours at Te Puia. Once aboard the van, Jim dropped us at an amazing cafe for lunch. Excellent choice, as we were all happy with our selections.

With all-aboard at 16:15, Jim wanted to have is back at the ship by 15:30, so we had a quick drive around Rotorua, then returned to Tauranga by a different route.

Rotorua visitor centre

Rotorua Visitor Centre

Sulphur pool by the gardens

Stinky pool – serious smell of sulphur

Old Bath House

Old Bath House, now closed and awaiting renovation

Flower garden

Downtown flower garden

Kiwi fruit orchard

Kiwi orchard, with the fruit requiring 2 more months before picking

We arrived back at the ship, all very happy campers, as we settled the tour cost with Jim. A full day for NZ $165, was excellent value, as it included all entrance fees. Yet again, my hours of research paid off with receiving an exceptional tour.

Back on board, I watched the departure, then we had dinner and an early night to recharge the batteries for a possible tour in Napier tomorrow.


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