Mitai Maori Village │ Maori Cultural Experience
Mitai Maori Village is an indigenous cultural experience incorporating a traditional hangi meal, cultural performance, warrior canoe and sacred freshwater spring. Along with the Geothermal Activity in this area of New Zealand, the Maori cultural experience was one of the main reasons that we stopped for a few days in Rotorua. Located on Fairy Springs Rd, Mitai is a 5-minute drive from the city centre, and open 7 nights a week.
An evening at Mitai Maori Village really does give an authentic introduction to Maori Culture. It left us inspired and entertained – just as the website said it would. We 100% recommend a cultural experience like this if you are in Rotorua. You WILL NOT regret it. We learned about the Maori history, carvings and ta moko (tattoo art). During a live show, there were displays of weaponry and combat, coupled with the grace and beauty of the poi dance, followed by a spine-tingling haka finale. We were taken into the natural bush setting where we saw warriors in traditional dress padding a waka (ancient canoe), and after a delicious buffet meal we were taken down to a river to see glow worms.
An Authentic Traditional Mitai Maori Village Experience!
This cultural experience is suitable for all age groups, and we found it to be very family-friendly. Our presenter was incredibly funny, and he made plenty of references to Eli through the tour and show. He really had us all entertained. The entire evening performance and Hangi (dinner) is about three hours long.
The Authentic Hangi Dinner
The authentic hangi dinner included a hot selection of succulent chicken and lamb with delicious vegetables, potatoes and kumara (sweet potatoes) and a fresh range of salads, topped off with tempting dessert buffet style. There were bar facilities too, so we had a few ciders. We were REALLY spoiled for choice when it came to delicious ciders in New Zealand.
We were guided to the uplifting of the hangi from the earth cooked oven (Hangi Pit) in the ground. The locals told us about the preparation and contents of the traditional hangi. The food smelled, and looked, amazing – while it was lowered back down into the ground, to finish cooking, we were led off to learn more about the Maori culture.
‘Ta moko’ (tattoo art)
Tā moko is the permanent body and face marking by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Traditionally it is distinct from tattoo and tatau in that the skin was carved by uhi (chisels) rather than punctured. This left the skin with grooves, rather than a smooth surface.
Apart from signalling status and rank, another reason for the practice in traditional times was to make a person more attractive to the opposite sex. Men generally received moko on their faces, buttocks (raperape) and thighs (puhoro). Women usually wore moko on their lips (kauwae) and chins. Other parts of the body known to have moko include women’s foreheads, buttocks, thighs, necks and backs and men’s backs, stomachs, and calves.
Ancient Warrior Canoe
We were broken up into smaller groups and led down a wooden path to a natural bush setting. Warriors in traditional dress came paddling down the Wai-o-whiro stream in a hand carved ancient warrior canoe (waka). One of them stared right at me – for a longer than natural amount of time – and I have to admit, it was quite intimating! Look at that stare…
The Live Show
From the river, we were led to a covered outdoor hall area with a stage. We were then captivated by songs, dances and games in a rich powerful entertaining cultural concert, complete with the spine tingling “Haka” Maori war dance as the finale. Being South African, I have seen the Haka many times on television, at the beginning of rugby games. Witnesses it here, and in this traditional setting, gave me a newfound respect for this mesmorizing war dance. I had goosebumps!
Back in the hall, we were seated at long tables, and told to help ourselves to long tables of deliciously prepared food. We were seated with a group of Chinese tourist, of course, and they marveled at our (very limited) Mandarin.
The food was AMAZING!
We had a second helping… and maybe even a third, plus dessert!
Glow Worms and the Scared Spring
After dinner we were taken on an evening stroll. It was really dark, and quite exciting to be among the bushes and unable to see. We saw glow worms and a sacred clear water spring. It was really dark though, so no pictures of that part of the night. It was hard enough trying to follow the path, never mind stay still enough to do long exposure shots.
An absolutely amazing experience which we HIGHLY recommend to anyone visiting Rotorua!
There really wasn’t a single part of the evening that we didn’t enjoy. The highlights were definitely the immersion into the Maori culture, the live performances, viewing of Glow Worms, the delicious hangi meal, and the highly entertaining presenter!
Don’t miss this one!