Before heading to New Zealand, my wife was very keen to see one of the Maori Cultural Shows. Rotorua I was told was the best place for them, so we had it on our ‘to do’ list for Rotorua. Funky Green Voyager Hostel recommended the Mitai Maori Village, although they had discounts to another two I think. It was $88 NZ a head, discounted from over $100.
I know that all the backpackers reading this are like ‘WOAH! That is way too much to fork out!’ and in all honesty, the evening is not aimed at backpackers. But you know, welcome to New Zealand, full of adventure sports and the like which all cost. The price is all inclusive. So that’s something right? Still cheaper than Hobbiton, and you don’t get fed at Hobbiton!
We made a very last minute decision to go the night we did, and so we missed the pickup which is included in the price. We did get dropped back at the hostel.
The location is a little way from the centre of Rotorua, next to the Skyline and I think some sort of Wildlife Experience which for a bit extra you can include in your evening and see some real live kiwis. They appear to run a couple of large tents of an evening, not sure what the capacity is but I’d say 150 ish at a guess per tent.
We were ushered in to our table just as the host was doing the introductions. He impressed everyone by greeting people in around 20 languages, each of which he could say at least a couple of sentences. From there we all went outside where we saw the meat for our dinner being cooked – they called it ‘hampi’ – cooked underground. Basically, it was wrapped up chicken, lamb and I think pork in a large hole in the ground with hot coals covered until cooked.
After that was done, we were taken to a nearby river on the site, in the midst of a fairly dense forest, and watched a canoe being paddled by people in native tribal dress as they arrived. They came in with the guests on either side of the river, paddled the boat up and back and paused for photos and did it a second time.
We were then led to another area, this time under cover, where there was seating to watch the cultural performance. The ‘stage’ area was in fact a small village set up. We had a greeting from the tribe, and our host had appointed a chief of our ‘tribe’ who got up on stage which must have been nerve wracking for him. Not as nerve wracking as having to sing a song to the tribe and the audience, as one girl from Taiwan was asked to do. She impressed everyone with the Chinese version of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. I used to know the song in Japanese, but the memory fades…
The tribe performed a number of songs, told stories and of course, did a Haka. It was very entertaining and went for a little under an hour. Then back to the tent where we ate like kings! I made sure I took full value of the $88 I had spent! The meat tasted like a tender roast and was simply mouth-watering. There were vegies cooked the same way.
And then there was a whole buffet of dessert options. Including pavlova. Yes, I did. Yes, too much.
But the night was not yet over. Our host took us back into the now dark forest and showed us many of the critters that live there including a nasty looking spider, and lots of glow worms. Well, a few. Sorry, they didn’t really come out on camera!
That was the night, we were mini-bussed back to our hostel afterwards. So the lowdown. YES it is a bit cheesy and it is ALL put on for the tourists. There’s no doubt about it. This means that one can’t honestly say that everything is 100% authentic. They encourage you to take photos, which says a lot. However, it’s a really enjoyable evening and if you’ve a tight budget and only want to splurge on something, this might just be the thing to splurge on. The food is wicked.
Do I feel I know a lot about Maori Culture now just because of one evening? Hell no. Did I expect to? Well, no I didn’t. You are supporting local industry at the very least by going. It’s very popular too, so I presume that audiences are taking something worthwhile away from the experience. I don’t know how different the other villages are, from what I heard I expect they are very similar.
Do I recommend it? If it sounds like something that appeals to you, then absolutely. What they did, they did well. Just don’t expect to leave an expert on Maori culture. Thanks for reading as always, and May the Journey Never End!