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  • Writer's pictureHighlands Ranch Travel

Kia Ora!

The famous Māori greeting invites you to explore New Zealand’s natural spectacles and unique wildlife.

There are few places in the world where, within the space of one day, you can encounter mountain vistas, ancient forests, volcanic landscapes and stunning coastline — all while spotting New Zealand wildlife found nowhere else on earth. Experience New Zealand’s natural wonders through the eyes of Māori culture, which has established a long-standing symbiotic relationship with its environment.

Perspectives of Nature

Māori oral history tells of gods creating geysers, ocean trenches and trees that lord over the forests — making New Zealand’s Māori culture an incredible lens through which to view the country’s sacred landscapes. Follow us on a journey to discover the diverse nature, authentic traditions and fascinating legends that are integral to New Zealand.


“He waka eke noa,” the Māori adage goes: “We are all in this boat together.” Ever since the Māori’s ancestors arrived in New Zealand by paddling the Pacific, the waka, or war canoe, has been upheld as a special part of their heritage. Head to the Northland region, north of Auckland, to board one of these boats and be guided down the Waitangi River with a Ngāpuhi tribesman.


Located in Rotorua’s Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, the Te Puia cultural village offers Rāukura, a fully immersive, comprehensive look at Māori culture in a natural setting. Your personalized and guided tour includes a taste of centuries-old Polynesian cuisine during a hangi, which consists of meats and vegetables cooked to perfection in a geothermally heated earthen oven, and a performance of the haka. A familiar sight to any fan of New Zealand’s rugby team, the All Blacks, this Māori war dance is meant to intimidate on the battlefield with fierce chants, stomps and exaggerated facial expressions.


Northland’s Bay of Islands, home to 144 islets, is also a popular playground for swimming with friendly dolphins. Cruise on a chartered yacht and then plunge into the water once you find a playful pod. Make your way around the North Island headlands to arrive at the Kauri Coast, named for the kauri trees that cluster in Waipoua Forest. Tāne Mahuta, or “Lord of the Forest,” rises 168 feet in stature and, at 2,000 years old, is one of the most ancient kauri trees.


For more than 30 years, the Ngati Kuri people of Kaikoura have invited travelers to witness giant sperm whales swimming off the coast of the South Island. You’ll be awed by the enormous Y-shaped tails, and the occasional bottlenose dolphin, that emerge in response to the ship’s echolocation device. Keep the coastline in view at Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses, where you can sleep in a canopy of manuka trees 30 feet above ground.


Continue your adventure in Rotorua with a private charter cruise on Lake Rotoiti, meaning “the little lake” in Māori. Listen to your friendly crew recount the famous Māori myths and legends linked to the lake while fly-fishing, sunbathing or soaking in the spectacular views. Come night, we recommend staying at Treetops Lodge & Estate.


More than just an art form, intricate Māori carvings called whakairo relay the lore of tribal history. Watch master craftsmen at work at the Te Puia Arts and Crafts Institute and take a hands-on workshop carving a whale bone into your own personal pendant. Or, see Māori sculpture on a greater scale in Taupo, where 32-foot reliefs loom over boaters at Mine Bay.

Wherever your New Zealand travels may lead you, let Māori wisdom connect you to nature, wildlife and tradition to create newfound appreciation for this diverse nation.

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