Imagine soaking up the steam of a geothermal spring as the aromas of fresh New Zealand mussels, whole king prawns, corn and vegetables are emptied from their flax-woven basket, submerged in the hot pool only moments earlier, permeate the evening air.
A selection of New Zealand beer, local breads and dips span the table—rewana and damper bread, tamarillo and piko piko chutney, horopito and piri piri aioli. “We also have a soloist performing traditional Maori songs on an acoustic guitar to create that unique ambiance,” adds trade marketing manager, Sean Marsh.
This unique culinary experience at Te Puia, New Zealand’s premiere Maori cultural center, dates back over 700 years and is one of many that can be organized in Te Whakarewarewa, the geothermal valley in Rotorua. And, it can be combined with any number of culturally-charged activities such as weaving, wood, stone and bone carving classes, guided nature walks or ancestral tours, close encounters in the nocturnal kiwi house or cultural performances.
Descendants of storytellers, the Maori story also unfolds through song, dance and architecture, such as the 12 carved posts at the main entrance, each representing a divine
realm in Te Arawa culture.
Te Puia spans 170 acres, with over 500 geothermal wonders, many with coinciding venues where groups from 30 to 300 can meet or mingle.“The best connections are often made across the dinner table,” Marsh says, adding that one of the most sought after geothermal dishes is the humble soft boiled egg. “I’m not sure why, but eggs cooked in this pool are really tasty.”