The Best Maori Experiences

• Auckland Museum: This is the perfect place for an early lesson in things Maori. The recently revamped museum has the largest collection of Maori artifacts in the world. Large war canoes, meetinghouses, greenstone weapons, and feather cloaks are here. On top of that, the Manaia Maori Performance Group puts on a stunning show three times a day. See p. 115.

• Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve & New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute: Maori guides will lead you through the thermal reserve, explaining the significance of the area to the Maori people. There's also a live song-and-dance performance, a tour of a replica Maori village, and the chance to watch working weavers and carvers in the Arts & Crafts Institute, which was set up in 1963 to foster traditional craft skills. See p. 186.

• Tamaki Maori Village: This re-created ancient Maori village was the New Zealand Tourism Awards Supreme winner in 1998.

• Canterbury Museum and the International Antarctic Centre:

Although these two museums are completely separate entities located miles apart, together they present a terrific overview of life and history in Antarctica. Nowhere else in the world will you find this much gathered information about the great icy continent. There's everything from wildlife displays to human exploration accounts and a real ice chamber so you can get the feel of life in subzero temperatures. See p. 338 and p. 339.

It presents Maori life as it used to be pre-European settlement. You'll tour the village with a Maori elder, learn the ancient myths, watch a traditional performance, and eat from a traditional hangi. See "Rotorua" in chapter 7.

• Royal Lakeside Novotel: Here you'll find the best Maori hangi and performance in Rotorua. It includes a steam-cooked hangi, poi dance, the haka, traditional songs and games, and an excellent audiovisual presentation spanning 150 years of Rotorua's history. See "Rotorua" in chapter 7.

• East Cape: This is a remote enclave of Maori culture—one of the last places in New Zealand where the Maori language is part of everyday life. You'll find more than 100 marae scattered along the length of the East Cape Road, and if you ask permission, in most cases you'll be allowed to enter. There are numerous Maori settlements and highly decorative Maori churches. See "Gisborne & the East Cape" in chapter 8.

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