What they say is true, it does smell. It doesn’t smell good, either. But on a positive note, you can kind of get used to it! Until a gust of wind comes along…
But please don’t let that deter you from experiencing the capital of geothermal activities of New Zealand in Rotorua!
Source of the Stench
There were two choices: Wai-O-Tapu or Whakarewarewa. Which was worth the money and the time? We looked at both options:
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland: Trip Advisor claimed it to be “one of the 20 most surreal places in the world.” Well, that had it going for them! Looking further, we saw that it had the orange-crusted Champagne Pool (featured in most pictures), volcanic craters, natural vibrantly-colored springs, steaming ground (the source of the smell!), a bubbling mud pool, and Lady Knox Geyser. We will include, however, that the Lady Knox Geyser is not really a selling point, per se. Many people who went posted negative reviews that it had to be coerced into explosion with soap. Hmmmm. Price: $32.50/each
Whakarewarewa, The Living Maori Museum: This option would be more focused on the Maori people, rather than just the geothermal activities, which are a part of the Whakarewarewa experience. Which is not a bad thing! Here, we would learn about how the people adapted to their surrounding and incorporated it into their culture and heritage. Interesting! There were many different tour options to add, such as booking a stay overnight or indulging in a feast. Lastly, there were two performances daily. Base price: $35/each
After deliberating on the two, we decided to go with the first. Devin can often be found dozing off during performances which makes for a rather embarrassed Ryann. Once, when we were in Hawaii, he fell asleep during a luau dance – such a shame! So to avoid a similar predicament and to cater to his interest, we chose Wai-O-Tapu. We think we made the right choice.
At the Wonderland, we saw all the geothermal sights that we could possibly want to and more. We spent around an hour walking around the park. We found it to be just as diverse, if not more, than it is advertised and noted to be. There were many spectacular and wondrous sights, just as the name implied.
One of the first impressive sights was the Devil’s Home. While it is undoubtedly fascinating to see the s
moke and steam creep out of the hole calling it the Devil’s Home can’t help but take the eerie factor to a whole new level! Does the devil live down there or just our previous landlord?
The next notable sight was the Artist’s Palette. The reds, blues and soft yellows were so appealing, it’s obvious why it received its namesake. Dev got a great pano of this:
After that, we stumbled upon a vast expanse of forest and an incredible vista of what was to come further in our exploration of the park, the highlight and “star of the show,” the Champagne Pool.
Here we saw, well, we saw snippets between the steam, of the terrestrial hot spring’s intense blues, oranges and reds – oh my! Apparently the colors are caused by trace amounts of arsenic and antimony. With that and the raunchy steam, you won’t want to get too close. Devin tried his hardest to get a good picture, but with the amount of steam, the picture just did not do justice to the incredulous view we experienced.
The last of the awe-struck sights was the Devil’s Bath. Ryann said it reminded her of Nickelodeon slime. The green was so vibrant and really almost comical, it looked fake. We ended up skipping Lady Knox Geyser, choosing to instead indulge in a much-needed lie in. We had been driving extensive amounts and waking up early for far too long to still deem our trip a “vacation.” We figured we’d leave the geyser experience to Ole Faithful in Yellowstone.
Now say that ten times fast. We opted to go for a short walk from our Airbnb, which estimated in about a 45 minute round-trip to Whakarewarewa Redwoods. It had been drizzling rain on and off all day and all that was left was a little coolness in the air. The walk was shaded and had well-marked paths, making it easy to wander around leisurely. Many people passed us walking their dogs or jogging, making it seem like a nice park for locals, but to go out of your way to visit? Ehhh. It was a nice change of pace from staring at volcanic rock and smelling sulfur, so that alone provided a legitimate reason for us to go. However, if you’re from NorCal, you may want to skip it.
Green and Blue Lakes
Our last adventure in Rotorua was visiting the green and blue lakes. This would be our investigation into Maori culture for Rotorua, since we missed the Living Museum. Additionally, this seemed much more authentic, peaceful, and less-crowded! The differences between the two lakes go much farther than just the color.
Blue Lake (Lake Tikitapu):
We came across the blue lake first. We saw groups of people swimming, tubing and barbequing nearby. It seemed like quite the hotspot for locals and tourists alike! However, there really weren’t that many people there. It is a fairly large area, so there was plenty of room for everyone. Blue Lake is a collapsed volcanic crater, with a depth of only about 27m. The blue hues (aqua/turquoise) are present due to having pumice and rhyolite on the bottom. It takes about an hour to walk the circumference of the lake. Of the two lakes, this is the one you’re allowed to have fun in, making it the more happenin’ of the two.
Green Lake (Lake Rotokakahi):
We drove over to the parking area that is situated between the two lakes (makes for a great pano pic). Here, the contrast is undoubtedly evident. The green lake, is of course, green. Perhaps more emerald green. The reason? It is even shallower than the neighboring Blue Lake and also has a sandy bottom. What is unique to Green Lake, is that this lake is owned by a local Maori population, the Tuhourangi descendants. This lake is believed sacred, which once acted as a former burial ground. Because it is sacred, boating, fishing or swimming is prohibited.
We thought that visiting the lakes was a good side-trip in Rotorua. If we had to pick between the Redwoods or the lakes, we’d pick the lakes fo sho’. Great addition to our itinerary!