OPINION: As part of an ongoing journey to explore and reclaim my Māoritanga, a year ago, I visited my whānau haukāinga in the far North.
Until that point, my idea of “Māori tourism” was pretty much just kapa haka and hāngī in Rotorua.
But on that trip, it became obvious how much a connection te ao Māori shaped my experience, which then made me realise how much it shapes – or should shape – every tourist experience in Aotearoa.
Today’s Travel magazine introduces a bespoke Go-To Guide highlighting Māori tourism experiences in Aotearoa, named Ki Wīwī Ki Wāwā. It means to ‘go walkabout’ or to roam to unknown places; in short, to explore. And really, that’s what Māori tourism is all about.
On my Northland trip, the usual scenery was stunning, but more so was seeing our maunga, swimming in our moana, and driving the gravel roads surrounded by bush to visit our urupā.
When I stood at Te Rerenga-Wairua, I didn’t care about the lighthouse. Instead, I sat, watched and sent a silent karakia to the pōhutukawa where our spirits depart for Hawaiiki.
Similarly, a recent bush-walk in Ōtanewainuku and some touristy explorations around Rotorua took on similar new significance as I marvelled at how my tūpuna would’ve lived and travelled; how they would have collected the kawakawa at Ōtanewainuku and cooked their kai in the bubbling pools at Waimangu Valley.
This, I realised, is what Māori tourism is.
It’s history and mātauranga, it’s the stories and waiata passed down through generations that give meaning to the things we see today, it’s the changes we endured with colonisation and it’s all the ways we’ve kept our culture despite them. It’s a connection to nature, and understanding what that means.
There’s a reason people gaze upon our golden beaches, snow-capped mountains and towering forests, or hear our kāranga, haka and waiata and often, equate them to a “spiritual experience”.
It’s because it is.
For more brilliant Māori tourism experiences, head to stuff.co.nz/ki-wiwi-ki-wawa