National Geographic Orion
After breakfast, most of the guests walked off the ship at the Port of Tauranga and took a bus ride to the fascinating area of Rotorua. The drive through the outskirts of one of New Zealand’s largest provincial cities was interesting enough, but when we got to our destination – Te Puia Rotorua – a whole new adventure began. We were met by our guide and walked into the facility to view the area best known for geothermal wonders, breathtaking natural beauty, and a vibrant Māori culture. Our first stop was to observe spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools, steaming vents, boiling lakes, and colorful sinter terraces. The viewing area took us up close to the action, and the smell of sulfur was in the air. We also learned about New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi, and conservation efforts to protect the species. We observed a couple of the quirky, flightless birds digging and foraging in their special nighttime enclosure. Then we were treated to a traditional Māori greeting and invited into a Marae for a superb cultural performance. An excellent buffet lunch at the Pātaka Kai restaurant followed. Then we enjoyed a visit to the Ahua Gallery to learn about Māori arts and crafts, including woodcarving, weaving, and stone and bone carving. It was an exciting, informative, and wonderful excursion.