Guiding comes naturally to the people of Rotorua, and for some, it’s in their blood – our people shaped the culture and traditions of tourism in New Zealand, from its origins in the 19th century.
Since the very first tourists travelled to Rotorua to see the famous Pink and White Terraces there has also been a fascination with the local Māori people who lived on and surrounded by the geothermal landscape, and how they used the geothermal energy for heating, bathing and cooking.
The people of Tūhourangi and Ngāti Rangatihi had been living in the shadows of Mount Tarawera for many generations. Soon after the first Pākehā settled in the area, word got out about the Pink and White Terraces, reportedly the largest silica sinter deposits on Earth, attracting interest across the world, leading to the first ever to the region.
Working together, the Māori tribes and local Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent) created the first tourist hub at Te Wairoa, a village that provided the gateway to the Pink and White Terraces.
Originally the journey was long and challenging, but soon a road was built between Rotorua and Te Wairoa and the trickle of tourists turned into a flood. Guests would stay at European-style hotels and be welcomed and entertained at the Māori meeting house with a Māori cultural performance and traditionally cooked food. Guests would then be taken across Lake Tarawera to Lake Rotomahana to see the terraces and bathe in the mineral-rich geothermal water.
As visiting the Pink and White Terraces required a guide, guiding became a formalised profession, largely led by bilingual women. Early guides Kate Middlemass and later Sophia Hinerangi, known as Guide Sophia or Te Paea, became well known for their charm and humour, adeptly navigating between English and Māori languages and culture.
On 10 June 1886, the eruption of Mount Tarawera devastated the area, killing more than 100 people and burying Te Wairoa and neighbouring villages under layers of mud and ash.
Guide Sophia survived the eruption, taking shelter with more than 60 people in her whare (house). The high pitched roof and strong, reinforced timber walls withstood the power of the eruption, unlike much of the surrounding buildings.
After suffering such huge devastation, many were left without homes and livelihoods, and displaced from their ancestral lands. Surviving Tūhourangi were taken in by a closely related hapū, Ngāti Wāhiao at Whakarewarewa Village. Guide Sophia began guiding tours at this geothermal village and encouraged more women to take up the role.
Today, many of the guides in Whakarewarewa Village and Te Puia are descendants of these original guides.
Our modern guides carry the same traditional Māori principles as Guide Sophia and the original Pink and White Terraces guides: manaakitanga (caring for those around us), kaitiakitanga (protecting our planet and people), and whanaungatanga (creating lasting relationships with those we bring into our lives).
Other descendants have returned to guide at Lake Tarawera and Mount Tarawera, and others are sharing these same principles with visitors from New Zealand and all over the world through new adventure tourism experiences, like mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest, whitewater rafting on Kaituna River, and at many other adventure tourism experiences.