Lake Tarawera was once the strong hold of the Tuhourangi people. Intrepid travellers prior to 1886 would make the long arduous journey from all corners of the world to arrive at Rotorua, and then they would have to trek by horse drawn coach from there out to Lake Tarawera. Here at Lake Tarawera, the entrepreneurs, that were the Tuhourangi people, would guide these travellers to what was once considered the 8th natural wonder of the world, the Pink and White Terraces.
On the 10th June 1886, the Tarawera Mountain erupted. It is said that some one hundred and fifty people lost their lives that night, however those were not the only losses to be written down in the history books. The Pink and White Terraces were obliterated and the Tuhourangi people were displaced. Their livelihood was gone and with that, their standing as one of the richest Maori tribes in New Zealand was also gone. They were now reliant on the generosity of other tribes throughout New Zealand to offer them sanctuary.
Move forward some 127 years and we have the Lake Tarawera Water Taxi and Eco Tours business here at Lake Tarawera. What I find absolutely fascinating about this business is that it is a family business with ties to Lake Tarawera, that span back prior to the eruption that devastated the Tuhourangi people.
Karen Walmsley and her husband, David Walmsley are the owner operators. Karen, is Tuhourangi and she has quite simply put, come home. She is a descendant of Guide Sophia and Hori Taiawhio. Guide Sophia was one of the leading guides at Tarawera prior to the eruption. David cannot claim the same genealogical connections as his lovely wife to this area, but that does not in any way lessen his passion and enthusiasm for Lake Tarawera. Karen and David both hope that eventually tourism growth will see more Tuhourangi people returning to this area and rekindling a livelihood and a relationship born some 160 years ago.
The Walmsley’s are the consummate excellent hosts. Showing you manaakitanga (hospitality, to the 10th degree) is as intrinsic to their nature as knowing how to breathe is to mine. In recognising that you only have a short amount of time to spend with them, they inform you about this wondrous area with passion, excitement and enthusiasm. They feel as though they have not lived up to the responsibility of manaakitanga unless you leave with just a smidgen of Tarawera in your heart. Like all romances it then becomes your responsibility to nurture it.
The Pink and White terraces were undoubtly the jewel in Tarawera’s crown; however there are other gems worth visiting. You can take a 15 minute exhilarating water taxi ride across the majestic Lake Tarawera to Te Rata Bay (Hot Water Beach). The geothermal water mixes with the cooler waters of Lake Tarawera to give you an experience that you will not forget. The natural bush hot pool is another gem that you could decide to experience. The beauty of the New Zealand native forest surrounds this fascinating area, and as long as you care to walk there are trails that will take you to areas such as the Tarawera Falls and the newly opened Tarawera Trail.
Karen and David have itemised these smorgasbord of experiences and the information for them can be accessed through their website, http://www.ecotoursrotorua.co.nz They can also cater for large groups and tailor make itineraries to suit your party. Believe me, your experience will start from the moment your feet touch the floor of the water taxi and will be with you for a long time after that.