My Awkward Solo Visit to Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua, NZ

It’s not often that I run into awkward situations on my solo travel in New Zealand. There’s usually solo travellers when I go on tours so I was not really that worried when I decided to visit the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua. Touted as an experience of the indigeneous Maori life, I was drawn to the idea that it was presented by local Maoris as a way to share their culture, history and stories with everyone. For sure, it is largely a tourist attraction for me but I still found it worth a visit for there was so much valuable lessons taught.

Tamaki Maori Village

Listening to instructions at the village

The Maori community in New Zealand may be unfamiliar to visitors but they were one of the earlier settlers in New Zealand, migrating from the nearby Polynesian islands to set up villages around the North and South Island of New Zealand. Kia Ora (say ki-o-ra very fast) is a common Maori greeting to hear in New Zealand to welcome visitors or friends.

I chose to think my tour started when I was picked up from my hostel. Not only was my driver part of the Maori community, he was a hoot! I hardly felt left out as he joked around with us on the bus on the way to the village. The village was set up in a forested area outside Rotorua so arriving as the sun was setting made me feel part of the village with small fires burning all around us.

Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua

Showing us the Poi Dance at one of the stations.

We were greeted with a traditional welcome greeting where someone was picked to be the “Head” of our tribe. As our representative, he got a special treatment of rubbing noses with the head of the Maori tribe and being warned off by their traditional haka dance. The visitors, of course, left our Head to the mercy of these fierce warriors so that we can shamelessly take photos instead. The Head has to work for something, doesn’t he?

Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua

Demonstrating to us about the traditional way of carving at one of the stations

We were then segregated into different groups where each group were to start off with different “stations”. Each station had a traditional activity such as learning their haka dance, their traditional way of weaving, carving with traditional tools and even their way of training as a warrior. Volunteers got to participate so that it was more interactive and enjoyable to learn.

Tamaki Maori Village

Food was cooked under all those rocks!

One of the highlights of this tour, though, is the traditional Maori cooking. It was simple food but these food were cooked under hot stones underground. It was taken out right in front of us when it was ready to be eaten. Before that though, we were serenaded with storytelling through songs and dancing. I really enjoyed this aspect of the tour as their songs were beautiful and their exuberance during their traditional dancing brought much joy to everyone.

Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua

The food that was just taken out from the underground pit.

Then it came to the awkwardness of being alone. I was actually fine being alone as we rotated through the different stations but the dining room setup made it awkward for a single person during dinner. Rather than individual tables such as those in a restaurant, the tables were arranged in a long communal table instead. It didn’t help that I was the only one seated alone in this whole dining room and the people sitting next to me pretty much ignored me.

Tamaki Maori Village

Some of the food from the buffet, I had chicken, fish, potatoes and some vegetables.

I did get through dinner nevertheless as I refused to let it dampen my enthusiasm for my food. The food was delicious (and free flow!) so I made sure to enjoy my share and their desserts were wonderful as well. I also shamelessly eavesdropped on my neighbours throughout the dinner to keep me entertained. Eating alone did have its exciting moments after all, my way of living life on an edge. 🙂

Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua

The dining hall was a big communal hall.

So it was with a full buffet of food and dessert, they ended the dinner with Maori folk songs sung by their staff there. It was the loveliest way to end the night. My entertainment did not end there though. Remember my driver? He was even more hilarious on our return trip to Rotorua and continued to entertain us with his beautiful singing on my way home. He may have been a little bit too exuberant in his singing but we all left the bus laughing and happy at the end of the night. I might have felt awkward during dinner but he definitely managed to make me feel part of the family by the end of the bus ride. 🙂

Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua

During one of the dance performance at the village

Did you have any awkward moments when you did any tours? Please do share! I would love to hear stories from others as well. 🙂

12 thoughts on “My Awkward Solo Visit to Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua, NZ

    • Hahahaha, oh I can just imagine…you have my sympathies. I’ve travelled with my parents and there are times when they’ve embarrassed me that I just wanted to hide…hahaha…


  1. Oh you handled it well Sha! I’ve always found I’m usually the one initiating conversation when I’m on my own. Which normally ends up with the people I’m talking to thinking I’m a nutter. In saying that I have some very very close friends who I’ve met simply by being alone and starting conversation with them. Sounds like you just had rude people near you! The night looks fun though and kiwis are absolutely some of my favourite people in the world!

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    • Hahahaha, I’ve done the same too! I even had someone run away from me because I approached him first and started chattering away..I didn’t realise he was THAT offended but oh well! I guess the people around me then were just occupied with their own friends to bother being friendly with me, they were most likely tourists and not kiwis, I think. I still had a lovely dinner because I sure ate my fill…hehe

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  2. Yup, I have experienced awkward travel moments. The latest one was when we were in Amazon forest. Our ‘forest tour’ group got a lady and her friend, a man, joining us on the second day. The lady was kinda attention seeker meanwhile her friend was super sweet. Anyway, we had dinner on the same table and it was only me and her who were female, while the rest were men. She brought fruits and she cut the fruits and offered to everyone one by one including my husband but she skipped me! Her friend was, in the end, offering his shared fruit to me.. that’s kinda weird and awkward. On the following day, that fruit girl always wanted to walk in the front of the group, next to our forest guide and kept speaking Spanish with the guide while the rest of the group is not as fluent as her. I had no idea what’s wrong with her but she made me felt awkward and annoyed. On the third day, we had a new lady, a solo traveler, joined our group and she got along with me quickly – the fruit lady had more female competition I but she changed being a nicer person after the third female joined our group. That’s actually the weirdest group experience I have ever joined – and that just because of her 😀

    BTW, my hubby and I met solo travelers during our travel especially during scuba diving in which mostly being done in group. We usually try to be social with them whenever they sit on the same table with us. Who knows our paths cross someday, we will not let you being awkward on the dining table 😀

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    • Awww, that’s not very nice of her to do that…I always hate it when someone deliberately makes it awkward for me when I travel alone. I’ve got to say that it can get a little awkward being on a boat alone too so I’m glad that you made the effort to socialise with them. Those are my favourite kind of people when I’m alone on tour…hahaha And yes, very much grateful to know that I will have company if we encounter each other…:)


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