The Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland was one of the more expensive attractions we visited during our New Zealand trip. (Fortunately the best stuff is free.) I’m not sure if I would recommend the thermal park to most visitors, as you can see lots of thermal activity in Rotorura for free. Although, if you are into photography the green and yellow pools and mud pits are definitely a unique things to capture.
I would probably have a better opinion of the place if I hadn’t gotten sick from the smell during the first 10 minutes of our walk. Many people have a strong reaction to the smell. My brother-in-law sneezed and coughed for the first few minutes, but eventually got used to it. Unfortunately my headache and stomach-ache just increased with every breath of the putrid smell.
The worst of the smell is by the Artist Palette and Champagne Pool near the beginning of the park. These large thermal pools are unique due to the color and it is pretty cool to see people on the other side of the pools engulfed in steam.
One of the more entertaining parts of the park were the names of all the different mud pools. It was definitely a creative team that went around and named each section of the Thermal Wonderland.
Wai O Tapu is Maori for ‘sacred waters’ and it is easy to see why the native people would consider these hot springs of water sacred. I couldn’t imagine being the first person in my tribe to discover a pit of boiling water in the earth. I learned at another park that the Maori people would use the thermal water to cook their food. I wonder if they used pots, or just put meat directly into the water. I believe it would make me sick, consider the smell made me feel so ill.
I was tempted to increase the saturation of these photos to show you how amazing the colors were, but I was afraid I might overdue it. The colors were even more vibrant in person, which is surprising – you just don’t expect to see yellow mud.
I love waterfalls, so I was delighted to see a thermal waterfall at the back of the park.
The eerily green pool at the end of the park is aptly named Devil’s Bath. There are actually many references to the Devil throughout the park and I cannot help but wonder what the Maori people think about this as it was sacred to them.