Wai-O-Tapu is an active geothermal area in New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic zone located just 27 km south of Rotorua. Chemical reactions due to various gases and chemicals create very dynamic and colourful sights for the tourists to enjoy.

Due to dramatic geothermal conditions beneath the earth, the area has many hot springs noted for their colourful appearance, the Lady Knox geyser, the Champagne Pool, Artist’s Pallette and boiling mud pools. It covers an area of 18 square kilometres and is protected as a geothermal scenic reserve. Wai-o-Tapu in Maori means “sacred waters”.

A part of the scenic reserve now operates as Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland which is where the tourists can see these geothermal wonders. It is a volcanic zone but the eruptions do not spew molten lava but are gaseous expulsions from vents and colourful geothermal pools. The distinct smell of sulphur similar to rotting eggs is all pervading here.

Highlights of Wai-O-Tapu:

The Champagne Pool:

A pool in a 65m diameter crater is one of the most iconic photo spots here. The abundance of carbon dioxide much like in a bubbling champagne glass is what has inspired this name. The high sulphur content combining with ferrous salts in water cause the distinct orange sulphur deposit along the border of this pool.

The water in the pool keeps an average temperature of 73 deg C and is at 260 deg C when it enters the pool. So it can be dangerous to get too close or touch these waters!

The Champagne Pool

The Devil’s Bath :

A large ruggedly edged crater created by an eruption deep underground is filled with water of amazing iridescent lime colour. The colour is the result of excess water from the Champagne pool mixing with sulphur and ferrous salts. Changes in colour through yellow to green are associated with the amount of reflected light and cloud cover.

The Devil’s Bath

Lady Knox Geyser :

Wai-0-Tapu has several active geysers but the most famous one is the Lady Knox geyser. It can erupt for over 20 mts high. This geyser is forced to erupt daily at a specific time by a park ranger. If this is not done, it will naturally erupt every 24 to 48 hours at sporadic time intervals. Spectators can view this geyser erupting and is definetly one of the highlights of this park.

At Lady Knox Geyser

Video of the Geyser eruption….click on video

The Mud Pools :

The word pool should not mislead you….you certainly can’t swim in it. The coughing bubbling spitting mud pools are fun to watch. Here you find thick muddy water spewing out of the earth much like the boiling water splashing up from the pan.

The Boiling Mud Pools

Video of boiling mud pools…click on video

Artist’s Palette :

Overflowing water from the Champagne pool draws minerals from below the surface. As the water cools, the minerals settle down and are exposed to the atmosphere and show up in a variety of colours….much like an artist’s palette!

It looks like a huge palette splashed with various colours…

Artist’s Palette

Opal Pool :

The greenish yellow pool next to Artist’s Palette

The Opal Pool

Sulphur Cave :

Here sulphur has crystallized on the over hanging shelf from the cooling of hot sulphur gases. There are also some chlorine pools here which may have been suitable for cooking.It is believed that the ancient people used these pools for cooking and other purposes. They used to revere these pools highly.

The Sulphur Cave

The chlorine pool useful for cooking.

Inferno Crater :

This crater has a bottom of violently boiling mud.

The Inferno Crater

Thunder Crater :

A collapsed crater; it graphically illustrates how unstable the land can be.Due to constant geothermal activity, the bottom of some of the craters give way and result in large gaping holes.

Thunder Crater

Thunder crater…note the steaming hot water at the bottom responsible for the erosion

Bird’s Nest Crater :

As the name suggests, the walls of this crater have holes in which starlings, mynahs and swallows nest. The warmth in the crater helps to incubate their eggs.

Bird’s Nest Crater

Last, but not the least….

A tribute to the original inhabitants of the place….an inscription in the reserve explaining the reverence that the locals had for the river Waikato and the Wai O Tapu region.

After a very exciting visit to this geothermal area, we returned home to our hotel with great memories..

With this episode, we bid farewell to New Zealand.

As we departed New Zealand, there appeared a colourful rainbow in the horizon….as if to say….do not forget the colourful memories from this land….

The rainbow

Starting our Europe tour from next week…memories of a trip undertaken long ago…refreshing my memories as I take you along..

See you next week at London

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