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

Till then, do comment and subscribe below:


A city in the North island of New Zealand, Rotorua is located on the banks of Lake Rotorua. Rotorua is famous for geothermal activity and as we reached the city, the smell of Sulphur was overwhelming. Once we reached the city, we got used to it and soon did not realize the smell. Rotorua is also home to a living Maori village and tourists are treated to a Maori Cultural experience. A crafts school teaching traditional Maori woodcarving and weaving is an added attraction.

Enroute Rotorua, we visited an alpaca farm. Alpacas are reared widely in New Zealand and alpaca wool is very popular.

The Alpaca Farm

When we visited Rotorua, it was fall and we enjoyed the visual treat of the fall foliage.

Fall foliage

Lake Rotorua

Geothermal activity

Located in the Volcanic plateau in geothermal belt of North Island, Rotorua has hot springs, boiling mud pools and spouting geysers. Waimangu and Wai-O-Tapu are two areas known for these geothermal activities.

Geothermal activity is visible everywhere in Rotorua. We were surprised to see steam spewing out from the streets and from the compounds of houses.

Steam spewing out from the footpath along the compound wall of a house

There is a park in Rotorua called Kuirou park. Extensive geothermal phenomenon can be visualized there.

Kuirou park

Steam arising from inside Kuirou park

Boiling mud pool

Steaming pool in Kuiro

Steam arising from one of the pools in the park( click on the video)

Boiling Mud pools(click on video)

Maori Culture

Rotorua is one of the principal bases of Maori culture and tradition and Maori constitute a reasonable part of the local population. The Ohinemutu area, on the shore of Lake Rotorua, has several historic buildings, including a traditional Maori meetinghouse.

The Maori Village at Ohenimutu

Meetinghouse at Ohenimutu

Traditional Maori wood carving

Geothermal activity at Ohenimutu

The Maori people and their cultural show

The village of Whakarewarewa, situated in a geothermal area, offers demonstrations to visitors of how the Maori traditionally used the thermal waters in everyday life. 

Rotorua is also home to a sizeable Indian population and many Indian shops and restaurants can be seen.

Indian restaurant in Rotorua

Amphibious duck tours

With so much geothermal activity, tourism is one of the main activities at Rotorua. A special vehicle called the amphibious duck takes tourists to various geothermal centres. This vehicle can move on land and water…as the name suggests. I found this vehicle unique to this place…

The Duck Tour Vehicle

After experiencing all these geothermal wonders in Rotorua, we visited the Geo thermal Park at Wai-O-Tapu. That was another great experience and I shall meet you next week at Wai-O-Tapu and take you to the Lady Knox Geyser…

Till then, good bye…

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