The Polynesian Spa in Rotorua is everything that it claims to be - providing you with amazing outdoor hot pools right on the edge of Lake Rotorua, surrounded by native bush, with three or four pools of varying heat intensity. Once you've finished soaking in the pools, you wander inside to enjoy the (very cheap on the £) spa treatments - recommend the hydrotherapy manuka honey body polish. Definitely the nicest winter spa retreat that I have ever had.
PS. Make sure you buy some of the specialised mud soap - looks bad, feels great.
Rotorua's historic Maori village, including the Tamatekapua Meeting House (Marae) and St Faith's Church. Highly recommend the excellent tours- personal, informal and full of local details; the guides are clearly proud of what they are showing you.
On the lakefront in Rotorua.
Charles Royal runs these tours and he enthusiastically showed us the numerous wild plants that are edible on the island. He explained that the Kawakawa tree, Maori Bush Basil or Maori Pepper have many uses and gave us little sachets of the crushed, prepared leaves he said we could use to spice up many dishes. Charles told us there are seven edible varieties of ferns and pointed out the Hen and Chickens fern, which is surprisingly soft and sweet to the taste.
When we'd done exploring and sampling, he took us back down to Hinemoa's pool, where we sat dabbling our feet in the warmth as he produced on a camping stove, like a magician bringing a rabbit out of a hat, a selection of quick-cook courses, made with some of the herbs and ferns he'd just shown us.
It's an amazing experience of a Maori tradition and way of existing with the land that is truly wonderful.
Charles Royal, Kinaki NZ, PO Box 1030, Rotorua, Aotearoa, New Zealand. 0064 7 345 3122, www.maorifood.com
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