The Rotorua region is home to more than 1200 geothermal features, including bubbling mudpools, geysers, and hot springs among others, these incredible forces of nature present spectacular views and photo opportunities, it is no wonder Rotorua’s geothermal nature is so internationally acclaimed.
Rotorua’s geothermal activity is not only visually fascinating but also offers rich historical, cultural and spiritual significance, with pools and other features holding names and depictions of specific Maori legends. Geothermal resources were revered by the Maori who saw themselves as the Kaitaki or Guardians over the pools which offered so much to them including use for cooking, bathing, medicinal value and numerous other rituals.
Formed over 8500 years ago Lake Rotoiti is actually two lakes combined, with the Western section being a drowned valley and the Eastern half situated in the North of a volcanic depression (Okataina Caldera) for this reason the East of Lake Rotoiti houses numerous hot sulfur springs including Manupirua Thermal Springs.
Lake Rotoiti is the location of the ancestral lands of Ngati Pikiao Hapu, a sub tribe of the Te Arawa Tribe, waterways around the lake offered main channels of travel, trade, and warfare for the local Maori throughout the lakes history, becoming an important cultural and spiritual icon. Rotoiti houses numerous caves that are also considered sacred around it’s shore, as well as Maori burial grounds and Ancient Pa or villages situated in Maori strongholds around the lakes hills and peninsulas.
Lake Rotoiti’s full name is Te Roto-Whaiti-i-kite-ai-a-Ihenga-i-Ariki-ai-a Kahumatamomoe. Discovered by the Maori explorer Īhenga, credited with discovering Lake Rotorua as well as numerous other features throughout the North Island. Legend dictates that Īhenga travelled inland on an expedition to explore the area with his dog Potakatawhiti, who disappeared for some time and upon return vomited up whitebait, realizing he must then be near water, Īhenga ended up on the shores of a pristine lake in the mouth of a bay which decieved Īhenga into thinking the lake was very small, thus coining the name lake Rotoiti or Te Roto-Whaiti-i-kite-ai-a-Ihenga-i-Ariki-ai-a Kahumatamomoe which translated means “The Small Lake Discovered By Īhenga”
The Legend of the Manupirua Springs is one following the two sisters Kuiwai and Haungaroa and their quest to save their brother Ngatoroirangi, who was in need of help perishing from the cold on Mt. Tongariro. The two sisters quest began in the legendary ancestral homeland of the Maori people; Hawaiki, where the sisters collected warmth to take to their dying brother. Whenever they paused for rest they left part of the fire they were carrying. These rest stops occurred frequently and legend says they are the origins of the chain of thermal activity that spans the width of their journey from Whakaari (White Island) to Mt. Tongariro. Manupirua being one of their intermediate stops and ever since being a source of warmth for the people of Rotoiti.
The Manupirua Thermal Springs have been in use by Maori and locals since before 1849 over 167 years ago, and have been used on a commercial basis since 1914. The springs now feature an ever expanding quiver of pools with a range of temperatures, overlooking the ever-pristine Lake Rotoiti. The mineral baths are only accessible by boat, and as well as offering one of the most secluded and natural relaxation experiences out there, the thermal spring water is considered to have healing properties; especially of rheumatic conditions and joint pain.