Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Incredible geological features, beautiful coastline; New Zealand's Māori culture on full display. And friendly faces everywhere. Welcome to the Bay of Plenty. National Geographic sent my colleagues and me to Rotorua and Whakatāne to discover what makes this part of New Zealand's North Island so unique. Photographer Erika Larsen ventured to Te Puia, a centre for Māori culture and geothermal wonders, to explore. Kiri, please tell me about this amazing, really really magical place. So we have so much to offer here in Rotorua, you know - forests, lakes, walking and also experiencing our beautiful geothermal around this area here, Rotorua. And the people. - And the people. - And the people. -[laughs] And our geyser is ready to go guys! And our geyser is ready to go guys! - Woah! [laughs] Listen to it! It's so beautiful. Listen to it! It's so beautiful. - I know. I found through my work, wherever I go there is always a guide, it might not an official guide but it's always a guide that can translate and introduce, and allow you to feel the landscape so, so your job here is really important. It is. In my family there's four generations who have all guided, we have become kaitiaki or guardians, of all the areas, so it's our responsibility to take care of our whenua, to take care of our land. When I'm walking along this pathway here, I'm walking along the same path as my ancestors and when the guided visitors through the area here it's just something that came naturally. So the knowledge is… it's natural knowledge. It's here, you know it by living it. It's here, you know it by living it. - It is. By just experiencing it and living it. It's beautiful. It's so beautiful. It's so beautiful. - Yeah, yeah. For me, there are so many moments in the world that are so loud and you come here and you can feel... Yeah. You can feel a little more human. Yeah, exactly right. You get all sorts of visitors, when they're going on a guided tour and then they go, "Wow this place is bigger... ...than what I thought, it's not just something that I see in a book, I can feel it, I can touch it." They do go away, leaving here at Te Puia as part as my whānau, as part as my family, because that's who I am. Meanwhile, artist and author Christoph Niemann visited the national carving school at Te Puia, where the traditional methods of Māori carving are taught. So we're here in the traditional Māori carving school. Yes, formed in 1926. Oh so that… That's the 1926. What happens? So you start with the… So you start with the story. So it means like the beginning of carving is speaking - and telling stories. - you're speaking, yeah. Exactly, and listening to songs, listening to karakia, prayers. It all contains history. In the process carving, it's a lot of repetition, it's kind of like attention but it's also, - it's really like the manual labour and like, - It's all repetition, yes. getting to know and feel for the wood. getting to know and feel for the wood. - yes. Do you remember a moment where you've felt okay, I started to have a connection here? It's when you realise that sound is everything. Sound? Yes. So it's about the sound of the work, of the chopping? Yes, so it's... [claps hands together to mimic chopping] So through the sounds you get a feel for the wood - for the form? - It relaxes your mind. Okay. so that you can actually carve. So it becomes a rhythm? Yep. So it's about rhythm, pulse and your heart settles into that rhythm. What are we looking at? - It's very very impressive and… - So this is a... It's a memorial post that was meant to celebrate the 100th landing at the gallipoli peninsula. This one is about the technicalities of war. This is about the victims of war. So it like, goes from the very tangible here, - into a more abstract spiritual world. - That's right, yep. - Okay. - Yep. What are the best reactions you get from travellers from far away places, or from closer places? There's this idea that you come here and everyone's dressed on a piupiu, and you know, they've been here forever and a day, but no, most of us have ancestors that have come here trying to find heaven. All sorts of things. So there is a connection from the world coming here and then… Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, y'know and that's what kiwis are, Yeah. they're a mixture of a whole lot of people that have come to this country. No but this is beautiful, and it's interesting to look at the art through that angle and I think also coming as a visitor and looking at it through the same way. Thank you. You're welcome. Up the road from Rotorua, is Ōhope Beach. I took a walk along the water and up a coastal track nearby to meet my fellow explorers and some friends for a very special dinner. I take this coastal walk, that's absolutely stunning, you know, every ten stairs or so you have a lookout that is giving you a view of... you know, these mountains in the background, that are so… it looks like a watercolour. Wow. Endless, it feels like just water that goes on forever. Hey everybody. Hey, Kia Ora Heather. Good to see you! Kia Ora whānau, really good to have you here up at Kapu-te-rangi, the home of Toi Kairakau our famous ancestor. So Toi would've occupied this place around a thousand years ago. Our hāngi is just about ready, our feast. Whakawhetai ana mātou mo enei kai e iho mai nei, he oranga mo te tinana, ake ake, āmine. Āmine. Help yourself. - Ka Pai. - [laughs] This looks fantastic, can you tell us a little bit about the hāngi? Yeah, so the hāngi is obviously our traditional Māori way of cooking food or feasting. Ours is unique as far as I know because we actually set the hāngi in the ground and bury it over so it's actually subterranean. 'hā' is breath or also flavour, and 'ngi ngi' is a very old word for, to burn, to make smoky, to make fire. So that's the origin of the word hāngi, so the flavour that is smoky and has been burnt. So today when we came up, the first thing you notice, inevitably, is this beautiful island here, can you tell me a bit about it? Yeah so that island is Moutohorā. The island is now pest free, it's a protective wildlife reserve. Neil here is actually heavily involved. Yeah so there was a whole bunch of work. If you look at old pictures of Moutohorā, actually, it didn't even have very many trees on it. The Department of Conservation and the Iwi, Ngāti Awa, worked really closely together. There was a whole bunch of trapping work that was done to make it pest free. A lot of our native birds and animals in New Zealand evolved without mammalian predators, so Moutohorā, because it's pest free, we have birds on there that are actually extinct on the mainland. Delicious. The food is absolutely wonderful, can you tell us a little bit more about your history of cooking and what we're eating here? My father always instilled on us that a... well feed body is a well feed mind and spirit. And if you really love what you do, as in cooking, it will show, it will always taste lovely in your food. That's wonderful. That's what our father always instilled. That's what our father always instilled. - Works with me! Thank you.