Rotorua - a geothermal wonderland


The natural thermal activity throughout New Zealand's Rotorua makes it a place that needs to be seen to be believed.

Steam near lake

Steam swirls up from all kinds of places throughout Rotorua.

Credit: Lauren Monaghan

Hangi box

Hangi boxes at Whakka Village provide delicious and eco-friendly meals.

Credit: Lauren Monaghan

Steaming cliffs and Frying Pan Lake at Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is full of natural wonders.

Credit: Lauren Monaghan

Inferno Crater Lake

Inferno Crater Lake at Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

Credit: Lauren Monaghan

Boiling mud

Be captured by the plopping mud making mesmerising patterns at Hell's Gate Spa.

Credit: Lauren Monaghan

Steaming cliffs

No, it's not a fire! Just Rotorua's active geothermal landscape at work.

Credit: Lauren Monaghan

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"To preserve and protect what you have - nothing could be more important to us. We look at what has been provided to us through the land, and we use it and respect it completely. We live as one with the natural world."

My crash course in New Zealand's Maori culture comes courtesy of a fellow passenger on my flight to Rotorua, in the country's North Island. She tells her tale of deep respect and oneness while the locals around us slumber gently in their seats. The scene would be the picture of serenity, if it weren't for me.

Sitting a couple of rows from the front of the plane, which also happens to be just a couple of rows from the back, my knuckles are white as my nails dig into the armrest. My breath hitches as we bump through the cloud.

My thoughtful seat buddy tries again to distract me with tales of her culture, but as the clouds part she needn't worry. We're flying over some of the most gorgeous scenery now, and my breath catches for an entirely different reason.

If this is what nature has provided, no wonder the people are so keen to safeguard it.

Rolling green hills, beautiful lakes, majestic mountains, lush forests and pretty much every other wonders-of-the-world cliche you can think of - Rotorua has it all, and all within a stones throw of each other.

And protect it they do. You'd be hard pressed to find anywhere in New Zealand where sustainability is so seriously considered.

Rotorua was the country's first region to set up a Sustainable Tourism Charter, a now 80-odd-member strong grassroots initiative that has local businesses working towards a greener future.

"The Charter actually began as just a research project," says Eldad Collins, one of the faces behind the idea.

"We wanted to look at what was already happening out there, and, in theory, the feasibility of setting out on a mission like this, the things a Charter might address. From there it became, 'Hey, this is a really great idea. Let's do it!'"

Today, the charter members - each of whom are assessed before they sign up, and inspected throughout their membership - commit to the continuous improvement of their eco-credentials.

"They each have their own checklists of things they can do to boost their sustainability. Everyone is taking their own approach to reach that green Nirvana," says Collins, who is the go-to guy for group members needing support, advice and practical assistance.

For their efforts, as well as the knowledge that they are helping to protect the environment, and in addition to the savings that naturally come with efficiently using resources, charter group members get to bear the membership crest.

If you're headed to Rotorua, this green badge of honour is one to look out for as you choose from the many touristy activities on offer.

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