Friday, 20 February 2015

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, New Zealand

"You want to see what!"

David lifts his eyes from the newspaper and peers at me across the breakfast table.

"Mud," I am trying to sound convincing here.

"Mud," he repeats.


"Yes, boiling mud," I can see I have a long way to go. We seem to be in different universes at the moment.


"You know - geysers, boiling mud, steam vents, hot springs,"  An active volcano or two might be fun but I don't want to press my luck. He gives me his best 'why on earth would you want to do that' look and returns to his paper.

New Zealand sits at the junction of two great tectonic plates: the Australian and the Pacific. These plates are constantly pushing up against each other and in the process have created some spectacular geo-thermal areas. One of the best is Wai-O-Tapu, mid-way between Taupo and Rotorua. We are staying at Taupo and it is only 40 minutes drive.

It is raining softly on our way there. One of the best things about geo-thermal areas are their magnificent colours.  Wai-O-Tapu has a reputation as the most colourful in New Zealand. I hope the cloud cover doesn't affect the vibrancy of the colours. I needn't worry. It takes a couple of hours to walk around the whole park. The sun comes out after an hour or so and I don't notice any difference in the colour of the formations.

The Champagne Pool

There is something surreal about watching mud boil up from beneath the earth, form large, blob-like bubbles then explode in mini-eruptions before sinking back to be swallowed by its surroundings. Even the boiling water pools and steam vents are mesmerising. The colours are beautiful. There are caves, craters, lakes and pools stained in yellow, green, red and orange, the result of minerals being drawn to the surface.

A mud bubble exploding

A pool of boiling water


The 'Champagne Pool' is the highlight with its stunning bright orange border running along the edge like a coral reef. Clouds of vapour rise from the water. The breeze drops and mist covers the pool like an aura emanating from a subterranean poltergeist. It drifts toward us and we get a whiff of the 'rotten-egg' smell created by sulphur as it is released.


Looking across The Terrace 


David's lack of interest in the excursion has turned to fascination as we make our way around the park. Even he can't resist the beauty of this 'nature in the raw'.  His favourite is the last formation - the 'Devil's Bath' - a massive crater filled with water turned lime-green by sulphur..


The Devil's Bath

Mud cave with coloured mineral deposits on the walls.

Tips, tricks and things to know:

  • The paths through the park are in three sections. Section 1 is 1.5 km, sections 1 & 2 are 2 km and sections 1, 2 & 3 are 3 kms. The whole park takes a couple of hours to walk around slowly.
  • If you have never seen a geyser erupt don't miss the Lady Knox Geyser. It erupts at 10.15 a.m each day. It is a short (3 minute) drive from the Visitor Centre so leave yourself enough time to buy your tickets first and then go on to the geyser.
  • Wai-o-Tapu is easy to walk around. There are boardwalks and formed pathways throughout but wear sensible shoes. Flip-flops, sandals and other open-toed shoes aren't practical.
  • Bring a hat, water and sunscreen.
  • If you visit at lunch time the cafe has a good range of food and a very pleasant sitting out area.
  • Don't miss the Mud Pool - a large area of ferociously bubbling, erupting mud where a mud volcano once stood. It is outside the park, a few minutes drive from the entrance. 
  • For a list of ticket prices and opening hours click - here
Note:
  • David and I received complimentary entrance.

82 comments:

  1. Lynn, I hope to make it to New Zealand one day. It sounds like Wai-O-Tapu is an amazing geothermally active area, specially the pools of differently colored hot waters. Did you smell a lot of sulfur in the air?

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    1. Hi Carmen. The sulphur wasn't nearly as obvious as I expected. We only really noticed it when we got close to the Champagne Pool. I remember many years ago staying in Rotorua for a few nights and the sulphur there was quite strong - interesting though and I suppose if you lived there you would get used to it fairly quickly.

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  2. This looks amazing! New Zealand is definitely on my bucket list

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    1. Hi Hillary. It is a great country to visit.

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  3. Fascinating! Such unique geological phenomenon..great pictures! Can't wait to see for ourselves, as we are moving to New Zealand for a year in a few weeks time.

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    1. Hi Selims. I apologise if you get a message saying this comment was rejected. I accidentally hit delete instead of publish - oooppps! I have typed your comment in manually. Fortunately I still had a record of it.

      Where about in New Zealand will you be living? It is a beautiful country. I hope you enjoy your time there.

      We have visited both the North and South Islands regularly over the last few years. If you are interested in reading my other posts on New Zealand just click on the words 'New Zealand' under the heading 'Labels' on the right hand side of my blog and the other posts will appear.

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  4. What a great place to photograph! I'd love to visit it someday. Your description and photos remind me of the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The same kind of volcanic activity that creates these very unique geological phenomena.

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    1. Hi Anda. Yes it is very much like Yellowstone. I loved the thermal areas at Yellowstone when we went there a few years ago and it was the main reason I was so keen to see Wai-O-Tapu.

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  5. I'm going to New Zealand in a month, so excited! I had never heard of Wai-O-Tapu, seems a wonderful place to visit! I read you drove there...do you know if it is possible to reach by public transport?
    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Colibrist. I'm not sure about public transport but if you are staying at Rotorua you could take a tour. If you go to the Wai-O-Tapu website (just click on the hyper-links in my blog post) and then click on 'Links' there is a lot of information about tours.

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    2. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland Representitive23 February 2015 at 08:26

      Hi Colibrist

      I work in marketing at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and can confirm if you do not have your own transport you can either book a private tour from the Rotorua i-site or take a shuttle bus from Rotorua which come to us twice daily, their names are either, Thermal Land Shuttle or Geyser Link shuttle. You can look up their websites and book direct if you need.

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  6. True. This is no ordinary mud. Your photo of The Champagne Pool is as striking as any I've ever seen of it. Our trip to New Zealand was several years ago, but the geothermic pools stand-out in my memory. (Nothing quite like them where I grew up!)

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    1. Hi Melodie. They are amazing. Australia, where we live, is completely devoid of anything interesting in geo-thermal terms.

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  7. Wonderful capture of the bubbling mud and the thermal colors.Thank you for linking up at Weekend Travel Inspiration.

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    1. Hi Rhonda. The boiling mud was amazingly difficult to photograph. Timing that shot was just luck - in most of the photos I took the mud bubbles had collapsed by the time the camera clicked.

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    2. Yep, I have tons of those photos too. It sure is hard to capture.

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  8. I would also like to see (and play in) mud

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    1. Hi Paula. Haha - I'm not sure about the playing bit. I'm pretty sure it would have been scalding hot to touch.

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  9. Now that's a thing I didn't know about New Zealand. Greece is on the end of the European tectonic plate but all this "nice stuff" happens underground so we only get to feel the earthquakes! Well thankfully we have Santorini and Milos which both are volcanic islands... (the one got a killer view thanks to the volcano, while the second one got killer beaches)!
    I would like to visit NZ one day, but mostly for the sheep (I'm a big sheep fan)!

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    1. Hi Anna. There are certainly plenty of sheep in New Zealand. The old joke is that there are more sheep than people - not sure if it's true though - lol.

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  10. I have to admit that we do have the prettiest mud here in New Zealand! Your photos are lovely!

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    1. Hi Bettyl and thank you. I do love a good mud puddle - lol.

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  11. I was last there over 20 years ago...but can remember that colour vividly! I'm fascinated by geo-thermal activity...and it's very dramatic in New Zealand.

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    1. Hi Fairlie. It is amazing isn't it. The only place I've been that compares to it is Yellowstone in the states.

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  12. If someone told me 'I want to go see mud!' I would totally be like 'I'm in!'

    . . . come on, mud is fun! But it's even more fun with some cool geo-thermal activity. This place looks awesome.

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    1. Hi Jess. To be fair to David he didn't hold out for long before he was really fascinated.

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  13. I love Rotorua and the thermal activity. The hot springs are amazing and hell, even the smell! Lovely pictures, I will have to visit Wai-O-Tapu next time I am in NZ. Bec

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    1. Hi Bec. I agree with you - even the smell is awesome - at least for a while.

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  14. Hi Lynn, wow this is amazing. I can't believe the beautiful colors that nature cooked up here - orange, cream, green. They just softened up what could have been a tough environment. I've been to geothermal areas in Iceland but the only color they have is blue. So seeing one with multi-color is just fascinating. I'm glad you convinced your husband to go.

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    1. Hi Marisol. Now I am going to have to put Iceland on my bucket list. I suppose it makes sense but I never thought of it having geo-thermal areas. How's Antarctica going? I have been following your travels there with envy.

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  15. Wai-O-Tapu looks amazing, like another planet. We hope to visit New Zealand later this year and will have to visit this area.

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    1. Hi Shelley. It is well worth a visit. If you are interested in reading about any of the other places we have been to in N.Z just click on the label 'New Zealand' under the heading 'Labels in the right hand column at the top of this post.

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  16. You had me with your first breathtaking photo. What an interesting place to visit. We loved the geo-thermal pools in North America at Yellowstone, so this would be right up our alley.

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    1. Hi Betsy. I was pretty pleased with that photo. I am not a photographer and I just use a tiny little point and shoot Canon. My method is to take an absolute mountain of photos and that way I'll get a fair smattering of good ones. It drives David nuts especially when we are cycling and I have to keep getting off my bike to photograph something but it works.

      We went to Yellowstone a few years ago and just loved the geo-thermal areas.

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  17. Wanting to see mud may sound odd, but this isn't any ordinary mud. Your photos are fantastic. I'd like to see this some day - it hardly seems real.

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    1. Hi Donna. It is well worth seeing. Given that the day I took them was overcast I was really pleased with how the photos turned out.

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  18. What a fascinating and very different terrain! Does it change at all with the seasons?

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    1. Hi Irene. Honestly, I don't know but I do know that the colour of the Devil's Bath changes from green to yellow with the amount of reflected light and cloud cover. We were there on quite an overcast day so I know you don't need the sun to be shining in order to appreciate the colours.

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  19. Omigosh! This is so me! I would, of course, want to see boiling mud!!!!

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    1. Hi Corinne. Love the enthusiasm. Thank you.

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  20. This is so Awesome! My 7 year old was impressed with the boiling mud :-)

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    1. Hi Erin. My boys would have loved it when they were young.

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  21. Amazing pictures!! All of these colours are so vibrant, especially the first picture. It must have been really fun to photograph all the "mud" ;) hehe.

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    1. Hi Clem and Marcella. The mud was surprisingly difficult to photograph. It seemed to be boiling all the time but catching a bubble just as it was about to burst was hard. In the end I think I just got lucky.

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  22. The only geisers I've seen are the ones in Yellowstone... and it always freaked me out when they erupted. But, yeah, if you think about it, it is just a collection of boiling mud hahaha.

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    1. Hi Michelle. We were lucky when we went to Yellowstone. One of the geysers which erupted rarely, once a month or so I think, went off just as we were walking past. It was incredible.

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  23. I've been there, done that, and did enjoy going again in your story. I didn't see the green 'Devil's Bath--:(
    Here is a California mudpot, http://youtu.be/5lWRaCev7aM

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    1. Hi Carole. Great video! Thanks. I thought of trying to video it but was a bit worried it would slow down the loading of my blog page too much.
      Perhaps the green 'Devil's Bath' was yellow when you were there. It apparently changes colour sometimes.

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  24. This reminds me so much of Yellowstone National Park ... going to have to keep it in mind for whenever I make it to NZ :)

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    1. Hi Christina. Yep - Yellowstone without the bears.

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  25. We missed this when we went to New Zealand last December, but hope to get back some time this year. How did y'all smell afterwards???

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    1. Hi Abby. Haha. We noticed the smell but if it stayed with us everyone we met that day was too polite to tell us.

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  26. These geo thermal hot spots around the globe are so interesting. They feel like they are from a different world.

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    1. Hi Gypsies. You're right. Some of them make you feel like you are on a different planet.

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  27. I love the colours of that mud! Anther place on the list for our forthcoming trip to NZ.

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    1. Hi Karen. New Zealand is stunning - you'll love it.

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  28. Stunning part of the globe. I'd love to sit by the champagne pool with a glass of champers! Thanks for joining us for #SundayTraveler

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    1. Hi SJ. Not sure if the smell might not affect the taste of the champers - lol.

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  29. Your husband sounds a bit like mine, in not having the imagination to see the potential of a destination and yet upon arrival thoroughly enjoys it.

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  30. They have some great names for the different pools. I enjoy watching them but really hate the smell. I remember flying into Rotorua and having the smell hit you in the face before you have even landed.

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    1. Hi Malinda. I quite liked the smell - it made it feel even more other worldly.

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  31. And thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust link party this week

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  32. This is so awesome!!!! We visited Yellowstone National Park several years ago and that too is onto of a volcano!!!! We got to see some amazing mud bubbling some amazing hot springs and just beauty.... One day we will get to this country and enjoy the natural beauty.

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    1. Hi BritishMum. I loved Yellowstone when we went there - we even managed to see a Grizzly - none of those in New Zealand - lol.

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  33. I went to Yellowstone National Park when I was around 10 and I still remember being completely fascinated by all geysers, mud pots and funny smells. I think this would be right up my alley. Love the photo of the Champagne Pool. Doesn't quite look like Champagne, but the colours are SO vibrant.

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    1. Hi Adelina. You're right. I have no idea why it is called the Champagne Pool.

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  34. I visited New Zealand several years ago and loved visiting the thermal pools. I found it very interesting and fascinating :)

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    1. Hi WL. It is just so different to what most people have in their countries - there is nothing even remotely like it in Australia.

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  35. I seem to have New Zealand on the brain these days and your photos are just adding to my obsession. The Champagne Pool photo is beautiful!

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    1. Hi Alison. We holiday in New Zealand once a year - it has so many lovely places.

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  36. Thanks for sharing your post on #mum-bomonday, we love having you each week and you are making so want to go to NZ for a holiday. Have a great week!

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    1. Hi Jenn. Thank you.p.s The new site looks great.

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  37. Looks very cool! Despite multiple visits to Rotorua I have never been to Wai-O-Tapu as I was always put off by the entrance fee when there are other places you can see geo-thermal activity for free.

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    1. Hi Sarah. I know what you mean about the cost. It isn't just Wai-o-tapu though New Zealand is very expensive for entrances. I would have loved to visit Hobbiton but at $75 each I just decided it was too much.

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  38. The earth is so weird (the geological material), don't you reckon? Those sorts of places really make you think about it a little...

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    1. Hi Lydia, I know. They are just so fascinating.

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  39. I adore New Zealand and really enjoyed visiting Rotorua. I'm looking forward to an opportunity to take the kids here too sometime. Hells Gates was amazing. Mud bath, sulphur pool....massage. I'm still thinking about it.

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    1. Hi Leah. I agree. New Zealand is a stunning place to visit. I could live there quite happily.

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  40. On 4 March Grace said -

    What an incredible place, I actually hadn't heard of it before! The Champagne Pool looks amazing. I'll just have to go back to NZ, any excuse.

    Note: I have copied the comment to remove a broken link.

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    1. Hi Grace. I didn't know about it either until we arrived in Taupo and we saw a pamphlet. It seems to be advertised as an attraction to visit from Rotorua but it's about half way between there and Taupo.
      I know what you mean about any excuse. It is a fantastic country to visit and often overlooked by Australians because it is so close to us.

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