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Friday, December 3, 2010

Whakatane @ New Zealand

Whakatane, a small town on the East coast of New Zealand's North Island, is the gateway to an active volcano called the White Island. The town also offers local wild life tours and boat trips; making it a popular tourist spot.

Visitor's information centre at Whakatane
Whether you dare to walk on an active volcano, or you desire to swim with friendly wild dolphins; your dreams can come true at Whakatane.

Similar to many small towns in New Zealand, Whakatane is full of Maori culture (The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand). The name "Whakatane" is Maori (the language). It came from a quote by a brave young lady named Wairaka.

Lady Wairaka (and the seagull on her head is real)

The Story of Whakatane
The story goes something like this: Once upon a time, a Chief's daughter named Wairaka went on a canoe ride with a bunch of strong men. The canoe went into problems and all the men panic and stopped paddling! The canoe was drifting, Wairaka picked up a paddle and led everyone back to the shore safely. Since women were forbidden to paddle canoes in the Maori culture, when Wairaka picked up the paddle, she yelled in Maori "let me act the part of a man".

There are other versions of the story, such as the men were actually not on the boat. They went to explore the land without parking the canoe properly, leaving the women on the drifting boat etc. Nonetheless, lady Wairaka's bravery was recognized and word Whakatane was quoted from her "let me be the man" Maori speech.

Travel Tips
As mentioned earlier, Whakatane is a gateway to New Zealand's volcano and neutral wild lives. It is a small town. You can find the basics in town: fast food shops, supermarkets, petrol stations and standard accommodations. However, if you fancy activities after 8pm or if you have high expectations in accommodations and dining, you might consider staying at near by major towns such as Rotorua or Tauranga, and drive for 1 to 1.5 hours in the next morning to Whakatane.

And remember, after your wild life tours, don't forget to check out the traces of Maori culture in town.