In the Footsteps of a Maori Voyager

A new attraction in New Zealand’s North Island has put the cradle of its indigenous people back on the map.

A performance brings Kupe’s epic journey to life. (Photo courtesy of Manea – Footprints of Kupe)

In the annals of human exploration, the epic ocean voyages undertaken by early Polynesian seafarers still lack the recognition they deserve. But modern-day travelers now have the chance to delve into Maori culture where New Zealand’s story as Aotearoa, the “Land of the Long White Cloud,” first began. Opened in December, Manea – Footprints of Kupe overlooks Hokianga Harbour, where Kupe — the fabled voyager credited with discovering Aotearoa centuries before the Europeans — is believed to have come ashore. The US$7 million cultural and education center is an exciting addition to the remote North- land region, whose sights include the giant kauri trees of the Waipoua Forest.

Encouragingly, visitors to Manea take on the role of active participants rather than passive observers. After a powhiri welcome ceremony, they’ll learn about Maori customs through a guided 75-minute journey that incorporates traditional storytelling and songs, artwork, and, in a purpose-built theater, a 4D digital showcase narrating the adventures of Kupe and his descendants. The center is operated by the Te Hua o Te Kawariki Trust, with all profits invested back into the com- munity. In time, it’s hoped that Manea will help improve the economic fortunes of Hokianga while shining a light on the area’s rich Maori heritage.

The Manea building. (Photo courtesy of Manea – Footprints of Kupe)

A view of the headlands of Hokianga Harbour. (Photo: 7Michael/iStock)

This article originally appeared in the March/May 2021 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“A Legend Relived”).

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