Te Arawa Waka

Hints and Tips

• NZMACI recreated part this voyage in 2012 with a project called Waka Tapu, which saw voyagers travel 10,000 nautical miles from New Zealand to Rapanui and back, using only the stars, moon, ocean swells and currents for navigation. The voyage highlights Te Puia | NZMACI’s dedication to protecting and perpetuating Māori culture, traditions, arts and crafts.

• The Te Arawa iwi (tribe) built their first pā (fortress) on a hill in Maketū, just 45 minutes’ drive North-east of Rotorua.


The 40 metre twin-hulled waka was one of the great voyaging canoes used in the migrations that settled Aotearoa (New Zealand), with over 30 iwi (tribe) members on board.

The captain of the waka was Tamatekapua, with the legendary Ngatoroirangi as its principal tohunga (high priest).

The Te Arawa canoe takes its name from the red shark it resembled as it journeyed to New Zealand, a name the iwi (tribe) will keep forever.

Arriving on New Zealand the shores the Te Arawa iwi (tribe) set about exploring the North Island, eventually settling in Rotorua, the Bay of Plenty and down to Tongariro.

A well known whakatauki (proverb) describes the landing - ‘Ko te ihu o te waka kei Maketū, kote kei o te wakakei Tongariro’ - meaning that the bow of Te Arawa is at Maketū while the stern is at Mount Tongariro.

Did you know?

Landing first in the Hauraki Gulf, Te Arawa’s Captain Tamatekapua was confronted by Tainui’s captain Hoturoa over an alleged adultery and was left bruised and bloodied. Rangitoto Island, off the coast of Auckland, got its name from this incident - Te Rangi-i-totongia-a-Tamatekapua- the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed.

After the final landing at Maketu, many of the tribe continued to travel south, settling around the lakes in Rotorua.

Te Motutapu-a-Tinirau, Mokoia Island in the middle of Lake Rotorua, was a desirable location for its natural geothermal warmth.

Te Arawa Waka

Setting off from Hawaiki, our Ngāti Ohomairangi ancestors departed from their Polynesian homeland in search of a peaceful land.