A festival of a different kind is about to be added to the New Zealand international events’ calendar in the form of the Rotorua Mud Festival. Rotorua Lakes Council has launched a new festival celebrating Rotorua’s geothermal and volcanic environment. From 2017 onwards, the event is scheduled to take place in early December. The festival sets up an international event partnership agreement between Boryeong City and Rotorua. Boryeong in South Korea runs an annual mud festival which attracts more than three million visitors a year. Rotorua Lakes Council wants to establish a similar event in Rotorua based on the city’s 150-year history of using mud as a therapy and treatment.
The Rotorua Mud Festival will take place in downtown Rotorua and include a mud-arena, spa and wellness experiences, and education and historical story-telling. Over time, the event is forecast to attract a number of domestic and international attendees, which is expected to generate economic returns for both Rotorua and New Zealand.
Rotorua mud is high in minerals due to its contact with the volcanic gases and minerals from the earth’s centre. When warmed, it also stores heat easily which makes it ideal for heat treatments. “The festival will be fun, there will be an opportunity to feel the mud on your skin, but it will also be about the beauty of the mud product. In Rotorua, culture, dirt and steam is what we are about and mud fits our proposition,” sid Steve Chadwick, mayor, Rotorua.
Mud experiences in Rotorua
Rotorua has a number of different activities on offer that involve mud. The Rotorua Museum is home to the Mud Bath Basement which can be accessed via a basement walkway beneath the building. The four baths on view remain largely, as they were when the building opened in 1908, as a health spa offering.
Hells Gate, one of the premier Rotorua experiences, offers mud baths, mud facials and a mud foot pool set in one of Rotorua’s most active geothermal areas. At the Polynesian Spa, visitors can indulge in different mud therapies including a mud body wrap. Guests are covered in a Rotorua thermal mud mask and then cocooned in sheets and towels before a scalp massage.
Just outside Rotorua, the Wai-O-Tapu mud pool is the site of a large mud volcano which was destroyed through erosion in the 1920s. It now represents an opportunity to experience the unique character and sounds of erupting mud.
Te Puia, one of Rotorua’s most popular attractions, has two impressive mud pools. Nga Mokai a Koko is the largest at Te Puia, with a depth of between six to 10 metres and bursts of mud reaching temperatures of approximately 90 to 95 degree celsius. Purapurawhetu or ‘Star Dust’ takes its name from the small clusters of boiling mud resembling a pattern of stars like the milky way.
Rotorua is also renowed for mountain biking. Every two years the famous mountain biking event, Crankworx takes place in Rotorua. Since the early 19th century, tourists have flocked to Rotorua’s natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and active geysers to experience the thermal wonders on the ‘Pacific rim of fire’.
Māori culture and history infuse Rotorua life. The town of Rotorua, on the shores of Lake Rotorua, is home to the Te Arawa iwi – one of New Zealand’s larger Māori tribes. A third of Rotorua’s population is Māori.