“Orakei Korako is possible the best thermal area left in New Zealand and one of the finest in the world.”
~ The Lonely Planet
Orakei Korako Geyserland, Cave and Thermal Park
For a land full of active volcanoes, one would expect to find many thermal areas here as well. In fact, there is a Thermal Route where you can follow on the map if you are on a sightseeing trip to visit all the thermal areas around the island.
Anyway, we stopped by at a few smaller ones in Taupo area, some were closed when we arrived. Rotorua was too far away though there are some pretty nice ones there. So we made a trip to somewhere in between Taupo and Rotorua. Orakei Korako happens to be one of the largest and nicest ones, less visitors and more tranquil than the others due to it being off the beaten track; it seems a little isolated from the outside world, hence the term “the hidden valley”.
The Geyserland, which lies across the Lake Ohakuri from the visitor centre, is only accessible by boat, which operates on request. Just ring a bell at the jetty and the boatman will come for you in a jiffy.
Since before the 19th century, this geothermal area at the Waikato Valley has been occupied by the Maoris, attracted by the hot springs for cooking and bathing. Apparently they wanted to save the trouble for their women having to collect wood for making fires.
Here, 20 million litres of scalding hot water flow over colourful silica terraces every day. Gushing geysers can be observed intermittently at various places. At some places, it is even predicted to the exact time of day when the geysers will erupt. Unbelievable. There are also boiling mud pools, and a rare geothermal cave.
Emerald Terrace – facing the Lake Ohakuri, covered with hot water algae which gives its stunning green, yellow and black colors, sparkling in the bright sunlight during the day.
Diamond Geyser – during eruption, may shoot up boiling water as high as 9 metres.
Sapphire Geyser – gushing out boiling hot water intermittently all throughout the day.
Rainbow & Cascade Terrace
Golden Fleece – a great fault scarp in the valley, with a beautiful white crystal-like sinter coating, measuring 5 metres high and 40 metres long.
Artist’s Pallete – 10,000 m² silica sinter terrace covered with clear blue alkali chloride pools and irregularly erupting geysers. From the top lookout you can observe all the holes in the terrace with different patches of colors, which probably resembles an artiste’s pallete, I supposed that’s where the name is derived from.
Ruatepu Cave & Mirror Pool – a geothermal cave and a clear, jade-green pool, which were formally used by the Maorian women as a mirror (hence the name Mirror Pool), a place for adorning.
Mud pools – these pools are formed in places where the surface rocks are chemically decomposed by thermal fluids to form clay, which is heated by the underground energy source, hence creating boiling mud pools.
This is the start of the Waikato, NZ’s longest river, which flows 425km to the sea. The most beautiful turquoise-blue water flows from Lake Taupo, rushing ferociously through this narrow gut until over time, the erosion has carved a channel 15 metres wide and 10 metres deep. The surging water churns along this channel at the rate faster than 40m3 per second until it plunges over Huka Falls.
Every second, about 200,000 litres of water plunge 9 metres over the great rock face of Huka Falls – theoretically in every minute, 5 Olympic sized swimming pools can be filled!