Deep in Te Whakarewarewa Valley on a still autumn night there's the unmistakable sound of nature's forces about to be unleashed.
As we sat on the thermally heated hot rocks, surrounded by fellow tourists, the rumbling started.
Right in front of us the Pōhutu geyser erupted, right on cue. Water coming from it is well above boiling point (around 160–180C) and leaps 30m into the air.
It instantly evaporates to form water vapour, which then recondenses to form steam with that distinctive sulphurous odour that wafts around this wonderful natural amphitheatre.
Pōhutu is the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere, one of the most reliable in the world and just five minutes' drive from Rotorua city centre.
Pōhutu means "constant splashing" in Māori and the geyser erupts once or twice an hour.
Eruptions can last from a few minutes to much longer. About 15 years ago, Pōhutu erupted for more than 250 days. It is a fitting finale to the Te Pō evening experience at Te Puia.
Although attracting primarily overseas visitors, the three-hour visit is an excellent one for Kiwis, especially if you haven't done anything like this for a while. New Zealand tourist attractions that may have been around for a while have sure lifted their game.
Our Te Puia hosts first welcomed us, we got a look at the hangi being lifted before a (very brief) pōwhiri and a cultural experience at the Rotowhio marae.
There was singing, story telling and participation in poi dancing and haka by the enthusiastic volunteers from among the tourists who came from countries including Australia, the United States, China and Mexico.
It was a great reminder of what a unique tourism proposition this country is blessed with - our fellow visitors looked enthralled.
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New Zealand tourism started in this area and, with generations of guiding experience behind them, our guides moved the big group around masterfully. They were slick, in the best possible way.
The kai was great too and served in one of Te Puia's near-new restaurants. A mighty spread of meats and vegetables, salad and seafood was followed by a big dessert selection. You pay extra for alcohol.
After dinner you're on board the motorised waka (a hybrid people-mover) for a journey into the valley where our guide Ngaroma explained how locals still use the heat and steam for their everyday lives. And then it was time for the star of the show - Pōhutu - to do its thing. On a chilly night below a starry sky it was a magnificent sight.
: Te Pō tour runs from 6.15pm to 9pm. Adults $128; Children $64; Family $345.50.
There are a variety of daytime tours and experiences where you get a great look at the valley and its history. The gift shop is stocked with some great craft from the associated wananga. See