Maurice Manawatu (Ngai Tahu, Ngati Kuri) is a man who cares deeply about his Maori culture. He is defined by it and he is passionate about giving visitors a deeper insight into how Maori have adapted to a modern world. Kaikoura is home to Maurice and his wife, Heather and their family and both were previously employed by the highly successful Whale Watch operation for thirteen years. They decided to set up their own tourism operation – Maori Tours – in 2001 to offer an authentic and personal Maori experience based around the Ngati Kuri people of Kaikoura. “We wanted to do it in a way that was real – a conversation-based, non-performance, behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for Maori, what struggles they face, what it is like for a pakeha to be married to a Maori. A lot of pakeha want to understand more about Maori traditions and Maori have an obligation to share that,” they say.
Their intimate ‘from the heart’ tour focuses on visits to ancient Maori pa sites, (there were once 14 fortified villages on the Kaikoura Peninsula), a look into Maori traditions and a bush walk to explore traditional use of trees and plants. Maurice and Heather begin by welcoming guests into their own home and Maurice tells the stories of his ancestors – stories that reinforce traditional and modern Maori life and the spiritual connections Maori have to their environment. He introduces his visitors to his favourite Kaikoura places; he gives them an introduction to weaving with harakeke (flax); he takes them on bush walks to explain the traditional uses of trees and plants as food and medicine; and in the end, he pulls out his guitar and encourages everyone to loosen up and sing along in true Maori fashion. It’s an encounter to remember and one that goes a long way towards breaking down cultural barriers. www.maoritours.co.nz - Nā Adrienne Rewi