Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland | Rotorua NZ
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland |Rotorua, New Zealand
Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park has been on my photography hit list for a long time. The main draw for me was the gorgeous steaming Champagne Pool with its vivid green and orange colours. After spending 5 hours exploring and photographing this geothermal wonderland I became overwhelmed by its beauty. I urge all photographers traveling to New Zealand to put Wai-O-Tapu on their list of must visit destinations.
Wai-O-Tapu is located 27 kilometers south of Roturua on the North Island of New Zealand and only a 3.5 hour drive from Auckland. It is also only a 40 minute drive from Taupo and gorgeous Huka Falls. I have been visiting geothermal parks since I was eight years old and I put Wai-O-Tapu at the top of my list for the best all rounder. Why? It is extremely easy to get around, is the most colourful of all the thermal parks I have visited, and keeps blowing you away at every turn. If I had a dollar for every time I said “Wow” on my last visit I would have made quite a bit of money.
Wai-O-Tapu Is A Photographers Wonderland
Many iconic geothermal photographs taken in New Zealand have been captured at Wai-O-Tapu. The image that lead me to the thermal park was of the Champagne Pool. When I visited the area in December 2015 I was happy to discover how many pools and geological attractions that we there to explore. It is also worth your while to walk through to the very end as there is a stunning green lake called Lake Ngakoro.
The area of the park I did not come across was the ‘Mud Pool’. I am not sure why we didn’t come across it, but I will be looking out for it on my next visit. The park that is great for viewing mud pools and bathing in them is Hells Gate Thermal Park in Rotorua.
It is important to note I have learned a lot as a photographer since visiting Wai-O-Tapu. Now I am aware that summer is quite hot and the sun rises really early in New Zealand. I highly recommend traveling there in winter and entering the park as soon as it opens. Unfortunately I got there too late in the day and I missed out on the best light of the day. On my next visit I will be better equipped and more experienced to capture some incredible images.
What To Pack
Make sure you take a number of batteries with you as I went through 2. I plan on capturing a timelapse sequence on my next visit and I will have at least 4 batteries in my camera bag. A tripod is a must when capturing timelapse, unless you have some sort of slider. I also highly recommend packing a polarised filter and at least 1 neutral density filter. This would be great for dealing with glare, reflections and for long exposure photography.
The one thing I did not plan for was how long James and I were going to be at the park. We ended up being there for close to 5 hours. It was a warm summers day and we went through a lot of water and found ourselves having to reapply sunscreen. We had 3 litres of water between us and we ran out.
I remember how thirsty and hungry we felt when we returned to the visitors centre. The biggest mistake I made was not wearing the right footwear. I wore my favorite sneakers and I wish that I had worn my comfortable hiking books. I ended up with blisters and my feet were so sore.
The good news is that Wai-O-Tapu has a great cafe and gift shop. So if you get there and need something they have most things you will be looking for.
Wai- O-Tapu Operating Hours and Admission Prices
Open every day including all Public Holidays:
April-October: 8:30am-5:00pm (last admission 3:45pm)
November-March: 8:30am-6:00pm (last admission 4:45pm)
Christmas Day: 8:30 am-5:00 pm (last admission 3:45pm)
Adult: $32.50 NZD
Child: $11.00 NZD 5-15 years Inclusive, under 5 FREE
Family: $80.00 NZD 2 adults and up to 3 children
Wai-O-Tapu Photography For Sale
I have chosen a couple of my favorite images from my visit to Wai-O-Tapu to be available to purchase through my Print Shop.