In the vicinity of Rotorua, there are several thermal hotspots where you can witness the volcanic activity that once formed New Zealand that that still causes volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. One of those hotspots is Wai-O-Tapu.
Wai-O-Tapu Active Volcanic Zone
The earth’s crust at those hotspots is very thin, therefore we strictly had to walk on the paths to avoid cracking through the soil and getting burnt in boiling water. There are several deep holes next to the path where the rock collapsed on its own, some of them were just steaming, and others were filled with hot water or mud. So I followed the instructions and stayed on the path at all times.
Even though I have seen such a volcanic zone already in Yellowstone NP and in Iceland, it is still fascinating to see it again at some other place. Steam that smells like Sulphur is coming out of small holes, mud pools are boiling, rocks are colored in yellow, orange, blue due to the different minerals, and there is a small lake named the Champagne Pool where clear hot water is rising from the depth, giving the lake a deep blue appearance. And as the name indicates, there are small bubbles of carbon dioxide released at the water surface.
For once I was really happy with what was offered for the money. And because the park is quite big and you are allowed to walk freely, I did not feel bothered by all the other tourists.
All those natural hot pools made me feel like going for a swim in a hot bath. But 80° C was a bit too hot. Fortunately I received a more or less secret hint in a blog that only 500m from the visitor center of Wai-O-Tapu there is actually a creek where you can go for a swim where hot water is entering into a cold river, so when staying at the right location inside the river, the water temperature was perfect. I spent at least 30 minutes if not more in this natural spa, got a mud treatment as well, and best of all, there were only around 5 other tourists there and it was completely free.