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REAL insight into MĀori life...

Join us as we share more than 800 years of
unbroken family history & tradition in Kaikōura

Family owned
and operated

Maori Tours Kaikoura operated in Kaikoura from 1 January 2002 and was one of the first Maori cultural experiences of its kind in New Zealand.

The business was set up by Maurice and Heather Manawatu and their whanau. Maurice is from the hapu (sub-tribe) Ngati Kuri, and the iwi (main tribe) is Ngai Tahu. Heather is of mainly Scots and Irish descent.

From the outset the whanau (extended family) were involved and helped set the values base. At the time we were all employees, as were our parents; with no business experience.

Because Maurice and his sisters grew up with the luxury of being connected to their culture and history - they knew it was essential to gain the mandate from tribal elders and Te Runanga o Kaikoura (the recognized Maori authority in Kaikoura). This was willingly given before operating.

"Hosting visitors, making them feel welcome and creating new friendships comes naturally - we can't imagine doing anything else."

Well at least until earthquakes and now COVID have made it impossible for us to continue in the same way. We now work in other areas, and operate tours as and when we can for some of our vauled business partners.

We hope this will change one day; and our whanau will again share the history and culture of Kaikoura Maori, with visitors to this special place.


During set up we held several hui (gatherings) with family where we determined our business type  –  with two key outcomes:

  • To offer refreshingly authentic experiences of ‘our place’ and deliver them in a  personal and natural way.
  • Use traditional Maori values in our daily operations and in all our business affairs.

Mission Statement

“Share our unique culture, location and history in a natural and intimate way; whilst preserving our values and strengthening the development of our people – educationally, economically and spiritually.”

Our Heritage

Ngai Tahu

Ngai Tahu is the largest tribe in the South Island of New Zealand in both land area and people. Tribal members all descend from a common ancestor ‘Tahu Potiki’ who is the son of Paikea the Whale Rider. Ngai Tahu translates to Tahu’s People. In total there are 18 'hapu' (sub tribes) that make up Ngai Tahu today.

Ngati Kuri

Ngati Kuri are the Hapu in the Kaikoura area and we are members of that sub-tribe. Our boundary extends north from Kaikoura to Pari Nui O Whiti, south to the Hurunui river and west through the Kaikoura mountain ranges to Hanmer Springs.

Today the majority of Ngati Kuri live outside the tribal area. Those living in Kaikoura are known as the ‘Ahi Ka’ which means it’s our role to keep the fires burning for all our Ngati Kuri whanau who may one day return home. This is a responsibility we accept and embrace.

Our ‘Kaumatua’ (elders) are the backbone of the tribe and they provide us with encouragment and support and they make sure we adhere to correct protocol. Prior to setting up Maori Tours Kaikoura we approached our Kaumatua seeking their approval to visit special places and tell the stories of the area. Permission was willingly given and we’re very grateful for this - as had it not Maori Tours Kaikoura would not exist.

Takahanga Marae

Takahanga ‘Marae’ (gathering place for Maori) is our spiritual base. Many years ago the elders made the decision to keep it as a working Marae and not to open it up to tourism. The Marae is private property so you’re unable to enter and wander around unattended - just the same as a private home. Visitors need to be formally welcomed whilst observing the correct protocols.

For this reason our tours don’t include a visit to Takahanga Marae, although we have been granted permission to use the private access road and view the grounds and buildings, so long as there aren't official functions or activities taking place.

Qualmark Quality Assured

Whilst operational, Maori Tours Kaikoura was recognized as one of New Zealand’s leading tourism businesses by being licensed to carry the Qualmark™ endorsement - New Zealand tourism’s official mark of quality.
For more information about Qualmark please visit www.qualmark.co.nz

Rankers Independent Traveller Awards

We were awarded 'Best Cultural Activity in New Zealand' by Rankers in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015. In 2010 we also won the Supreme Award for Best Visitor Attraction in the country which was one of our most humbling moments as the awards are based on customer feedback.
We never entered tourism awards. To learn more visit www.rankers.co.nz.

Earthcheck Platinum Certified

The Kaikoura Community has successfully met the requirements for benchmarking under the Earthcheck Environmental Programme - a reflection of the respect we hold for the environment.
This status suggests everyone in our small isolated town is contributing in some way towards sustainability and maintaining our unique and natural environment.
We're very proud to be part of such a great community.

Social Responsibility

In an age where there is increasingly more pressure on business to be more socially responsible – we’re thankful for the path we chose at the outset.

Our family determined because we were in essence ‘trading in the culture’, we needed to make all our decisions based on traditional Maori values.

Adhering to these values began even before we set up the business, as we firstly went to our whanau (family), kaumatua (the elders) and the Kaikoura Runanga (recognized tribal authority in our area) to explain what we were proposing for a cultural experience, and more importantly to seek their support and approval.  If we hadn’t received this mandate, we would not have began operating.

This was the right thing to do – and we believe that if you do the right thing, the right things will happen. The stories we tell are the stories of our whanau and hapu and it was essential they were okay with us telling them.
We work hard to be responsible members of our whanau, hapu, iwi and community and if you would like to know more about our social responsibility commitment, feel free to contact us.