Experience a natural mud bath in Rotorua, New Zealand.
As a child, I was never big on getting dirty or playing in the mud, but as I’ve gotten older, my adventurous side has come out much more. Can I tell you–after 10 minutes in this mud bath–I didn’t want to leave! Said to relieve muscle aches, detoxify the body and balance PH levels, mud baths have been used by the Māori people for centuries to solve various ailments. Regardless of whether this is all true, my skin felt super soft and my body was incredibly warm afterward. It was so relaxing!
Who knew soaking in mud like a little piglet could be so calming? To prevent anyone from fainting, we were allowed 20 minutes in the pool because mud retains heat on your body. The staff at Hells Gate were very diligent about checking up on everyone and offering drinking water. After the 20 minutes, there’s a shower to wash off the mud, where you can proceed to the sulfur pool next door. You can soak in there as long as you’d like without an end time.
Prior to getting in the mud bath, we took a guided tour around the park with a Māori staff member to learn about the mud we were about to jump into. She was extremely knowledgeable about her land, told us personal stories of growing up in the area and family traditions.
The park, formed about 10,000 years ago after a series of geothermal eruptions, resulted in gases and fluids escaping from the earth. Unique to Hells Gate, the heat source for the various pools are only 1.5—2kms underneath the surface, compared to 10+kms for other thermal reserves. With over 20 unique pools, a volcano, a waterfall, lakes and fumeroles to stare at, each was more mesmerizing than the next.
The sites all have unique names like “Baby Adam” (named by George Bernard Shaw because it reminded him of his nephew Adam bouncing on his knee), “Map of Australia” (you guessed it–looked like the shape of Oz), “Ink Pots”, and “Hurutini” (named after a Maori princess who gave her life to save her people).
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the park is a lush native bush in the middle of the land. Containing native New Zealand plants, birds and a waterfall, the bush is used by the Māori for food, medicine, clothing and shelter. Kakahi Falls, the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere is sacred to the Māori people because it was used by warriors after returning from battle, the water said to heal wounds.
Some of my favorites included:
Sulphur Bath: Very yellow in color because of its high sulphur content. Used as a lotion for septic cuts, bites and skin diseases.
Mud Volcano: Instead of lava, this volcano erupts with mud every 6 weeks, usually happening at night.
Steaming Cliffs: The hottest pool in the reserve, with surface temperates at 122 C and 145 one meter below the surface.
Cooking Pool: At a constant 98 C, this pool is perfect for cooking food. An adult pig takes about 2 hours to break down because of the natural water-softening chemicals in the pool.
Sulphur Crystal Valley: We were told this area is known for spontaneous combustions because of its high deposited sulphur content combined with the summer heat. I can attest–the path was extremely warm to touch!
Guided tours occur daily at 9.30am and 1.30pm and are approximately 1.5 hours long. There is a clearly marked wooden path that meanders through the park so you can stroll at your own pace if you’d like. I highly recommend taking the tour before doing the mud bath, so you can see where they get the mud from as well as being introduced to the different types of mud and their effects on the body.
Hells Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Bath Spa
351 State Highway 30
Thanks to Hells Gate for introducing me to your relaxing mud pools. All opinions and photos are my own.