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What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Māori name for the star cluster known as the Pleiades. Traditionally for Māori when it appeared just before dawn in late May or early June, it signals the start of the Māori New Year under the maramataka, or lunar calendar.


Matariki (image: greatspirit)

Traditionally, Matariki was both a time to commemorate those who had passed on, and celebrate a time of plenty when stores were abundant from horticulture, hunting and fishing. Matariki involves the sharing of kai (food), rituals, entertainment, art, hospitality and knowledge.

Historically, the star cluster was a navigational aid for Maori and an indicator of the coming seasons. If the stars were clear, it was a sign that the year ahead would be warm and productive.

For some tribes, the rising of Puanga (Rigel in Orion) signals the start of the New Year.

In the early 2000s Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission), the Ministry of Education and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, became involved in the revival of Matariki celebrations.

When is Matariki?

Different tribes celebrated Matariki at different times. For some it was when Matariki rose in May/June. For others it was celebrated at the first new moon, or full moon, following the rising of Matariki.

In the 21st century it is the new moon following the rising of Matariki that signals the New Year – it will begin on 06 June in 2016.


Matariki rising (far left; image: LiteraryNZ)

Matariki Celebrations

Black Label are leaders at providing personalised, exclusive experiences and we have some amazing packages available over Matariki.

A sample of the Matariki packages we have are:

1.Matariki Stardome, Champagne & Dinner

Enjoy a spectacular evening that starts with an astronomical show at Auckland’s Stardome and Observatory where our guests can learn about Maori myths and stories about the formation of the Earth, the Moon and Maori New Year.

Get the opportunity to see the stars of Matariki with courtyard telescope viewing (weather permitting).

Afterwards, travel via private transfer with a complimentary glass of champagne to a dining experience at your choice of either Orbit or The Sugar Club, both restaurants offer superb dining with spectacular 360 degree views of Auckland city skyline so you can continue star gazing. Advance reservations necessary.

Price and booking via Tania Stoyanof – email: tania@blacklabelexperience.com

Sugar Club

The Sugar Club Auckland, perfect for skyline views

2.Back to Nature Land & Sea Package

Enjoy a unique Maori culture experience available only through Black Label where you will stay in the Waipoua Forest right at the edge of the coastline from Mangonui Bluff to Waimamaku beach.

Accessible only by 4WD, our hosts guide our guests to a private camp in the pine forest under a canopy of trees right beside the beach where they will share their knowledge of how to live almost entirely off the land and sea.

An incredible back to nature package we include a high-specification telescope so you can search for the stars of Matariki in an unpolluted Northland sky away from city lights. Advance reservations necessary.

Price and booking via Tania Stoyanof – email: tania@blacklabelexperience.com

3. Mt Hikurangi Sunrise Experience

The highest peak in the rugged Raukumara Range, and the highest non-volcanic mountain in the North Island, Mount Hikurangi (1754 metres) is recognised as the first point on the New Zealand mainland to greet the morning sun.

The mountain is sacred to the local Ngati Porou people. Maori legend suggests that when the demigod Maui fished up the North Island of New Zealand, Mount Hikurangi was the first point to emerge from the sea. The mountain is also said to be the resting place of the waka (canoe) Nukutaimemeha, which Maui used on that famous fishing trip.

Mt Hikurangi

Mt Hikurangi sunrise (image: Tourism Eastland)

One thousand metres above sea level and two thirds of the way up the mountain stand nine carved whakairo (sculptures) depicting Maui and his whanau (family). The centrepiece represents Maui himself, while the other eight carvings are positioned to mark the points of the traditional compass. Created to celebrate the new millennium, the whakairo stand as a tribute to the cultural heritage of Ngati Porou, and as a legacy for future generations.

Package includes helicopter flights from Gisborne, guided dawn tour at Maui Carvings and breakfast. Advance reservations necessary.

Price and booking via Tania Stoyanof – email: tania@blacklabelexperience.com

4. Real Maori Experience

Book ahead today for an intimate insight into authentic New Zealand.
Explore traditional Māori concepts and share in ancestral customs with a series of unique and personal Māori experiences. Customise your own bespoke tour comprising all or a combination of:

  • An up close encounter with the nation’s beloved bird, the Kiwi, in the wild is an experience you’ll treasure for a lifetime. Taking place in the 7,000-hectare Omataroa Forest you’ll join a health check on these iconic birds and get the opportunity to hold one then learn about traditional Māori rongoa, or bush medicine.
  • Enjoy a VIP Marae visit to the sacred Te Mānuka Tūtahi Marae – a private and exclusive tour of Mataatua Wharenui – the house that came home. Learn the fascinating story that took this approximately 140-year old fully carved Māori meeting house to the other side of the world, and back again. Feel the power of the majestically intricate carvings move your soul, and then marvel as the award winning Hiko digital experience brings the legends of the ancestors of the house to life. One of the legends you will encounter is the story of Te Tahi o Te Rangi, the great Ngāti Awa tohunga (spiritual leader) who rode a whale back from White Island after being tricked and abandoned on the volcano by his people.
  • JJump onboard a private helicopter tour to Whakaari (White Island) that sits 49km off the coast of Whakatāne.
White Island

White Island

New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, Whakaari has been an icon of the region since the times of the ancestors and is the starting point of the geothermal trail that leads to Rotorua, Tāupo and the central North Island.

  • Soak in the soothing geothermal mineral waters of the Waitangi Soda Springs that have been a treasure of the Ngāti Pikiao tribe for generations, and are still owned and operated by their descendents to this day. The pools were traditionally used to soothe and revitalize Ngāti Pikiao warriors as they returned from battle.

Prices and booking via Tania Stoyanof – email: tania@blacklabelexperience.com

Tangaroa Māori Seafood Adventure

The ocean is considered to be a bounty of gifts from the sea god Tangaroa; a source of sustenance for the people and provider of materials from which valuable tools can be made.

Accompany locals as you gather a range of traditional seafood delicacies from the ‘food baskets’ whose locations have been passed from generation to generation. Activities include:

  • Fishing for local delicacies kahawai, tamure and haku
  • Gathering of pipi (shellfish)
  • Diving for kutai, kina and koura

Price and booking via Tania Stoyanof – email: tania@blacklabelexperience.com

5.Toi Ora Art and Craft Workshop

Learn the art of Māori bone carving from a well know local carver in this personal and exclusive experience. You will be amazed as, with the help of your tutor, you are able to shape a beautiful treasure from bare bone in this exploration of traditional Māori art.

Price and booking via Tania Stoyanof – email: tania@blacklabelexperience.com

How to find Matariki?

Matariki is found low on the horizon in the north east of the sky. Try looking between 5.30 a.m. and 6.30 a.m.

1. First find the pot (the bottom three stars of the pot are also called Tautoru, or Orion’s Belt). To find Puanga (Rigel) look above the pot until you see the bright star. To find Matariki, keep going left.

2. To the left of the pot, find the bright orange star, Taumata-kuku (Alderbaran).

3. Follow an imaginary line from Tautoru (the bottom three stars of the pot), across to Taumata-kuku and keep going until you hit a cluster of stars.

4. That cluster is Matariki. If you have good eyes you should be able to pick out individual stars. If it looks fuzzy, look just above or just below and the stars will be clearer.


How to find Matariki

This picture, from AstronomyNZ, shows the relative position of Matariki (Pleiades) to Taumata-kuku (Alderbaran), Tautoru (Orion’s belt), Puanga (Rigel) and Takurua (Sirius).

All Matariki packages have limited availability, book today to avoid disappointment.