There were three things which were a source of niggling discontent to us
as Xena and Hercules location hunters. One was the location
of The Debt, one was lakes,
and the biggest one was waterfalls. Well, The Debt we've found (see
the Central Plateau page), the lakes
have turned out to be mostly the remarkably ubiquitous lake at
Sturges Road with an assist from
Lake Okaihau - but the waterfalls remained
to plague us. Somehow Pacific Renaissance's scouts
found, within easy distance of Auckland, a number of waterfalls that we
just couldn't find!
More recently though, since starting waterfall-hunting for its own sake, we've come across most of the falls that were used.
A number of waterfalls, along with mountains and rivers, were used in brief 'linking' shots just to set the atmosphere or give a sense of space at the start of episodes or in 'travelling' sequences.
The falls described below are in order, very roughly, from north-west to south-east.
There's a bit less water this time of year
For a waterfall so easily accessible (it can be seen from the local main road),
Karekare Falls (just south of Piha) was surprisingly seldom used. The falls have a
very small catchment so are, frequently, rather 'thin' on the rock. Maybe this is
why they weren't used more often.
They were used for the pioneer fishing scene in Siege at Naxos where Hercules was energetically waving a very dead fish in a valiant attempt to make it look as if it was wriggling. Iolaus' efforts were only slightly more convincing.
Karekare Falls also featured in an unusual oblique view looking up the falls, in March to Freedom (when there wasn't much water flowing), and with a rather better flow of water in Let There Be Light; in both cases the camera pans down the falls. The right-hand shot above is the result of stitching together a number of screen captures with 'Hugin'.
15 miles south-east of Auckland in the Hunua Ranges lies Hunua Falls,
a waterfall on the Wairoa River. This was the first waterfall extensively used
in scenes, it featured in Hercules and the
Lost Kingdom, where Hercules and Hippolyta fought and she jumped over the fall.
(The scene started with another waterfall altogether, a huge wide fall that we
can't identify yet, then morphed into the top of Hunua Falls). Obviously, a
female stuntie really did make the jump - that's 90 feet down! This must be one
of the most impressive stunts of the entire series. The lower picture on the left
shows why the stuntie didn't jump, she ran off the platform - the rock face
has a slope on it. At high flows the falling water just clears the rock face all the
The end of this sequence, looking down, gives the clue to the waterfall that Xena and Gabs fell over in Bitter Suite - but doubtless on that occasion, the producers just used dummies.
|Platform on top of the falls
(Sorbo's braver than me, those handrails
do not look secure)
|Seen from what I think is a 'safe' distance
(The authorities might disagree)
|Seen from a rather safer distance|
|The amazing leap in Amazon Women...||... and it's a long way down, as this screen shot shows||Do not try this yourself
(I suspect most casualties fell short of the target)
|The falls seen from the side||Hunua Falls from the footbridge downstream||Hunua Falls after heavy rain|
This fall featured on many other occasions, for instance at the start of Unchained Heart, it was the waterfall Nebula and Morrigan hid Ares under in Redemption and, most famously, in the fishing scene in Altared States.
|The same fall in Bitter Suite||The fishing scene in Altared States||Redemption, evidently after wet weather|
This fall, in Reunions, was curious. In the episode, it's in the
Elysian Fields. Certainly it's in a park-like setting, or possibly in an old quarry;
except it's too big for an artificial waterfall, and waterfalls aren't usually found
... and we found the answer accidentally, while Googling for other falls. It's on the Mauku Stream in Wrights Water Gardens at Patumahoe, south of Auckland. It is indeed located in an old quarry. Photos of the actual fall are at http://www.wrightswatergardens.co.nz/ or googling on 'Mauku waterfall'. The falling water in the scan below doesn't match terribly well (less flow than in most of the pictures), but the rock face to the left does, and the clincher, I think, is the waterlily pond.
This fall (below) was identified by the eagle-eyed Matt, who also contributed the photo of
Okiritoto Falls. It's where Iole went skinny-dipping in Hercules in the Underworld.
In reality, it's on the Tapu Stream at the top of the Rapaura Water Gardens, which are about
four miles up the Tapu Coroglen road from the coast at Tapu, north of Thames on the Coromandel
Peninsula. Googling 'Rapaura Waterfall' returns a goodly number of pics.
It only seems to have been used for this one scene, though without more research, we don't know if other parts of the gardens might have been used on other occasions.
Marokopa Falls is on the road out to Te Anga
and the west coast from Waitomo (location of the well-known tourist caves).
It was used for numerous shots in Hercules; a stock shot of Herc and Iolaus
walking towards the falls, framed by trees, was used on many occasions.
For variety, in Be Deviled, RenPics reversed the picture left-right,
probably without fooling anybody.
In the commentary to Cast a Giant Shadow, Kevin Sorbo misidentifies these falls as Hunua Falls, and links back to the stunt in Amazon Women; this is quite understandable since Hunua at high flow looks remarkably like Marokopa, and Sorbo was commentating several years after the episode was made - and, probably, never saw Marokopa Falls personally.
|RenPics reversed it...||... and we swapped it back again.||Marokopa Falls|
Tawhai Falls, just off the road up to the Chateau on Mt Ruapehu, was used immediately following the titles in the first Hercules TV episode, The Wrong Path, and Pride Comes Before a Brawl.
|From the episode||Tawhai Falls|
Tarawera Falls, southwest of Kawerau, in the Bay of Plenty, are remarkable in that the river flows through lava caves and pours out of the cliff face. A helicopter view flying over the forest towards the falls was used as a 'stock shot' in several episodes. In Cave of Echoes, the 'clip show' at the end of Hercules Season 2, the falls are, unexpectedly, seen from ground level for the first time, but for only five seconds before cutting abruptly to Marokopa Falls.
The usual aerial view of Tarawera Falls
(this example from March to Freedom)
Seen from the ground in Cave of Echoes
At high flows, another branch of the waterfall appears from high up the cliff. Picture here. (Note: A forestry permit is required for access to the falls, details here and here. They're well worth a visit.
There was a lot of wild water in The Abyss; a lot of intercutting of shots; a lot of CGI. One waterfall appears to be genuine, but the motion of the water looks curiously 'splashy' - I think the flow has been increased with CGI. The view of the fall in profile looks even odder - that volume of water wouldn't curl down to follow the rock face, it would leap away in a parabolic curve.
|The water looks even odder in the video||(This isn't Huka Falls)|
There was no CGI - just an extremely daring stunt - in the sequence of Gabrielle and Xena swimming in the rapids. My guess is that it was the Waikato River somewhere in the few miles between its exit from Lake Taupo and Aratiatia dam - this stretch includes all types of water from fast, deep and smooth, to the wild rapids just above Huka Falls - but it's just a guess.
|These are genuine rapids||Xena's stunt double|
What is positively identifiable is the sequence of 'Xena' looking over Huka Falls, and the later five-second sequence shot from a boat with the camera kept low to frame out the sightseers above.
|'Xena' looking over Huka Falls||Shot from a boat in the pool below||The falls from the opposite bank|
The E! special on Lucy included a shot of Xena standing in front of a huge
waterfall, which may have been part of a never-used title sequence. This
may well be Bowen Falls on Milford Sound, South Island - we can't think of
any other New Zealand waterfall of that volume and height. We know Pacific
Renaissance have been there since it appears in Remember Nothing
This could be Bowen Falls
a real impression of its size - it's 520 feet high.
The waterfall below was a rather baffling 'unknown'. Seen in Amazon Women,
Eye of the Beholder, and Two Men and a Baby, it's a huge and wide fall,
which would surely be locally famous if in New Zealand. Renpics never, to our knowledge,
used any foreign scenery - except on this occasion.
|Eye of the Beholder||Reversed for some reason in Two Men and a Baby|
Much Googling found the very clear picture above, which was undoubtedly the same fall. Unfortunately the page it was on gave no clue to its name or location. The text on the picture says '(C) Silverander, Ethnographics', which was a US greetings card company which closed in 2002, so didn't help to trace it, though it did suggest a wider location than just NZ for the fall.
And it's been identified! Josef Rohlicek sent me
to the Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia (also known as Tisissat Falls. I had tried matching up Tisissat Falls as a candidate before but
none of the published pictures quite fitted). Thanks Josef! I can't copy that picture here as it's copyright, which is a pity
as it's a perfect match, but this one:
This leaves the only unidentified fall as the impressive one below. It appears in Let There be Light and in The Academy, in both cases in a helicopter shot. Since there doesn't appear to be any obvious road near it, it may be a very little-known fall well away from tourist access. It certainly isn't Karekare Falls, into which it morphs rather unconvincingly in Let There be Light. However, unlike the fall above, the surroundings of this one are very typically New Zealand bush.
Waterfalls not used on Xena or Hercules include Mokoroa Falls, Fairy Falls, Waitoru Falls, The Cascades, and Kitekite Falls, plus the shallow cascades at the head of Lake Wainamu and the 50-foot fall at the head of the Waiti Valley; all in the Waitakeres.
Nor have they used Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan, Waitanguru Falls north of Piopio, Wairere Falls, or any others we know of in the wider Auckland region.
Here is a list of waterfalls seen in episodes of Hercules and
Xena. The times given in the second column are the approximate
time in minutes and seconds from the
start of the episode; this may differ by a minute or so depending what
point your player/software starts counting from.
Sometimes (as in for example Hercules and the Amazon Women) a sequence starts with one falls and morphs into another; in this case all falls involved have been listed in order.
The order of episodes is (roughly) the order in which they first screened.
Falls listed in bold type featured in scenes in the respective episodes.
|Hercules and the Amazon Women||05:20, 25:37||Tarawera Falls|
|25:55||Hunua Falls (in background)|
|1:19:06||Blue Nile (Tisissat) Falls|
|Hercules and the Lost Kingdom||04:20||Hunua Falls|
|Hercules in the Underworld||43:30||Rapaura Fall|
|The Wrong Path||07:07||Tawhai Falls|
|Eye of the Beholder||04:20||Blue Nile (Tisissat) Falls|
|Pride Comes before a Brawl||06:45||Tawhai Falls|
|March to Freedom||27:10||Tarawera Falls|
|41:02||Karekare Falls, at very low flow|
|Unchained Heart||00:20||Hunua Falls|
|King of Thieves||10:48||Hunua Falls|
|What's in a Name||04:22||Marokopa Falls|
|Siege at Naxos||01:48||Karekare Falls|
|Cast a Giant Shadow||27:11||Marokopa Falls|
|The Sword of Veracity||11:00||Marokopa Falls|
|Once a Hero||21:07||Marokopa Falls|
|Cave of Echoes||00:14||Tarawera Falls|
|Mortal Beloved||08:27||Hunua Falls|
|08:33||Large fall in closeup - Bowen Falls?|
|Altared States||01:16||Hunua Falls|
|Remember Nothing||07:40||Bowen Falls|
|The Price||09:32||Crest of large waterfall (brief shot)|
|The Furies||40:05||Karekare Falls|
|Two Men and a Baby||01:41||Blue Nile (Tisissat) Falls|
|Warrior Priestess Tramp||14:23||Karekare Falls|
|The Bitter Suite||10:07||Hunua Falls|
|One Fowl Day||17:56||Marokopa Falls|
|Let There be Light||09:21||High falls|
|Daughter of Pomira||12:41||Waterfall in cave (probably studio shot)|
|The Way||00:17||Medium size fall|
|The Academy||05:39||High falls|
|05:45||Falls - close up - Bowen Falls????|
|Fade Out||29:00||Hunua Falls|
|Be Deviled||05:15||Marokopa Falls (reversed)|
|Chakram||21:04, 29:00, 40:59||CGI house on waterfall;
the fall is probably Okiritoto|
|29:06||Hunua Falls (looking down)|
|Punch Lines||02:49||Okiritoto Falls (above crest)|
|Kindred Spirits||00:07||Okiritoto Falls|
|10:56||CGI enhanced waterfall|
|27:06, 42:10||Huka Falls|
|Many Happy Returns||09:30||Okiritoto Falls|
|Friend in Need||59:51, 1:06:13, 1:18:00||Ornamental garden fall - location unknown|
A searchable zoomable map of New Zealand can be found here:
www.topomap.co.nz/NZTopoMap (based on the 1:50,000 LINZ maps)
Most of these waterfalls are marked on the map and can be found by entering "[name] Falls" in the search box, with the exception of Tississat Falls (obviously!) and the following:
Karekare waterfall: On the Company Stream at Karekare, marked on map near the road but not named
Nihotupu cascade: Marked on map just above the bridge where the access track from Piha Road to Upper Nihotupu Reservoir crosses the Nihotupu Stream (search 'Upper Nihotupu')
Mauku waterfall: On the Mauku Stream 0.4km north of the Findlay Road bridge, in Wrights Water Gardens at Patumahoe
Raupaura waterfall: On the Tapu River, in the Coromandel - see description in the para. on this page
Any comments or questions, email: