Prince Harry joins Maori crew in paddling canoe down river during New Zealand visit

Britain's Prince Harry paddling in a Maori war canoe on the Whanganui river during a visit to Whanganui on May 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Britain's Prince Harry paddling in a Maori war canoe on the Whanganui river during a visit to Whanganui on May 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Britain's Prince Harry paddling in a Maori war canoe on the Whanganui river during a visit to Whanganui on May 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Britain's Prince Harry paddling in a Maori war canoe on the Whanganui river during a visit to Whanganui on May 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

WHANGANUI, New Zealand (AFP) - Britain's Prince Harry experienced Maori culture in New Zealand on Thursday, joining a group of grass-skirted warriors for a canoe ride which left him "knackered".

The fifth in line to the throne helped paddle a waka, or Maori canoe, on the Whanganui River in the country's North Island.

The captain of the 12-man crew, Mr Nick Tapa, gave Prince Harry a specially-carved wooden paddle before they set off, telling reporters the prince was expected to pull his weight. "He's just part of the crew, special cargo of course, but he's expected to do his share," Mr Tapa said. "I don't think he'd want it any other way."

After the 40-minute trip, upriver and against the current, Prince Harry arrived in central Whanganui, joking that he was "knackered". "That's my exercise done for the day," he said.

Earlier, the 30-year-old was given a full Maori welcome at Whanganui's marae, or tribal meeting house, where his arrival was heralded with a conch shell.

He then addressed local Maori in their own language, thanking them for having him.

Reverting to English, he quoted a local saying, demonstrating the importance of the waterway to locals: "I am the river, the river is me."

He said it was an "extraordinary privilege" to be invited to paddle on the river.

He then met war veterans at a memorial centre before a brief public walkabout, when one woman told him he looked just like his father.

"I'm losing my hair like him too," the Prince quipped.

Prince Harry will visit Auckland on Friday before departing on Saturday.

The Prince's trip to New Zealand follows a month-long secondment to the Australian army during which he received bush survival lessons and camped in the outback.