Just a city girl who dreams of dusty trails and endless oceans.
Published August 16th 2017
Flirt with danger on an active New Zealand volcano
If you are a fan of geology, geography, history, archaeology or just the power of nature, then this is definitely the tour for you. Located off the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, White Island is a living, breathing volcano. It has a history of industry that spans colonial existence in New Zealand and is in a constant state of change due to geothermal activity. This is possibly the most accessible volcano in the world, as most of it sits underneath the ocean. This means your boat lands right next to the crater - no exhausting mountain climbing required. White Island is your chance to see an active volcano up close and watch the world being made at your feet.
To start off your day, you check in at their location in Whakatane. If you are staying in Rotorua or Tauranga and do not have transport, there are pick-up tour options for you too. Then you board the comfortable, purpose built vessel. Remember, this is New Zealand, and the water can get dicey so always bring seasickness prevention pills. Because you land at a jetty, it pays to remember that the tours will be cancelled on occasion, to prevent injury from disembarking in rough seas. If this occurs you will always be offered an alternative day.
The bright yellows and oranges of a volcanic landscape
The island sits 49kms off the coast, so the boat trip takes over an hour and a half. During this time you will marvel at the coastline, and potentially spot some of the beautiful sea creatures that call this region home. White Island Tours holds a permit that allows them to interact with these citizens of the sea, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for seals, dolphins and whales.
Once you land on the island, you will be on a 1-1.5 hour guided tour. This tour is by far one of the most interesting activities I have ever done. It is important that you wear the provided gas masks when instructed, as sulphur fumes can make you extremely ill. You will see bubbling pools of white hot mud, roaring steam vents, and the fascinating acid lake. You will learn about the constant movement of the crater, about the numerous eruptions, and about the foolish but brave men who tried to make an income on an active volcano. The guide will point out the remains of the sulphur factory, slowly being eaten away by the inhospitable environment, and explain the scientific studies taking place today.
After returning to the vessel, you get a light lunch and a chance to swim in the cool waters (weather permitting). Make sure you remember to keep your eyes out for frolicking dolphins on the return journey.
These tours operate 7 days a week, subject to weather conditions. Departure times vary depending on the tides, usually between 8am and 10am for the morning departure, and 1pm to 2pm for the afternoon departure, and can run for 5-6 hours. The most important thing to remember is fully enclosed shoes with good grip, and of course your camera. You will have the opportunity to take some truly amazing photographs of a live volcano. Adults start from $219 which, although it is expensive, is absolutely worth it. To book or find out more information, take a look at White Island Tours website here.