(warning: picture-heavy blog post. just because.)
I had wanted to visit White Island since I’d first heard about it, roughly three years ago. The thought of being able to step on an active volcano sounded only a few hours of driving plus a boat trip away was too good to pass on. Plus, we had to wear gas masks. I mean, coolness to the power of… I don’t know, quite a high number. Over the Easter break, a group of us headed down to Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty and got on what turned out to be the most horrible boat ride of my life to visit Whakaari/ White Island. And by horrible I mean really rough. Fortunately I’m far too classy to share with you how many barf bags I went through on the way to the island… oh what the heck! THREE! Three barf bags! As the boat bounced, I kept thinking to myself “this better be a FRIGGIN’ AMAZING volcano!” – It was.
The volcano is about 48km (30 miles) off the coast of Bay of Plenty in New Zealand and is constantly bubbling and steaming. It’s apparently full of sulphur and they did attempt to mine it but had to abandon it in 1914 after all 10 workers were killed, proving how unstable and active the volcano was/is.
These days, the volcano is actually private property – apparently bought by someone who just thought it would be cool to own a volcano (dear volcano owner, if you’re reading this, we’d be great friends) and, other than the touristic tours like the one we did, it’s only used for scientific research.
This is New Zealand’s only active marine volcano and the fact that it is so accessible makes it a great place for scientists.
The entire trip takes about 6 hours, from Whakatane to White Island and then back to Whakatane. Once you land on the volcano, you walk around for a couple of hours. There are no marked tracks so you just have to trust that your tour guide knows what’s safe to step on and what isn’t. The smell can be a little bit overwhelming at times and we soon discovered that the gas masks weren’t just a prop (we had them on for quite some time while on the island and were still coughing our lungs out).
If you’re going:
- Pee Jay Tours operates daily tours of White Island, from Whakatane (weather permitting). Bookings are required but can only be confirmed the day before.
- The tour costs NZ$185 and includes lunch on the boat.
- You should wear a good waterproof jacket, sturdy walking boots, sunscreen and a drink.
* Technically, this happened in autumn in New Zealand but I was still wearing short sleeves on some of the days of that month so my global-warming-affected-mentality chooses to think of that as summer. Because it wasn’t winter, you see. Nevermind. Anyway, winter is well and truly here now and so I’m re-living summer (autumn, whatever) through these posts. This is the second of the series. The first one was about Rarotonga and you can read it here.