Whakaari / White Island

There are so many amazing places in New Zealand, but Whakaari / White Island is pretty close to the top of the list for me. How often do you get to explore a privately owned active volcano?

Whakaari / White Island is 48km off the coast of the Bay of Plenty, not far from Whakatane, the kiwi fruit capital of New Zealand. There are two ways to get to the island, by a cheaper but often choppy boat ride, or splashing out on a helicopter. The later was more scenic, faster, more comfortable, and we got the whole island to ourselves before the boat arrived.

Approaching from the air is a little like flying to hell for a couple of hours. This is just the tip of the 1,600m volcano, most of it is underwater.

We landed in a pretty surreal environment.

Which even more surreally was once home to people, with sulphur mined from the island before WW1. It / they came to an unfortunate end when a lahar (like a volcano burping) wiped them all out in their sleep, though their pet cat escaped. There are atmospheric if understandably corroded remains.

With the helicopter pilot / volcano guide we walked carefully avoiding the yellow sulphur (though my white shirt was never the same again) and boiling mud.

The crater lake was an intense as it looks below, and varies significantly depending on the level of volcanic activity. It is New Zealand’s most continuously active and largest volcano by volume.

On the return walk there were more crazy colours and a reassuring monitoring station, plus more boiling mud.

We got back to the helicopter as the boat was arriving, well timed for a return back over the expansive coastline.

Leave a Reply