Have you ever walked on an active volcano!? We got the chance to do this on White Island, an active volcano near the coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It was a unique and beautiful experience!
White Island is the most active volcano in New Zealand. Currently (March 2017) White Island is on Alert Level 1. This means there is minor volcanic unrest but it is safe for tours to operate on the island. In the past years there were some small eruptions with mud and ash. In 1914 there was a big eruption that made part of the Western crater rim collapse and killed all sulfur miners that were working on the island at that time. Some years later they started mining sulfur again and continued to do so up until the 1930s. You can still find some remains of the old factory on the island.
We went to White Island with White Island Tours. They organize boat trips combined with a walk on the island. They have experienced guides who lead the tours. When we started our trip we had to sign a liability form because of the risk of eruptive activity regardless of the alert level. Our guides mentioned the safety plan and the actions we had to take in the occurrence of an eruption. They had never experienced an eruption on White Island during one of their tours, so that combined with the safety plan was quite reassuring!
The White Island Tour is about 5 to 6 hours long. White Island sits 49km off the coast and takes about 1,5 hours by boat from Whakatane. The boat ride can be quite bumpy, so be prepared when you are prone to seasickness. When you approach the island you get a beautiful view of the steam coming out of the island’s crater.
The main boat can’t moor on the island, so for the last bit you’ll be transported in a small zodiac boat. Before going onto the island you get a safety helmet and a gas mask to protect yourself from the sulfuric gases coming out of the earth. The gas masks are not exactly charming, but they sure add an extra dimension to the trip! Once you reach the island you get split up in groups of about 20 people (and 2 guides) and set off on a great 1 to 1.5 hour hike across the island.
The island is full of yellow, red and white colors. The scenery is beautiful and quite unique. It is important to exactly follow the path of the guide. It turns out that it’s quite difficult to see the difference between stable ground and a thin and hot earth crust in which you can disappear! During the walk the guides talk about volcanoes, sulfur and geothermal activity. You’ll get some sweets that apparently help to break down the effect of the sulfuric acid.
During the walk you go to the edge of the crater. Here you’ll find the biggest steam cloud of the island! You can spot some little lakes and you can enjoy the beautiful colors of the surrounding mountains!
On the way back the crew of White Island Tours has something special to offer! They search for dolphins on their way back to Whakatane. When they have found some you’ll get the opportunity to make photos of these special and great animals! We got lucky and saw some dolphins swimming and playing around our boat!
We loved the White Island Tours experience and you should definitely add it to your bucket list when travelling to New Zealand! Not everyone can tell they’ve walked on an active volcano!
This trip was made in partnership with White Island Tours who sponsored our trip. Our opinions and photos are our own.