By far, one of the greatest experiences in the North Island. By. Far.
After a night in a beach house next to Tauranga (jacuzzi included and for only $60 the night, one of the many perks of living in New Zealand), two of my friends and I drove for about 50 minutes to Whakatane to get into one of the boats of White Island Tours. Program for the day? The White Island, an active volcano off the coast of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.
We bought a quick breakfast when we arrived in Whakatane, a coastal city with a lovely waterfront, before leaving at 9.00am for the White Island. It took us two hours to reach it, with a short 30-minute stop in between. Why? Whales.
Yes, I said whales. Immediately after one of the crew members saw one, the boat stopped and started to chase this huge mammal. We were able to approach, but not closer than 3 to 4 metres.
An unbelievable moment.
Half of us were looking around, trying to see where the whale was going; the other half were looking from the other side of the boat. After a few long minutes of whale watching, we had to leave them and go to the White Island, the purpose of the trip.
The volcano was great, and you feel like you’re discovering an unexplored ‘radioactive’ territory. The ground turns into a yellowish colour, the steam surrounds you because of the wind and you have to wear a gas mask and a helmet. The walk isn’t very long and after an hour or so, we re-boarded the boat, enjoyed a good lunch (included in the price) and went back to Whakatane, seeing three or four whales again on our way.
Finally, we enjoyed a beer or two before heading to our beach house for a well-deserved dinner.
$229 per person, lunch included,
8.30AM to 3.30PM
Whakatane, Bay of Plenty
You can book it here.
Yes, it’s expensive. Is it worth your money? Yes. It won’t be crowded, even during a busy weekend such as the Labour Day weekend and I loved everything I did this day. The crew are very welcoming and will help you to see the whales, the seals, and the orcas if you’re lucky to have some of them close to your boat.