White Island, just 48kms off the Bay of Plenty's coastline, is New Zealand's most active volcano. Its activity is often clearly visible. It has boiling pools, holes of sulphuric acid, steam and natural gas vents. Some believe it is a safety valve for the whole thermal region, releasing pressure that might otherwise result in inland eruption.
Activity as far back as 16,000 years is recorded by volcanic ash layers found in ocean floor sediment drill cores, but the island was active much earlier.
Also known as Whakaari, the 234 hectare island is formed by three volcanic cones of different ages. Erosion has worn away most of the two older cones surfaces. The third, which rose between the older two, occupies most of the centre of the island. Its most active period was between 1976 and 1981. Hot water and steam continually spurt from vents over most of the crater floor, with recorded temperatures of 600C to 800C.
The island is privately owned and uninhabited but can be visited by air or sea. A helicopter flight is the best way for a scenic and close-up experience.
Volcanic Air Safaris take tours to the island. You fly north over Hell's Gate Thermal Valley to the Pacific coastline and the active volcano, landing on the crater rim. You spend around an hour on a guided walk of this wonderful natural attraction. You experience the volcanic fury of the main crater, see sulphur deposits and the remains of the old sulphur mine.
There are patches of green pohutukawa forest fighting for survival and to the south and west are thousands of gannets squawking, nesting and feeding.
The walking tour takes around 1.5 hours and you spend around the same time in the air. The terrain is easy to tackle, but hiking boots are a good idea as there are no formed tracks.
New Zealand's Bay of Plenty.
Air New Zealand has return flights to Tauranga. Valid for sale until April 16, 2006, and for travel between May 15 and June 30, 2006. Taxes are included.
- Brisbane, $564
- Melbourne, $568
- Sydney, $576
- Adelaide, $792
- Perth, $1046
Volcanic Air Safaris three hour flights from Hangar 21 Tauranga Airport cost $559 with a minimum of two people.
For further information
Volcanic Air Safaris Tauranga
Phone: 0011 64 7 575 2266
Phone: 0011 64 7 348 4069
Fax: 0011 64 7 575 8911
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.