Travel New Zealand – White Island - An active marine volcano

Update: 22 people died as a result of the volcanic eruption on White Island on 9th December 2019. Many were injured with severe burns. Volcanologists advise that a visit to White Island is unsafe and visits are no longer possible. I dedicate the following to the dead. It breaks my heart to know they were curious about life and they just wanted to experience what I saw when I visited.

Travel New Zealand – Whakaari - An active marine volcano

It rains a lot In New Zealand and as a result, everything is lush and green. Grey beige? Brown? Unlike as in its neighbouring country Australia, which is only a short skip and a jump away, absolutely nothing here is dried up. I was looking for a country where I was able to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors and for years I had also been dreaming of dancing on an active volcano (OK, not true, but it sounds fantastic). I had chosen to go on a trip to New Zealand and made a dream come true which I have never had, and that is so much better anyway.

White Island- Journey to the centre of the earth

White Island, Whakaari, is accessible by boat from the wharf in Whakatane, a village in the Bay of Plenty on the North Island. The Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand call the island Whakaari “that which can be made visible” as it is often hidden in clouds before the wind helps to make it come out again. 

The British explorer James Cook named it White Island, back in the days he didn’t realise it is a volcano. Today we know the volcano is active and between 100,000 and 200,000 years old. After a relaxing boat ride in the South Pacific Ocean, we reach the island and start the excursion. I follow the guide over the seething, toxic, green-yellow ground only hesitantly. 

At times the air is as heavy with smoke as it was in trendy bars before the ban of smoking. It is corrosive to my respiratory tract and believe me when I say I felt great to be wearing a protective helmet and a gas mask.

Through river beds and up to the crater

There is no vegetation on the way up to the crater but lots of yellow crystals growing on the grey stone. I can certainly save the money for my planned trip to the moon since to me this is how I imagine that experience to be. We make our way over rubble through what resembles river beds, and up at the crater, there is the view of a lake filled up to the rim with steam. 

In this the moment I see prehistoric creatures roaming along its shores and feel as I am part of the story Journey to the centre of the earth by Jules Verne. The guide begs everyone in the group to be careful and to not step too close to the edge. No one is keen to end up in the bubbly steam bath. On the way back to the little harbour I make a few dance steps under the blue sky. My clothes suffer a bit from the acidic remnants in the air but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

Landscape of boulders, rubble, dust, and water in yellow and grey and green.
Walking on the moon - White Island

White Island - Whakaari - New Zealand

The boat ride to the island was choppy. It was a great idea to bring a jumper just as it got too cold. I have worn sturdy shoes and sunscreen. A gas mask has been provided.

Please note: Visits to White Island are no longer possible following the volcanic eruption in December 2019.

From Berlin with love