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New Year Trip: 9~Dolphin delight on the way to White

(Surely a contender for cheesiest title!)

A new day dawned and we were relieved to hear that the tours were running. During peak season they run three per day and we were on the last tour, leaving around midday. The peak season for White Island Tours is only a couple of weeks long, coinciding with the main holiday period, and they must have been gutted to lose several days because of the storm. We went down to check on the river at the time the day’s middle tour was heading out.

The largest of the PeeJay boats negotiating the standard reverse turn before heading down the river and out to sea

Now to kill some time before our turn...

What’s the big deal with visiting White Island? It’s a volcano! More precisely, it’s the summit of a submarine volcano, maybe 2,000 centuries old and with over half its height submerged. New Zealand’s most active volcano, it normally ‘rests’ at alert level one. Things got a bit more exciting in 2000 when it rose to level two and did in fact erupt.

But mid-morning plans were suddenly thrown into disarray. Back at the motel I was contacted by reception, asking if we were still checking out. Huh??? No I said, we organised yesterday to rebook on a tour today and to keep our room for another night. She hung up to investigate. It wasn’t sounding good so I went along in person. Amazingly we were neither booked onto a tour, nor booked into the motel that night. Argh!

Luckily there was still room on the midday tour. Phew. Our room wasn’t available but there was one room left – a villa next door – and they agreed we could have that at the same rate. Disaster averted! After what was a bit of a cock up they really made amends.

Having to pack up made the rest of the time fly and it was soon time to check in and board. We were joined by about 30 other tour-goers, mostly foreign I think, and half a dozen staff. The boat manoeuvred away and headed down the river. It was great getting a perspective from the water.

Boats moored along Whakatane River

On a rock at the mouth of the Whakatane River is a statue of Wairaka

The story of Wairaka is from the 12th century. She saw a waka drifting out to sea shortly after her family landed from Polynesia during the Great Migration. Although women were not supposed to handle waka, she shouted “Kia whakatane au I ahau” (“I will be bold and act as a man") and paddled it back to shore. And that is how Whakatane got its name.

White Island is 49km away which takes about 80 minutes to reach by water. We settled in for the ride.

The very clear separation between deep sea water and the mud-tainted water caused by the floods

My er windswept look

This is probably about as windswept as Mike gets

While overcast, it wasn't raining or particularly cold so we enjoyed the fresh air and views from the back of PeeJay IV

At one point Whale Island was neatly positioned in front of Mt Edgecumbe back on the mainland

Whale Island, named partly for its silhouette likeness to you-can-guess-what, is a wildlife sanctuary. Tours there offer sightings of dolphins, whales, penguins, seals, seabirds, as well as diving and snorkelling. May have to come back for a closer look one day.

Back to the tour at hand, the captain had mentioned that it might be possible to come across either whales or dolphins. I forgot about this until there was a flurry of excitement and it was announced that we’d come across a pod of dolphins (or, they’d come across us). Already being outside gave us an advantage to those inside, and we scurried to the front of the boat. From there we had a fantastic view of these amazing creatures.

After a few minutes we parted company. It was an unexpected bonus, and a privilege, to have seen them.

White Island wasn’t far away.

Some wee island rock things just to the left (north I guess) of White Island

Not too far away now

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Christine #

    Very interesting reading & viewing…….hurry up with the next episode!!!

    29 January 2012
    • Thank you mother … I would be a bit quicker on the turnaround but it can be quite a palava putting these things together … albeit an enjoyable palava …

      30 January 2012
  2. Marnie #

    Whale Island was also named so because whales commonly wallowed in the shallows where there’s warm/hot spring water which helped to dislodge the barnacles.

    29 January 2012
  3. Marnie #

    The rocks to the west of White Island are Volkner Rocks – quite a well known popular fishing spot until it was made a Marine Reserve.

    http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/marine-and-coastal/marine-protected-areas/marine-reserves-a-z/te-paepae-o-aotea-volkner-rocks/

    Years ago, back when we used to have an Air Force, one of the smaller rocks was used for bombing practice!

    29 January 2012
    • Thank you for the extra tidbits oh knowledge aunt 🙂

      30 January 2012

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