The whole purpose of our trek across country to Whakatane was purely to visit White Island, New Zealands' only active marine volcano. We held our fingers, toes and everything else crossed for good weather and for once our hopes paid off and we had a beautiful sunny day.
The trip over to White Island took about 90 minutes by boat, accompanied some of the way by leaping Common Dolphins (adults and babies!). Once at the island we were issued with helmets and gas masks and given a safety briefing about what to do in the event of an eruption (run behind the nearest rock mound and hope for the best!!!) Given that the volcano is extremely explosive and would eject liquid hot magma which would then travel across the island at 700kmph the suggested safety advice left a little to be desired! We were even more concerned that the last major eruption was only 9 years ago and we nearly ran back to the boat when we found out that it generally erupts every 10 years or so!
Keeping our nerves in check we embarked on a two hour walk through acid streams, steaming vents and a disused sulphur mine until we arrived at the crater and peered over the side into a turqouise, boiling acid lake. By this point gas masks were essential and we were coughing and spluttering even with them on! The landscape was amazing and it was really cool to be standing on an active volcano...does that sound mad??!!
By the way Whakatane is actually pronounced 'Fak- a- tanee'.