From the coastline of Whakatane, White Island appears on the horizon as a stereotypical volcano, the kind you may have doodled in schoolbooks as a kid. With its classic conical shape and plume of natural gases rising high above the crater rim, it seems to warn, “I am still breathing.”
I was filled with excitement as I climbed aboard our vessel, the PeeJay5, and was both surprised and intrigued by my travelling companions to this unusual and adventurous destination. On my right, a middle aged couple in their 60’s with walking sticks, tramping shoes and cameras at the ready; on my left, a family of three with a five year old and one on the way; and across from me, two friends in their early twenties wearing skinny jeans and Converse, attached to their iPhones.
As our boat drifted down the Whakatane River through the harbour entrance into the Pacific Ocean, our trip to the island began. We passed little blue penguins, a pod of travelling dolphins and a rare blue shark sunning himself on the surface, one of the rarest sites I have ever seen on the water. The middle aged couple were snapping wildly, cheers of excitement roared from the five year old encouraged by mum and dad, and the young hipsters never saw a thing, keeping their eyes and attention firmly glued to playing games on their phones.
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