We had planned to take a helicopter trip to the active volcano in November last year, but life and work intervened so it never happened. However, with the opportunity of two spare days in which to get from Auckland to Martinborough in our motorhome RocknRobyn following the Covi Motorhome Caravan and Outdoor SuperShow, we took time out for a side trip and headed to the east coast keen for adventure.

I’ve heard many stories about visiting this active volcano, many of them from the Rock as he had been on two previous trips during the 1990s to handle fashion photo shoots of all things for Style magazine. As a reminder, we also have a blown-up framed photograph of the island on our wall at home. Rocky has always said that out of the 62 countries he has travelled through in his lifetime, this island stands out in his mind as one of the wonders-of-the-world.

Excited to be flying to White Island

With our time constraints, we elected to take a helicopter tour out to the island. There are options to do this from Tauranga, Rotorua or Whakatāne with different companies. These aerial trips normally take about two to three hours in total. There’s also the option of getting a boat tour to the island. That takes around the six hours so that’s more of a day out on the water with the chance to enjoy dolphin and sea life viewings as well.

For us we travelled to Whakatāne the day before, and being in our motorhome we stayed over at Coastal Motorhomes Park-over-Property, just a few kilometres down the road from the airport. By 7am we were checking in and getting a safety briefing before meeting our pilot for the day, Ross McAulay, the main tour pilot for the White Island Volcano Adventure trip.

Figures vary from 3000 to 5000 breeding pairs, but this spot is a valuable breeding site for the Australasian gannet

As young as Ross looked, we felt assured his 700+ hours experience and three-years with the company were great references. The fact he wasn’t born the last time the Rock visited the island was irrelevant, though something of a laughing point for us all.

We were soon up up and away, joined by a German couple, and as we flew up into the early morning sun my heart was pounding as the reality sank in that we were heading to a live volcano and would soon be landing in its crater for a bit of a walkabout. I was soon distracted from these thoughts though as the fellow tourist next to me started leaning over me to take photos, and the demands started to flow through the headset as he barked out orders and demands to the pilot.

This volcano is 321 metres above sea level, but goes down at least 1600 metres relative to the sea bed. The crater is about 30 metres below sea level, which is just one of the factors that makes it unique in the world

This rude attitude had started prior to take-off and continued until we landed, and by this time I felt like we had a spoilt brat on board acting like a petulant six-year-old. That brought the mother and grandmother out in me as I enquired if he intended to ruin our trip – as well as his own – with his demands, whining and bad behaviour towards the pilot and ourselves. Thankfully from that point on the energy changed for us all, and we eagerly listened to the safety instructions and clear orders from Ross to “follow me, step where I step, do not wander away at all”, and with safety hats on and a gas mask around the neck we were ready to step onto the volcanic island.

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