White Island Tours ™ has its beginnings in 1990 when founders, Peter & Jenny Tait, seeking a change of lifestyle, gave up their farming careers and embarked on a new venture as fishing and diving charter operators.
That same year, they began to build PeeJay I which was completed and launched in 1991. This first vessel had the capacity to carry just six passengers but was soon replaced in 1992 by the larger PeeJay II, able to carry 12.
Peter & Jenny continued to operate fishing and diving charters during this time. However, while out fishing near Whakaari/White Island one day, Jenny obliged a request by a client to be taken ashore the volcano. This visit not only sparked a curiosity in Jenny about the island but led to their operation expanding to include the option of a tour on to the volcano.
The rest, as they say, is history. Gradually, Peter & Jenny abandoned their fishing and diving operation to focus entirely on tours of Whakaari/White Island and PeeJay II was replaced in 1995 by PeeJay III which could carry up to 22 passengers. Today, in order to cater for the growing number of people worldwide who are attracted to this unique destination, White Island Tours ™ operates with four vessels – PeeJay IV, Predator and Phoenix each have capacity for 45 passengers while The Moutohora Cat carries a further 30 passengers. We also have a 38-unit motel, a café and a gift shop.
Peter & Jenny’s passion for the volcano, the sea and the natural environment has resulted in thousands of visitors being given the experience of a lifetime on one of the world’s most accessible live volcanoes. But how has this been achieved without having a severe negative impact on this unique natural wonder?
Whakaari/White Island is privately owned. It is also a scenic reserve and has been since the 1950s. Access on to the volcano is now very restricted but it hasn’t always been this way. When Jenny took her first visitor on to Whakaari/White Island, it was in the days when anyone could visit the island whenever they pleased. As a result, the island was not in the pristine condition that it is today. The evidence of human presence was obvious.
In 1997, Peter & Jenny were appointed official guardians of the island and were instrumental in ensuring the island is kept in a natural state. Visitors to the island must be escorted by a guide, either landing by sea with White Island Tours ™ or by helicopter with one of the other licensed operators.
This is definitely a jewel in New Zealand's crown. Have spent my whole life exploring and adventuring in and around New Zealand and absolutely loved this trip on many levels. Don't miss it.
Tom Mulholland - New Zealand
An excellent trip done with work colleagues. Luck gave us a perfect day and the chance to see a pod of dolphins on the trip out and back. It's a short boat ride and then a guided hike (not hard work at all) on the island. We had time to go for a swim on a hot-water beach (geothermal water vents providing the hot water). Beautiful views and a great day. Very friendly crew. A really great trip to do.
TripAdvisor - Ohope, New Zealand
Thank you to the staff members who made our Waitangi day, Moutohora Island experience unforgettable. Great ride out and back, excellent commentary on board and on the Island. Fantastic weather and the sea was beautifully flat. What a magical place Moutohora Island is. I would recommend this trip to everyone. Also special thanks to the cook who made the yummy ginger biscuits for the ride back. Top marks you guys.
Sandy Connelly - New Zealand
Had a great trip to the island and learnt a lot from our guides. Would highly recommend this trip to anyone visiting the area. A great way to spend half a day.
TripAdvisor - New Zealand
Visited on new year's day. Thanks to our very informative guide, we saw lots of saddlebacks close up, seals, skink, gecko, petrel, fantails, and paddled at the thermal hot water beach. Very professional with a thorough biosecurity check!
TripAdvisor - Australia
The Bay of Plenty certainly meets up to its name. One of the best things to do in Whakatane is the Moutohorā Island Sanctuary (Whale Island) trip. The crew is phenomenal and the scenery is idyllic. There is a hike involved, and the views from the top blew me away. The care that is taken to preserve the natural habitat of the island is incredible. After hiking and sitting on the beach to eat lunch, with a quick dip in the ocean the boat goes around the entire island. If the front was interesting, the back side of the island looked like a movie set. Things to remember, bring your towel and bathing suit and lots of water. There are restrooms on the island. And fear not, if you forget your towel they will borrow you one for a nominal fee. Book early! This tour sells out (and it’s worth every penny!)
TripAdvisor - USA