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Whale Island

This pest-free island sanctuary is a haven for birds and home to the world’s largest muttonbird colony. Join a guided tour to discover Moutohora’s unique inhabitants including New Zealand fur seals, little blue penguins and kiwi.

For the past 50 years conservationists have been working hard to create a pest-free sanctuary on Moutohora (Whale Island) so our native birds, plants and wildlife can thrive.

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Their success means grey-faced petrels, saddlebacks, bellbirds, tui, grey warblers, red crowned parakeet and of course, our national icon, the kiwi, now call this small island home. Tuatara, blue penguins and New Zealand fur seals also live here.

Experience a once-in-lifetime chance to see them up close in their natural habitat by taking a guided tour to Moutohora, which sits just 9km offshore from Whakatane. This 143ha island is all that remains of an old volcanic cone which has eroded, leaving two distinct peaks which can be seen from many vantage points along the Eastern Bay of Plenty’s coastline.

Because of the island’s precious conservation status, only two tourism operators have permission to visit here and their tours are limited to a small number of people.

Enjoy a 15 minute boat ride out to the island and a full commentary about the island’s history, fauna and flora. You’ll need sturdy footwear as your tour often includes a walk to the island’s saddle where you can see out across the Pacific Ocean to Whakaari (White Island).

Visit the fur seal colony to marvel at these impressive animals then dig your own hot pool at Sulphur Bay beach and watch geothermal hot water rise up through the sand. Don’t forget to bring your togs, towel and sunscreen with you!

From July until November each year, a special three hour evening tour also operates once a week so you can witness the spectacular arrival home of an estimated 168,000 grey-faced petrels, known as muttonbirds, from their day feeding out at sea.

Moutohora is home to the world’s largest muttonbird colony and you can sit quietly among the bush as these birds swoop overhead. Listen as they make their dove-like cooing call to find their mate before landing and finding their burrow for the night. If you’re lucky, you may also spot nocturnal kiwi, tuatara and little blue penguins while on this tour.

Because Moutohora is pest-free, there are strict biosecurity rules all visitors must follow. All bags must be zipped closed – drawstring or open bags are not permitted ashore. Your clothing, bags and shoes will also be checked for soil and seeds and only commercially-packaged food is allowed.

Snorkeling and diving tours are also available in the waters surrounding Moutohora. See dolphins, seals, penguins and other marine life from this unique vantage point. All tours depart on a daily or weekly basis from Whakatane.

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