Visible from much of the Eastern Bay of Plenty coast, Moutohorā (Whale Island) is home to some of New Zealand’s endangered birds and plants, and is one of the country’s most protected wildlife sanctuaries. 

For the past 50 years, conservationists have been working hard to create a pest-free sanctuary on Moutohorā to help our native plants, birds and other wildlife thrive. In doing so, they’ve created a safe home for kiwi birds, grey-faced petrels, saddlebacks, tuatara, blue penguins and New Zealand fur seals.  

Moutohora whale island















Experience a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see them up close in their natural habitat by taking a guided tour to Moutohorā. This 143-hectare 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 three 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.

Because Moutohorā 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.

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