Scenic Cruising White Island

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A steaming offshore crater would qualify as a must-see highlight in most countries, or so you might think as you cruise up to the stunning, 321-meter-high (1,053-foot-high), circular White Island stratovolcano (that is, a many-layered cone). But because it's in New Zealand, where it competes with natural wonders from the famous Southern Alps to dramatic fjords, White Island can sometimes be overlooked.

Roughly 48 kilometers (30 miles) off the North Island and tucked into a coastal bowl created by the Bay of Plenty, the volcano was long called Whakaari in Maori before it was “discovered” in 1769 by Captain James Cook. White Island belongs to New Zealand’s Taupo-Rotorua Volcanic Zone and is the country’s most active geothermal site, with countless steam vents and bubbling mud around a small lake. The eerie landscape is devoid of vegetation, while the sulfur that was mined here until 1914 today bleeds into the sea to create a vibrant orange trail. The island is a vital bird habitat, with thousands of noisy gannets perched in rookeries. Underwater reefs and vents provide a home for abundant fish life as well. All of this makes the private reserve equally popular with volcanologists and the general public.

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