700 years after the Mataatua waka first arrived on the shores of Whakatāne, another chapter in the rich history of Ngāti Awa commenced with the 2017 purchase of White Island Tours by Ngāti Awa Group Holdings Limited, the commercial arm of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, heralding a new and exciting chapter for the iwi.
Ngāti Awa trace our origins from a number of early ancestors, including those who lived in Aotearoa prior to Māori occupation and later from those who travelled from Hawaiki on the Mataatua waka. Over centuries, Ngāti Awa held influence over many parts of the country. Today, the ancestral homeland of Ngāti Awa is located within the eastern Bay of Plenty of the North Island.
Pūtauaki is the ancestral mountain of Ngāti Awa. The four rivers of Tarawera, Rangitāiki, Oriini and Whakatāne are also central to iwi identity. Over time, Ngāti Awa held mana whenua (authority over land) in the rohe (territory) bounded by Pongakawa in the west, Ōhiwa in the east, inland to Matahina, Maungawhakamana, Pōkuhu, and back to Pongakawa.
The islands of Mōtītī, Rūrima, Moutohorā, Whakaari and Te Paepae o Aotea are also recognised as being important ancestral lands associated with Ngāti Awa.
White Island Tours™ had its genesis in 1990 after a chance visit to Whakaari piqued the curiosity of Peter and Jenny Tait, the founders of the business. Back then, the first vessel had the capacity to carry just six passengers, but it provided the foundation from which the business steadily grew.
This growth included the diversification from guided-tours of ‘The Beauty & The Beast’ of the Bay of Plenty – Moutohorā, a pest-free wildlife sanctuary and Whakaari/White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano – to White Island Rendezvous, a 39-room motel, and White Island Café.
These days, in order to cater for the growing number of people worldwide who are attracted to these unique destinations, White Island Tours™ operates with five vessels and the long-term focus to educate others about these fascinating natural wonders, whilst at the same time, creating prosperity and sustainable employment for Ngāti Awa members and the wider Whakatāne region.
Fantastic scenery. Very friendly and informative staff. Had no intention of visiting White Island, when we arrived in New Zealand, but so glad we did. One of the highlights of our holiday. Definitely a unique experience!
Janet Stemson - Miami, USA
From start to finish this trip was professionally run but gave us a sense of personal care. Our guide & pilot was wonderfully informative & answered all our questions about the volcano & also the Bay of Plenty.
Paula Adams - Wyong, Australia
Great guides and an amazing island. It felt like a once in a lifetime experience. I’d happily go again just to feel like I’m on another planet. The staff were very nice and the packed lunch was great.
Peter Pentti - Stockholm, Sweden
Our deaf group visited white island. we didn't have much to expect, but the guide - AMY - was amazing! She knew sign language, which helped our experience immensely and she shared many different tidbits while enroute to the island and back... great adventure overall.
Anonymous - Seattle, Unites States