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Fishing, diving, and swimming with dolphins are popular activities in the Whakatane area. The water surrounding White Island has some renowned dive sites, with volcanic formations and abundant marine life.
Whales and Dolphin Watch. For closer aqueous encounters of the mammalian kind, Whales and Dolphin Watch, run by local boating/diving/fishing experts Diveworks, will take you on a four-hour cruise from Whakatane Wharf. Wet suits and snorkels for swimming with the dolphins and seals are provided, or you can just watch. From November though March, cruises leave daily at 8:30 am and 1 pm; other times of the year cruise times depend on weather and demand. Costs range from $130 (just to watch) to $160 (to swim). It's likely whales will cruise along as well. 96 The Strand, Whakatane, 3120. 0800/354–7737 or 07/308–2001. www.whalesanddolphinwatch.co.nz.
Dive White Island. White Island, 48 km off the shore of Whakatane, is one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes. The diving around this volcanic landform is regarded as outstanding, with unique volcanic features and a huge amount of marine life. Dive White Island offers guided day trips, with professional divers. It takes an hour to boat out to White Island, then you get time for two dives, lunch (included), and a close-up look at the island itself (from the boat only). Trips depart at 7:30 am and return at about 4 pm; the cost is NZ$395 (all dive gear included) or NZ$295 (bring your own gear). 186 The Strand, Whakatane, 3120. 07/307–0714. www.divewhite.co.nz.
Diveworks. Diveworks provide diving and fishing trips on their 33-foot Sportfisher speedboat. You can fish 'in-shore' for species like snapper and gurnard, further out for bluenose, hapuka and kingfish or into the big deep blue for pelagics such as marlin. Prices vary, depending on the length of the expedition and how far out you go. Email or call for details. The Strand, Whakatane, Whakatane, 3120. 07/308 2001 or 0800/354-7737. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.diveworks-charters.com.
Hiking trails. The native forest reserves around Whakatane provide a range of bushwalks and hiking trails. The 6-km (4-mi) walkway called Nga Tapuwae o Toi ("the footprints of Toi") is named for a descendant of Tiwakawaka, one of the first Māori to settle in New Zealand. In total it takes about four hours, it's also divided into eight shorter walks that take you past historic pā sites, along the coastline and the Whakatane River, around Kohi Point (which separates Whakatane from Ohope), and through the Ohope and Makaroa Bush Scenic Reserves. These shorter sections range from one to three hours. No guide is necessary, and most tourist operators and the information center in Whakatane stocks free trail maps. The trailhead is on Canning Place, behind the Whakatane Hotel on the corner of George Street and the Strand. Follow the steps up the cliff and you'll be at the beginning of the trail. For an easier wander (30 minutes round-trip), start at the west end of Ohope Beach and head over to Otarawairere, a delightful secluded cove. Some trail crossings depend on the tidal schedule, so be sure to check low-tide times or you might end up swimming across! Canning Place, Whakatane.