Travellers can explore Whakaari/White Island with Google Street View
You can disregard the "danger volcanic hazard signs" when you stand at the steaming crater of Whakaari/White Island on Google Street View.
The continuously active volcano off the coast of Whakatāne in the Bay of Plenty is the latest attraction to get the street view treatment, joining the likes of the Pyramids of Giza, the Grand Canyon, Mt Everest and the mountain bike tracks of Nelson.
As well as stand in the crater, virtual travellers can now check out the moonlike-landscape from atop a high mound, zoom in on steaming fumaroles (openings in the planet's crust) and explore an abandoned sulphur mine.
Whakatāne District Council described the project as the first of its kind in New Zealand, with Google loaning an 18-kilogram, 15-camera "trekker" to a third-party organisation to capture the images.
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A team of local hikers set out over the summer with the trekker, which takes 360 degree photos every 2.5 seconds, to capture some of the district's best loved landmarks and walks.
Moutohorā Island - a sanctuary for endangered species such as kiwi, tuatara and native geckoes - is another local attraction you can now explore online.
You can also take a virtual hike on Ngā Tapuwae o Toi, passing pā sites, pohutukawa stands, the Ōhope Scenic Reserve - home to a thriving kiwi population - and stunning coastal views.
The ancient podocarp forest of Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park, Tarawera Falls, Tauwhare Pā, Warren Cole Walkway and Port Ōhope Wharf can also be accessed on Google Street View.
Local project co-ordinator Richard Parfitt said there was some concern that putting the district's star attractions online would dissuade people from visiting in real life.
However, they decided that Google Street View "can't fully replicate the real life experiences.
"White Island especially - standing on an active volcano, the smells, noise and scale of it is truly something best experienced in person," he said.
Matthew Jenke, Google New Zealand Special Collect Operations Lead, said the aim is to capture the imagination and inspire people to visit.
"People who may never have the opportunity to visit White Island will now be able to see it. Through virtual reality teachers around the world are taking their classes on virtual expeditions to amazing places around the world. We're excited to have White Island added to the list of experiences Google Street View provides."
According to Google, its maps feature has more than a billion active users.