New Zealand is not really a place one thinks about when the scuba diving stories come flying around the table, however, you’d be pleasantly surprised with what New Zealand has to offer in this area. If you are used to diving in the warm seas of the world around Thailand or Vietnam, you are in for an interesting scuba diving experience of a lifetime.
Composed of 3 islands, tere are not as many dive sites around New Zealand that one would expect. However, where the kiwis lack in numbers, they make up in their own share of incredible underwater life, cave diving, drift diving, spring diving and even a few famous wreck dives which are scattered around the coasts. Among one of the more popular diving hot spot is Tutukaka on the North New Zealand island.
Located about 3 hours drive north from Auckland, between Russell, the first New Zelanad capital, and the amazing whangarei Falls and Waiwera thermal pools, Tutukaka offers one of the best dive spots in New Zealand. Most diving is done around the Natural and Marine Reserve of Poor Knights Islands which is located about 40-60 minutes off the coast of Tutukaka. The friendly local dive shop Dive Tutukaka provides all that is necessary for you to enjoy your day out on and under the sea, but be prepared for a full day of diving fun.
And what will you see? Well, the water around Poor Knights Islands is a bit colder than what you are used to in the warmer climate dive sites like Koh Tao, Thailand, so the marine life is also different. From January to April the water is about 21 degrees Celsius (~70F) and from May to September it can get down to 15 degrees Celsius (60F), so full body hooded wetsuit or a dry suit are a necessity to keep your body warm and your dive enjoyable. Back to the sea life though, first you are going to amazed at the large kelp forests which make you feel like a dwarf next to them. Kelp is actually one of the fastest growing plants on the plant, so no wonder there are so many of them. Depending what dive site you will be at for your dive, you have a chance to see very large ong tail sting rays camouflaged into the sand bottom or cruising around in search for a spot to hide. The waters around Poor Knights islands are literally exploding with moray eels. Some other marine life you might see are Leatherjackets, Marble fish called kehe in the Maori language and Kingfish (also called haku), Sandager’s wrasses, black pillow sponges and of course the infamous hard to spot sorpionfish.
You can also visit the local shipwrecks which are only about 15 minutes away by boat. The HMNZS Tui and Waikato ship wrecks are definitely worth the exploration for a novice wreck diver, so if you have enough of diving experience (at leas 15-30 dives), why not give a wreck dive a try. Finally, there is also the world’s largest sea cave, the Rikoriko which is worth an exploration especially when the visibility is 30-40 meters.
If you are wondering where to stay around Tutukaka, then do not anymore. There are a few hotels in the area and also very cheap affordable campground which is just a walking distance from the Dive Tutukaka dive shop. So pack your tent, sleeping bag, fins, mask, wetsuit and any other scuba gear you might have and embark into the land of hobbits and wild orcs for a new unforgettable adventure.