Diving in Northland
© Paihia Dive
Northland’s transparent waters are a favourite playgrounds for lovers of anything aquatic - there are few places in the world that can match what Northland has to offer.
Some of the world’s top and most easily accessed dive and snorkelling sites exist in Northland. Spectacular reefs, walls, pinnacles, archways, tunnels and the worlds’ largest underwater cave provide a unique marine habitat not seen anywhere else in the world. Magnificent mixtures of subtropical and temperate marine species inhabit the local reefs, with great wreck dives on sunken warships and the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior. The warm waters of Northland make this New Zealand’s natural playground.
Unique in their own right for an abundance of flora, fauna, bird life and reptilia that has evolved in glorious isolation from the mainland for over two million years, the Poor Knights stand sentinel over a marine reserve of spectacular topography, extraordinary diversity, and unique life forms – not to mention the world’s largest sea cave, Riko Riko. This mammoth watery cavern is flamboyantly painted from top to toe with lichen and moss and no visit to the Poor Knights is complete without a thrilling speed boat ride to experience its amazing acoustics, while schools of bright fish dance in the waters below. Over 125 species of fish share this environment with soft corals, encrusting sponges, vibrant anemones, ecklonia kelp forests, mating sting rays, gorgonian fans and myriad other life forms.
A dive at the Poor Knights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a microcosm of underwater diversity with precipitous walls of rock, dense kelp forests, sand gardens, giant sea caves, archways and massive underwater caverns. Fish find shelter in the rocks and thick kelp forests, where cnidarians, bryozoans, sponges and ascidians construct their intricate scaffoldings, while giant black stingrays gather in archways to meet before they mate. Unexpected visitors from warmer climes include Lord Howe coralfish, spotted black and toadstool grouper, yellow banded perch and banded coral shrimp. Most don’t survive the cooler winter temperatures but some, like the Kermadec angelfish and morsecode trigger fish, have found their own niche. Other regular passersby include manta rays, sunfish, turtles, NZ fur seals, whales and orcas.
On 10 July, 1985, two bombs exploded on the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland harbour. The explosion killed a crew member and rocked the world. It was decided that the ship was irreparable and after much deliberation and discussion it was moved to the Cavalli Islands at Matauri Bay in Northland on 12th December 1987. Since then The Rainbow Warrior has become a popular dive spot, and featured recently in the Lonely Planet Blue List – the best in Travel 2007 which was published in November 2006. According to the book the Rainbow Warrior is in the top ten of the World’s best dives: “Coated in colourful corals and populated by goatfish, moray eels and other fish, the Rainbow Warrior sits upright in 25 metres of water, wedged into the sandy ocean floor. Anemone sponges and algae of all colours cling to the wreck; in it’s gave the Rainbow Warrior is far more rainbow than warrior”.
The HMNZS Canterbury (former Navy Frigate Canterbury F421) is a 113m Leander Class frigate scuttled in the tranquil waters of Deep water Cove, Bay of Islands. The wreck sits completely upright and fully intact, and her position in Deep Water Cove is protected in most conditions. She lies at a depth of between 12 metres at the middle funnel, and 38 metres at the stern, where visibility can range between 8 and 30 metres.