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A guy called Richard Scarsbrook (email: [email protected]) posted this on the BSAC site on 21st Jan 2003, so the info is right upto date:

[Richard wrote]:

"My wife and I spent a month in NZ last year, and leave for 2 months on Saturday.

The February/March edition of Dive New Zealand should be out by the time you get there. It is the main source of NZ diving contact. Mike Halligan's reply gives the web address. Dive shops and the bigger newsagents like Whitcoulls stock it.

The dive operators run scheduled trips throughout the week at popular places like Poor Knights, Rainbow Warrior (Bay of Islands) and Kaikoura. Elsewhere scheduled trips tend to be at weekends. If you express interest in diving but no trip is scheduled, we found that operators would start a list and try and fill a trip. Obviously the sooner you contact them the greater the chance of getting something going. There are plenty of dive shops that will rent you tanks so you can go off and do your own thing. Not sure if they would rent a full set of gear for this purpose - we take our own, flying via the US with 64kg baggage allowance each.

The tourist hotspots, diving and non-diving, can be quite crowded and a little regimented, though in most cases still worth visiting. If you visit places advertised locally that aren't in Lonely Planet/Rough Guide etc you will have them to yourself. If you are into multiday walking (tramping in NZ) the famous tracks are a case in point. You have to book in advance for routes like the Milford and Routeburn tracks, but there are dozens of other huts you can use to do other walks equally good without seeing a soul.

NZ is a big place and if you try to cram in too many places into a short trip you can end up spending most of your time travelling rather than doing.

As to dive recommendations, I don't know what your taste or experience is so treat the following with caution. We liked Poor Knights, especially Northern Arch. We used Dive!Tutukaka www.diving.co.nz and were sufficiently impressed that we are using them again. A lot of the divers at Poor Knights appeared to be inexperienced. If that is an issue for you (it is for us when we're paying)make sure you get on the boat designated the 'advanced' boat.

We thought White Island was even better than Poor Knights. We booked on an excellent boat called Black Shag through Dive White www.divewhite.co.nz. World class dives, a visit to an active volcano, and the only day boat that has ever supplied me with freshly baked pizza and cake.

There is a river drift dive out of Lake Taupo that we recced but didn't do. It looks quite interesting. There is a dive shop in Taupo [email protected] If you like mountain walking the nearby Tongariro National Park is worth a visit. The 1 day crossing is splendid, if crowded. Do Mt Naurohoe and Mt Tongariro at the same time and you lose the crowds and catch them up at the end - a fairly tough day though.

Other dives - plenty of stuff in the Bay of Plenty, and out of Auckland. Not so much in South Island. Kaikoura was a bit like St Abbs with bigger kelp and lots of juvenile crayfish. Fjordland is remote and really needs a liveaboard. Three Kings is on my must do list. They are islands 50km off the north of North Island. April and May is the time to go, there's too much chance of big seas from tropical storms in Feb/March (tried to charter a liveaboard there - it's taking us to fjordland instead). Stewart Island also has good diving, again with poor sea weather at the moment. There is a freshwater dive at Pupu springs near Abel Tasman, which often gets recommended. We went for a look. It has amazing 100m vis which you can see through a viewing gallery without getting wet. There are restrictions about when you can dive there posted locally, lots of spectators, and the whole thing is only the size of a swimming pool, so we didn't bother diving.

NZ is a brilliant place if you enjoy the outdoors. The diving is good, but do other stuff as well. Enjoy."


[Bren wrote]: Sounds just a tad good that eh? I dived the Bay of Islands when I was out there (1992) and it was truly awsome. Hey Gunna Do, care to comment on any of the above?
 

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Dunno if this will interest anyone, but its an article i wrote for our Club / local dive rag about a smallie trip to the Poor Knights.  If anyone is actually interested, i have a few phots of the place too (above and below the waterline)....*ITS LONG !*

"The Poor Knights are a group of Islands situated off the north eastern coast of New Zealands North Island.  Flying into Auckland International from Melbourne takes a little over 3 hours, and from there it’s a little over an hour and a half north by car to Whangarei (pronounced Fong-ga-ray).  

Whangarei is about the size of Ballarat.  It has a disproportionately large number of hostels, hotels and pubs – all to the benefit of the traveler. You can choose to remain in Whangarei, or carry on through to Tutukaka, approximately 45 minutes further north east and situated right on the coast. Nestled in amongst the hills and trees, it appears out of nowhere – blink and you miss it.  A small hamlet of motel/hotels, a marina and a dive shop.  From here you can see the Poor Knights, 20km-25km off the shore, and looking like you could swim to them.

There are several dive operators working out of Tutukaka – the one we chose was “Pacific Hideaways”, whose principal boat is a 16metre Catamaran surveyed for 50 people on day trips, and 16 people for overnight / liveaboard operations.  The boat has an onboard compressor, galley,  hot showers, kayaks (pretty good fun for surface intervals) and a tender. It takes the Pacific Hideaway about 45 minutes to get to the Islands, and its possibly the worst tease I have ever come across – like an Oasis that appears to melt into the ether when you approach, we thought the islands would never let us in. Pacing up and down the lower deck, there were 6 of us on this huge taxi, wishing the skipper to open up the twin inboards to the redline to get us there quicker – patience is something learned, not given.

As the boat heaved to, you begin to appreciate the massive beauty of these Islands.  The Islands themselves rise to over 150 metres above sea level with sheer unscalable rockfaces giving the appearance of some natural impregnable fort. Even the plant life has a tough time clinging on.  Sailing through overhangs and archways, you expect Pteradactyls to swoop over the boat, and Sam Neill to start yelling stuff about pre-historic bitey things.  The scenery is awesome – its worth the cost and time just to see these impressive islands close up; I have difficulty believing that ancient Maori colonies used to inhabit these monolithic lumps of rock.

Our trip was mid December – the beginning of plankton bloom, and the busy season.  The air temperature fluctuated between 20 and 30 celcius, sunshine and rain – typical New Zealand summer.  Now its time for the main event – what you came here for – “Cry HAVOC and let loose the divers of Melbourne !”.

6 of us geared up in near-Olympian time, the poor attendant Divemasters bemused with our eagerness – they have logged over 2000 dives each on these Islands, but still admit to being fascinated by what they conceal below. Gee, great, thanks, well pull your fingers out, we wanna go in !  Our first dive is on a site called “Magic Cave” – a name that conjures up all sorts of images until Peter (our guide) lets slip that there aren’t actually any caves.  So what is there ?

We bail off the back of the boat, drift through the centre gap of the catamaran to the anchor line.  One last check, and we are under.  The first thing that strikes you is “This visibility is FANTASTIC”.  25-35 metre visibility is classified as “unbearably dull” here, with plankton bloom reducing it from its normal 50metres.  Clean, clear oceanic currents help to maintain vis even during the summer.  The second thing that strikes you  is “…and its warm too” – 18 celcius in the water, pure heaven for Victorian divers.  Down the line, to about 15 metres and a jungle of bull kelp.  The Guide is weaving his way through swimthroughs and gulleys, obviously eager to get somewhere – we were quite happy with what we could see thank you, but felt duty bound to follow.

Vertigo is an interesting phenomena – irrationality persuades you to increase your breathing and heart rate when faced with sudden changes in height / depth.  Swimming through a veil of kelp, the feeling of vertigo struck for the first time ever – below me, about 50 metres, was the bottom.  I was at the top.  Between me and it was a sheer vertical wall covered in gorgonian fans, nudibranchs the size of cricketballs, all manner of fishlife.  Peter grinned and laughed through his reg, obviously aware that I had been caught out, and plunged down to the bottom. Briefed to expect this, and not to follow (he was after spotting a rare breed of fish to these parts), we slowly descended to 30 metres hanging on the wall and wondering where to look first.  Peter remained visible even down to 55 metres.  No narcotic effects yet, this is fantastic !

The list of things to see is endless and awe inspiring – I now understand why people nominate this as one of the top diving destinations in the world.  After only 45 minutes, our first dive was over – the first forbidden fruit sampled, Eden violated.  And we wanted more, much more.

The second, shallower dive (18 metres for 50 minutes) yielded whole encampments of stingrays, colonies of nudibranchs (huge, colourful, numerous and getting distinctly boring now there were so many of them).  Time to go, leave paradise with but the tiniest sample of its beauty.  Destined to come back the next day, we retired back to our hostel in Whangarei for the night, eagerly anticipating tomorrows diving.

Our third suaree to the Poor Knights was to Southern Arches, a dive site known as “The Rock”.  No Alcatraz here, but a huge pinnacle of volcanic rock towering to within 10 metres of the surface, and plunging to over 100 metres to the ocean bottom.  This dive elicited Moray and Conga eels, manta rays and yes, even MORE nudibranchs (come on, change the tape).  27 metres for 45 minutes, this dive seemed to go on forever – the camera battery ran out and the camera memory stick ran out (holds 120 pictures).  Sigh, back to the surface again.  The weather started turning inclement now, a squall blowing up, the air temperature dropping to 15-20 celcius, thank god for hot showers !

The final event – “The Last Dive”.  Whatever you wish to call it, Peter certainly had saved the best to last.  Middle Arch is a dive of such diversity that you could easily spend a whole day here snorkeling and diving the site.  One of the main features is at the beginning – you drop down a wall to about 9 metres, where a cave opens up.  Follow the cave in about 10 metres, slowly ascending to its roof at about 7 metres you reach an air pocket.  The challenge here is shoveling the seemingly endless number of Demoiselle fish out of your way to get there.  Surfacing, you end up in a pocket large enough to accommodate 4 people at 7 metres – the resonant characteristics of the pocket make communication impossible, but its fun trying !

Back out, you follow the wall east at 25 metres, swimming through gullies and vertical cracks in the rock large enough to fit in.  Rising to 15 metres, retrace your steps west along the same wall, past the cave entrance and across an expanse of water some 50 metres long to another wall on the western side of the bay. This is a complete dive on its own – between 12 metres and 6 metres lie some of the most coloured reef life I have ever seen – bang goes another camera battery, another memory stick – oh well.

Surfacing, you feel like you have been teased.  4 dives in two days is nothing compared to what the Guides have done, and they are still as excited about the sites as when they started.  Back on the boat, a warm shower and some soup, you sit down to fill out your logbooks……and wake up 30 minutes later wondering what happened.

Peter strolls over for a chat, with a photo album under his arm.  The photographs contained within would make any professional proud – all taken by Peter before his camera flooded.  Enigmatically, he states that he gave himself “one cameras’ worth of money before giving it up”.

The Poor Knights are an amazing destination for all levels of diver. Being a complete “No Take No Touch” Marine reserve, the proximity to warm pacific currents coupled with the amazing biodiversity on offer make this the perfect photographer / videographers destination.  With two wrecks in easy traveling distance from Tutukaka, there is ample to keep the most ardent of “rust heads”  occupied.  Had we known better, we would have slept onboard the catamaran, rather than travel the 45 minutes each way from Whangarei.  

For the non-diver, Whangarei offers a cultural diversity very few places can boast of.  With a car, you can drive to the Bay of Islands, the first landed point of New Zealand.  There are museums, boat and land tours, and a myriad of other activities for the non-diving enthusiast.  It is even worth the transit time to the Poor Knights to see their awesome beauty.

Our thanks go to Gareth and Peter the DM’s (see, Australian divers aren’t all THAT bad on their air !), Noel the Skipper (one day we will make you laugh – this mans humour is as dry as the Gobi Desert, but his knowledge of the Poor Knights is encyclopedic) and last of all the Poor Knights themselves – superb trip, see you later in 2003 !


(Edited by Yorkie gone under at 10:18 pm on Feb. 12, 2003)
 

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Hey Yorkie,

Not too long at all mate - a good read actually, and please send the photies to Jay so he can put them on the Gallery section, if you don't mind.
 

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whats his email address, and is he on ADSL, otherwise it'll have to be self-extracting .zipfile.

lemme know ...

cheers

a
 
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