The natural and raw beauty of New Zealand has inspired many moviemakers, artists and travelers alike. With a coastline of over 14,000 kilometers, New Zealand offers tons of magnificent and easy to access dive sites with a great variety amongst them. Diving New Zealand can roughly be divided into diving on the North and the South Island. Whereas North Island diving in New Zealand offers sub-tropical reefs, beaches and islands, South Island diving has some unique topography and more temperate-water marine life.
The Poor Knights Islands, north of Auckland, are the highlight of New Zealand diving. Listed by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 places to dive in the world and a marine reserve since 1981, the Poor Knights are a volcanically shaped subtropical reef system with a great diversity of marine life. Goat Island, located just north of Auckland is another popular New Zealand diving spot on the north island. A marine park since 1975, Goat Island consists of different habitats, including seagrass beds, reefs, cliffs and rocks, gathering a colorful assembly of marine life.
There are some excellent wrecks to dive in New Zealand. On the north island, several wrecks are situated close to each other. One of the most famous wrecks in the world, the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior, lies at the Cavalli Islands. The purposely-sunk Waikato has large holes cut in the sides, allowing for save penetration and is excellent for wreck diving training.
Diving Kaikoura, in the north of New Zealand’s south island, is always a surprise. The rocky coast, kelp forests and limestone reefs attract whales, dolphins, seals, crayfish and octopus- just to name a few. Moving south, to dive the Fiordlands of New Zealand, divers can expect the dramatic beauty of the landscape and unusual underwater growth and marine life to make a lasting impression.
Diving the north island, the visibility can be excellent, from 15 to 30 meters, and is best in the winter months of May to September. A 7 to 5 mm wetsuit is recommended, with cool water temperatures of 14 to 26 degrees Celsius in winter and summer respectively. The South island gets colder with temperatures between 11 and 15 degrees Celsius at the Fiordlands; 7mm semi-dry suits are often used here.
Middle Arch is a popular dive site at the Poor Knights. Depths range from 10 to 16 meters in the archway, making it ideal for all level divers. Fish life is abundant and includes wrasses, rays and moray eels. The Northern Arch is a dive site for experienced divers, teeming with fish life like trevallies, pink maomao, and even an occasional kingfish.
The historical Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior was bombed in 1985 by the French secret service in the harbor of Auckland. Resurfaced for research, the wreck was later placed at the Cavalli Islands and now makes for a colorful wreck dive with a splendor of marine life. The Waikato wreck was purposely sunk in 2000 and now lies between 30 and 8 meters deep in an upright position. With large holes cut in both sides, this New Zealand wreck dive allows for save penetration by experienced divers.
Goat Island, with its mix of habitats, is an easy diving area and home to a huge population of marine life. Crayfish, blue cod, and snapper call these waters home and divers can enjoy a variety of underwater topography like sea grass beds, kelp forests, reefs and steep cliffs. An easy entrance from the shore can be found at Waterfall Reef, where the shoreline and a pinnacle make for an interesting topography. By boat, the dive from North Reef to Moki Haven is an outstanding dive. With sponge gardens, kelp forests and caves, this dive has an interesting topography.
The waters of Kaikoura are home to a wide range of marine creatures typical to temperate water habitats. Rocky reefs are full of sponges, anemones, starfish, crayfish and octopus. The isolated nature of dive site Bushett Shoals attracts a wealth of marine life, making one of Kaikoura’s best dive sites.
Milford Sound, in the fiordlands of New Zealand’s south island, must be one of the most spectacular dive sites in terms of landscape. Due to the high mountains blocking the sunlight, many deep-water species have migrated to shallow waters here, offering divers a chance to see marine life normally only found at over 100 meters deep, like black coral and saucer sponges.
With several awards for excellent service and sustainability in business, Dive! Tutukaka is one of New Zealand’s leading dive operations. They are situated in Tutukaka, a stunning part of Northland, with immediate access to the best diving in New Zealand, including the Poor Knights and Tui and Waikato wreck. Dive trips go out daily and the center also offers tank fills and equipment rental for the independent diver. The closest airport is in Whangarei, Northland’s main city.
Goat Island Dive & Snorkel organizes daily trips to Goat Island and other popular New Zealand diving spots near Auckland. Their comfortable and custom-built dive boat ‘The Apollo’ is equipped with bathrooms, hot showers, and diver lifts. Their full range of PADI courses makes is easy for novice divers to explore Goat Island as well. Their center is located in Leigh, only 3 km from the Matakana coast and a one-hour drive from Auckland’s international airport.
Dive! Kaioura is a 5 star PADI Dive Center, located at the base of the Kaikoura Peninsula. The dive sites are only a short boat-ride away and dive trips have two departures a day, giving divers the choice of a single or double tank dive. Kaikoura is easy to reach from Christchurch, taking about 2 hours by car, or as a stop on the Christchurch – Picton route by train or bus.
Descend Scuba Diving offers dive trips to the most exciting diving in Milford Sound and Queenstown. Their fiordland tours to dive Milford Sound start with pick-ups in Queensland, Te Anau and at Milford Lodge. The tour itself is spectacular, combining scenic driving, cruising the fiordlands and 2 dives. Other options with Descend are the River Drift dive and local Queensland dives. Queensland airport has great connections to other NZ cities, as well as international destinations.
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