Thursday, March 18, 2010

Diving the Poor Knights - Tutukaka, NZ

I learned how to scuba dive at the very beginning of my trip back in August in Utila, Honduras. I then missed or skipped all the good opportunities I had to use my new skills in South America. I regret not diving in Colombia and Venezuela and so I decided I wasn't going to miss the next great opportunity to came my way.
The Poor Knights Islands, just off the coast of Tutukaka on the North Island of New Zealand is one of the worlds top spots. It's made several top ten diving lists and consistently ranks amoungst the worlds top twenty dive sites. Part of the reason for this is the tropical and temperate currents that make their way down to these islands and allow for tons of tropical fish and rare species.
Here are the Poor Knights Islands from afar.

I was pretty nervous since I hadn't been diving in seven months and I wasn't the most confident diver after getting my certification in the first place. I sucked down the air in my tank so fast in my first dive without my instructor back in Utila that I had to surface about five minutes before everyone else. Then they told me that I was wearing a 7mm wetsuit that would compress down to 1mm underwater making me more buoyant and that we were using aluminum tanks that would be really bouyant by the end of our dive. I understood what they were saying but had no idea how I should change what I'm used to doing under water to make up for this!

I requested to dive with a dive instructor as my dive buddy in the hope this would ease my nerves. Instead the instructor spent alot of time away from me helping the others in our group when they had troubles. I was left by myself a few times but was able to keep my cool. I did however suddenly pop up to the surface on more than one occassion. Turns out I didn't have enough weight on me the first time. Suddenly popping up to the surface for those that don't know is not good.
I also rented a camera for this dive. Probably not the safest thing to do when diving for the first time in seven months, but I didn't want to miss capturing the moment if it turned out to be as good as it was supposed to be. Within the first five minutes in the water I saw my first short tailed Stingray which made it all worth it!
Swimming alongside this guy was the coolest diving moment I'd ever had!
School of Koheru fish.
We were able to swim through some tunnels which was scary at first and then fun.

Scuba Steve/Jordan

The snapper were pretty big and all around us.

Underwater photography proved to be pretty tricky. Most of the time there isn't a ton of light down there especially when you are close to 20meters under. Also the fish don't exactly stop and say cheese for you. Add to that the fact that the current is moving you in some direction that isn't always towards the fish and the fact that I was less than in perfect control of my buonacy and it makes it pretty difficult to get a good pic. But I took about 150 and so I was able to get a few good ones. I'll write the name of the fish when I know what it was.
Sand daggers wrasse

Later in my first dive I saw my first ever long tailed sting ray! I swam right up to it and then accidently above it. The only thing Gemma told me before I went was not to swim over any sting rays so I don't die like Steve Irwin. Well I didn't mean to but my control and excitement got the best of me. It was pretty awesome.
I then saw a short tailed sting ray sitting in the sand at the bottom. This was all so exciting and I was definitely glad I got back in the water and brought the camera.

About the ugliest thing I imagine you could ever see down below is an Eel. This one was the only brightly colored Eel I'd ever seen. It was a Yellow Moray Eel and opened its mouth and tried to scare us away. But our guide stuck her finger right next to its mouth and it just backed up into its hole. They are ugly and scary looking but apparently really shy.
Below is a jellyfish looking thing that had a really sweet blue electrical current looking lightshow running through it.
After our first dive the boat took us inside a huge cave. The dive boat was the biggest dive boat I'd ever seen. It had two levels and could fit about 20 to 30 divers on board. It also had a little kitchen area where they served us coffee and soup. Dive Tutukaka is the name of the dive shop I went with. They are definitely doing well and I recommend them highly! The pic below is from the inside of the cave. Apparently a Japanese submarine hid in here during the war.
I jumped in the water early before our second dive of the afternoon. The captain told us there are often a huge number of fish right under the boat and he wasn't kidding! I used my snorkel and went under the boat and was surrounded by fish!

I love the two bright shiny spots on the Demoiselle fish below.

It was a huge school of blue Mao Mao and Demoiselle mixing. The blue Mao Mao have the line running down the side and the Demoiselle have the two bright shiny silverish blue spots on them.
Finally the others were ready and we started our second dive.

This fish is a leatherjacket. I'm not sure the fish fits the name but I think both are cool.
I got to see my favorite fish from my dives in Honduras again. Its called a Black Angel fish. This one swam around with me for a while.

The black and yellow fish below is a Mado fish. It was eating the jelly thing in the first pic.

My dive buddy Jenny and I on the boat ride back.

It was great getting back into diving. On the boat ride back to the harbour I remembered how good it is to get even just a glimpse of the enourmous underwater world thats out there. Being able to breathe underwater and swim with these creatures is really special. Now I just have to tell Gemma it was an awful experience so she isn't too jealous she missed out on it.

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