Poor Knights Island
When Nathan first told us he was interested in visiting we were super excited! Nathan is a good friend of Andrew’s who happens to have a fabulous sense of adventure. As such, we inquired if our friend would like to join us out in the ocean at one of the top ten diving spots for a bit of a dip. He didn’t even hesitate.
Poor Knights Island is a Marine Reserve designated for two islands off the north eastern coast of New Zealand. Rated as one of the top ten dive sites by Jacques Cousteau (and a pending World Heritage Site), we just had to check it out! Never having dove before, we signed up for a first dive through Dive! Tutukaka where we were given a short introduction then went into the water near Trevor’s Rock with an instructor (Axel) close by at all times. He helped us get into our equipment and we did a couple of short tests (how to find your breathing apparatus if it’s knocked out of your mouth, how to clear your mask if it fills with water) got acclimated to the breathing and sunk to the ocean floor and swam around! Breathing underwater is such a rush! It was much more difficult to move around since you had to move on three axis rather than two and that got a bit confounding for me. The instructor was great and helped to indicate when to let air in and out and sometimes he’d just offer a hand and pull me in the right direction. I even saw a moray eel staring at us. Probably laughing at our silly costumes! But to be fair, as a popular dive site, the fish are pretty comfortable with divers and got right up next to us.
I’ve snorkeled in the Florida Keys a bunch of times, as my Uncle lives in Florida and the John Pennekamp State Park offers very affordable options for taking a boat out to the reef and snorkeling about. But this was way different! In fact, when we got to the ocean floor, my instructor would poke and prod things and indicated I should do the same. In the Keys, the reef is very different and any contact could destroy years or decades of growth. But after I got over my anxiety, I squeezed the sponges and tickled the anemones and it was so much fun! Focusing on the dive took a good deal of attention and I didn’t get to enjoy my surroundings as much as I would have liked. After a paper bag lunch and some hot chocolate and tea, Andrew and I darned some snorkeling gear and got to experience the Jan’s Tunnel area of the island from the top down in the afternoon. We were only able to go two at a time for the dive since the instructor to first time diver ratio is a strict requirement. So while Nathan got to explore the ocean floor and dive through the tunnel, Andrew and I, a lot more relaxed, thoroughly enjoyed swimming with the fishes from the top of the surf.
Before we headed back to shore the captain drove past some awesome archways and tunnels. The boat went into the largest sea cave (by volume) and we drove under the largest arch in the south pacific (well, after the one in Australia collapsed in the 1990). After getting back on dry land, we hopped back in the car and drove up to Shippey’s, the fish n’ chip’s place in Piahia before returning to Auckland for the week. Andrew and I had to get back into the swing of things and work. Gotta pay for these adventures somehow.