By Lee Czerniak. Images supplied by Dive Zone Whitianga.
Whitianga on Mercury Bay is one of the most popular spots on the Coromandel Peninsular. Doubtless, the Mercury Islands (known for their diving and fishing spots) are part of the allure that calls the diver to visit these waters.
The Mercury Islands were named by Captain James Cook because they are close to the place where he observed the transit of the planet Mercury in 1769. They are a group of seven islands located eight kilometres off the Coromandel Peninsular, only 35km from the town of Whitianga.
Great Mercury Island (Ahuahu) is the largest, with Red Mercury Island (Whakau) the next largest. The five much smaller islands are Green, Middle, Korapuki, Stanley and Double Islands. Only Great Mercury is habited while the rest make up a nature reserve. To the south of this chain you will find a number of small islets that also have some great diving.
Some of the diving here is simply superb – like the beautiful Never Fail Rock covered in sponges and soft corals. A photographer’s paradise, especially for those macro images. Never Fail Rock, in general, can be a challenging dive with strong currents normally reserved for those with a fair degree of experience. The rock teems with fish: your normal reef dwellers and open-water fish in big schools of trevally, kahawai and their attendant predators.
Coralie Bay is a very sheltered bay, except in a strong easterly. There is a large area of reef just at the entrance that has some superb diving with blue and pink maomao as well as blue moki and boarfish.
For the novice or new diver there is Bumper Point where you will find a large number of reef fish as well as moray eels. A good spot for the photographer and only around 18 meters.
Richards Rock, which is packed with trevally and kingfish, is a must-dive and not one for the novice diver. This can be a challenge but well worth the dive.
On your way out of Whitianga, you have the option of diving some interesting pinnacles such as Whale rock, which is for the more advanced diver as there can be a bit of a current that will take you off the rock. But dive early morning with no swell and light wind and you are in for a great dive.
As an adventure playground all the islands offer sheltered bays including safe anchorage for overnight stays, so there is always somewhere to go and enjoy your time on the water, no matter what the wind is doing.
While you’re in the area, the Coromandel Peninsular lends itself road trips and exploring the beaches and secluded coves. So when you visit, put plenty of time aside for the diving as well as exploring. There is a ton of history to check out from the kauri forest to historical gold mining sites and some really delightful eateries to tempt you.
Dive Zone Whitianga
Darrel and Linda Bird
7 Blacksmith Lane, Whitianga 3510
Phone: +647-867 1580
Open 7am–7pm during the summer months