Miramar Peninsular aerial. Image by Andrew Cooper, CC 3.0.
By Lee Czerniak.
Wellington is at the southern end of the North Island of New Zealand. Legend has it that the North Island was fished from the sea by Maui. Maui is the gifted, clever demigod of Polynesian mythology. Although he performed many feats he is most famous for fishing up the North Island.
Overhearing his brothers’ plans to leave him behind on a fishing trip, Maui stowed away. . When out of sight of land, he appeared. He threw his magic fish hook overboard. Maui felt the hook snag on something and as he gently tugged the hook caught fast. It was a huge fish and Maui and his brothers brought the fish to the surface. This was Te Ika a Maui – the fish of Maui – an alternate name for the North Island.
The brothers couldn’t wait while Maui appeased the God of the Sea and they cut into the fish, thus creating the rugged coastline that is known today as the south coast of Wellington and the Wellington Harbour.
It’s in these waters that you will be introduced to some of the most amazing diving. From quiet bays to some off the wall diving on reefs. A wide range of wrecks can be found on this coastline – and then there is the marine life to get familiar with.
The south coast is ideal for shore diving with rocky shores interspersed with some sandy, and some pebble beaches. About the middle you will find the Taputeranga Marine Reserve – and in the middle is the island Taputeranga. Situated where three massive ocean currents converge there is a huge diversity of marine life. This area was given reserve status in 2008 and since then there has been a good recovery of marine life. The cheeky blue cod are now a daily occurrence and joined by blue moki, crayfish, butterfish, with dolphins, orca and whales being regular visitors.
To the east of Island Bay you will find the wreck of the HMNZS Wellington. Sunk as a dive wreck in November 2006 only to be battered in March 2007 by massive waves over three days when it was snapped into three pieces. Absolutely one of the best dives available and only 10 minutes away from the city. The wreck site is not suitable for inexperienced divers and you should be accompanied by a guide diver. At Owhiro Bay there are four wrecks to dive, one being the very popular wreck of the Yong Penn only 50m offshore. In only 8m of water the anemones and other marine life makes this dive a macro photographers delight. Further out are the remains of the Progress, a bit of wreckage and a large boiler that has its own population of juvenile crays as well as a resident magpie perch – a rare visitor from south Australian waters.
All diving on Wellington’s south coast is done in open sea conditions, so only dive in good boating weather. This is one of the wildest parts of New Zealand shore but also one of the most spectacular.
Around the Wellington Harbour there are numerous dive spots that are ideal for the beginner and the novice diver. The harbour has a lot of life around the reefs and wharves with seahorses and pipefish – worth the diving!
The harbour is ideal for sheltered, low stress dives and is good for training or night dives where there are no swells or significant currents to be concerned with. The only exception is the harbour entrance channel which has a steady, predictable current flowing in or out, which is easily adjusted to.
Wellington is definitely a place to explore underwater and while you are having surface time this culture capital of New Zealand has a lot to offer. Make sure you call into Dive HQ Wellington and meet the team they will make sure you have some great diving.
Dive Operator: Dive HQ Wellington
Shane (Tomo) Thompson & Claire Murphy
14 Waione Street, Petone, Wellington
Freephone: 0800 102 102
Phone: +644-568 5028
Fax: 04 568 4560