d’Urville Island, Marlborough Sounds

By Anne Neumann

Images Anne Neumann and Eric Simmons

We headed  out of Okiwi up the west coast of d’Urville Island. Clear water, no wind and a grey overcast day made it a good day to be under the water.

We anchored next to a large submerged rock outside Greville Harbour, and dropping to 20 metres we were surrounded by massive schools of butterfly perch. Slightly above my buddy, I looked up to watch a wall of mackerel engulf me, move on, then turn and part in a silent wave around me once more as they continued on their way to wherever.

Soon I was busy exploring all the nooks and crannies of this rocky outcrop. Jason and clown nudibanchi in their various habitats, dahlia anemones hiding in the sand, I was surprised at the number of scarlet wrasse and the huge size of the banded wrasse and splendid roughy. A number of empty shells showed that crays were present. Lots of bryozoans, hydroids, and colourful sponges, with a myriad of anemones provide an interesting background for the many species of triplefins and blennies lurking within.

Circumnavigating the rock, accompanied by a host of butterfly perch, interspersed with the occasional small blue cod and ever inquisitive leatherjacket, we returned to the anchor and slowly ascended to the boat for the next crew to hit the water. Once they had returned we chose to move back along the coast to Cannonball Reef, which at this point of the tide had a good current running.

We headed to the anchor line and pulled ourselves down. Moving into the current by combination of part swimming, part dragging ourselves from rock to rock, we explored the terrain of huge boulders, photography was a challenge as the current dictated where our body parts ended up. Each large boulder yielded its own secret, a group of crays lurking with their tails tucked under protecting their berry, flowerets of bright yellow zoanthids, more nudibanchi, including this time some large variables, clinging hardfast against the current.

Lonely blue moki hung seemingly motionless in the water. More scarlet wrasse of various sizes darted between the rocks and clouds of perch, cod and terakihi followed our progress with interest. Luckily my buddy had a far superior sense of direction than mine, as I was dreading the swim back to the boat if we missed it, and shortly after turning around we ended back at the anchor. A patchwork coloured carpet shark lay alongside the anchor chain and Eric moved in for a couple of photos, however this guy didn’t want to co-operate and quickly turned, coming alongside me and swimming so close I just had to reach out to tickle him under the belly. We watched as, with a disgusted flick of the tail, he soon disappeared out of sight.

We spent our safety stop horizontal on the line, surfacing in time to watch the clouds finally conquer any last chance of the sun showing itself for the day.

d’Urville Island yields some great dive sites and you can usually find clear water somewhere, especially the further north you go. Currents occur in the most unobvious of places and come and go with the changing tides so be wary of these. Whether you are hunting/gathering, into photography or wrecks, or just out for a great day, heading to d’Urville on a calm day is the ticket.

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