By Alex Stammers
One wintry Saturday morning, I looked out at the wind-whipped sea from my lounge. No diving this weekend I thought to myself, as rollers could be seen sweeping into Orewa and Red Beach.
I had planned to go for a morning dive but the weather had closed in, making it a ‘home day’.As the wind was picking up velocity, so were my children. There is an undeniable connection between wind and children; the stronger the wind the more children misbehave. My wife was pleading with me to do something with our two boys (aged four and two) as they ran circles around her, while she held our third baby boy.
I put them in the car and took them over to Little Manly beach on the Whangaparaoa peninsula. It is a small and sheltered beach, especially from the strong north easterly winds.
We walked to the end of the beach, the kids running along the water-line and throwing stones into the sea. The low tide had left a large flat rock shelf exposed at the western end. Walking out on the exposed shelf, we approached the end where we stumbled upon several large, deep rock pools.
Studying the rock pools, I began to point out the animals within.
My boys looked down in wonder as hermit crabs scurried across the bottom, barging other small critters like a game of bull rush. I heard Harry call out ‘ish, ish’ excitedly which translates to ‘fish’ in toddler talk.He pointed to a small triple fin that had swum out from beneath the kelp, only to duck back inside as our shadows passed over. Jack, my eldest son, was fascinated by the hermit crabs. I gently picked one up and held it upon my hand to give him a closer look. He was bursting with questions about all the animals we could see.
I remembered that as a boy this is where I had first become interested with the animals beneath the sea. It was great to be able to show my children the same animals that had captured my imagination, and see them discover the tip of the underwater world for themselves where they could touch, see and smell it.
Early the next morning I drove down to the pools on my own, I still had my camera set up for the weekend dive that was cancelled.
Hunting around the pools with my macro eye, I was amazed to find several lemon nudibranchs feeding amongst the weed. Shrimp and crabs were easy to approach as I took photo after photo without the pressure of depth, bottom time, air supply nor buddy.
I could kneel and shoot for minutes. It was while doing this that I discovered a tiny nudibranch which was white with red quills on its back. After seeing one I suddenly began to see more and more – the pools were full of them feeding on the hydroids.They were so small that if I had been diving I would have probably over- looked them.
Since that first day, I have visited the rock pools often with my children and my camera, each time revealing something new. Rock pools are a great place to teach your children and get them interested in the marine world and its wonders. It also educates them about how to look after the environment and the vulnerability of the animals within. Like an aquarium, rock pools hold a mini-ecosystem that can be admired, but with every change of the tide new animals arrive while others leave.