The Jewel of D’Urville

The Jewels of D’urville Island, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

by Steve Anderson

Paul was spot on, within minutes of dropping over the side we were surrounded by stunning jewel anemones. We were searching for hidden treasure in crevices and in the dark beneath waving weed and were easily rewarded with golden surprises more striking than pieces of eight. How did these almost fluorescent colours of yellow and red, vivid green and purple and bright pink come together? I don’t know but it was better than Christmas!

Exploring the north-western side of D’Urville returned many surprises. Visibility of 15 to 20 metres was normal, there were plenty of schools of fish and vertical walls to 40 metres and more. The formidable cliffs of the island continued well below the surface of the sea and were covered in kelp to about 20 metres. There were more than jewel anemones hiding beneath the surface. Sponges, brazen blue cod and triple fins were common. Nudibranchs were in less numbers but there were heaps of terakihi, moki, butterfish, and schools of butterfly fish and kahawhi.

Diving was easy in the warm (20 degree) and clear waters but it pays to be careful with the current as it can rip by. With so much to see we were surprised how fast time flew and it seemed in no time we were up on the boat rattling about our experiences. It’s always good when friends get together and even better when the diving is so good … one of our group from the UK even said it was the best diving he had done in New Zealand.

Wow, what a huge porcupine fish

,

Yea and did you see that ray just float through the water?

We were pumped and ready for more but we needed a bit of surface time!

What better way to spend some surface time than fishing and we had no trouble catching our limit of cod and added a few nice terakihi. We were busier than jumper cables at a country funeral. The catch would make great meals as we were camping for a few days on the island. This place has so much to offer: diving, fishing, camping and hunting. For instance we camped in a Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite at the edge of a beautiful scenic reserve and within an hour of the campsite I had bagged a nice black pig for a barbeque when we return home.

Surface interval over and we went over too, exploring a new area called Otu Rock. With current comes life and we were greeted by waving kelp and schools of fish. Like an iceberg, Otu is small on the surface but there is a large reef running almost due north about 10 metres below the surface. I spent most of my time buried in the weed and was rewarded with more jewels including a few nudibranchs.

Thanks to the settled weather we made two trips to D’Urville, the first from Okiwi Bay and the second from Motueka which was a two hour motor in fairly calm seas. We had great dives at Bottle Point, Otu Rock, Victory Island, Nelson Monument and Nile Head but, like searching for any treasure, there was an element of risk to be managed and in our case it was the racing current. We chose our times carefully and were not afraid to change our plans or wait till slack current. On one particular dive I remember the seaweed waving frantically as we came around the lee of the island as if to say

stay away from here

and we abided by turning around and returning from where we had come at a shallower depth … it was all new country to us and more treasure to discover.

My recommendation would be to get a good forecast, pick the tides and current and always have a good boatman in case the current spits you out. Boating from Okiwi Bay to Greville Harbour takes about 45 minutes in flat seas and camping sites are basic with tent sites, running streams, long drops and good anchorages but the South Arm site in Port Hardy is very exposed to a northerly wind. As always it is the company which makes the trip so have fun with your mates.

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