By Dave Abbott
Three King’s Monsters – Big Kingi’s…
As soon as we rolled into the clear blue cool water we could feel the inexorable pull of the current that was rushing through the channel between the islands; marked with swirls and eddies this was not a piece of water to take lightly and we were quickly swept along, kicking into the current to slow our progress and diving down as we went looking out for a big ‘Three Kings kingi’ … and they really are big up here – commonly around 30-40kg!
We were at the Kings on a special trip hosting South African spearfishing legend Len Jones, brought to New Zealand by New Zealand Dive Experiences to run a series of spearfishing seminars. Our visit to these wild islands was the culmination of his time here and I was to film him in action underwater. The Kings have a reputation for being subjected to fierce weather and strong, unpredictable tides and currents however we had a perfect weather window with clear sunny skies, oily calm seas and no wind for the entire time!
The Three Kings Islands (situated 45 miles off the north eastern tip of New Zealand) have a magnetic attraction for the adventurous diver/freediver, offering rugged spectacular scenery and a remoteness that few other northern locations can match – not to mention prolific fish life and big pelagics! Part of its attraction is the element of uncertainty that comes with diving an exposed offshore island group, this is a place where on one trip you may encounter calm blue water and marlin swimming past you, and on the next a howling gale and four metre swells…true adventure diving!
We departed for the Three Kings from Mangonui Harbour onboard the 54ft Cascade with owner Andy, skipper Charlie and deckie Mike; top guys and experienced crew. Running through the night while we slept, they had us out at the King Bank just after dawn, the Three Kings in the distance and no mainland in sight. The Bank is a favourite with gamefishermen, being well frequented by marlin and other billfish not to mention big kingis, so we couldn’t wait to get in! It certainly made for exciting diving – a deep reef in the middle of nowhere, clean blue water, only the occasional glimpse of the bottom and trevally, pink maomao and kingis everywhere!
No bubbles – As underwater cameraman I had my work cut out to film Len Jones and the other spearos bluewater hunting. I needed to be as mobile as they were in the water (ie be freediving myself) and yet still be able to stay down long enough to capture the action! It certainly improved my breathhold freediving with these guys, and I gained a lot of respect for and empathy with the sport of spearfishing and the whole philosophy involved. There is something special about entering the underwater world unencumbered by clumsy ‘life-support systems’, totally reliant on your own fitness and ability and more or less on an equal footing with the fish you are hunting.
From King Bank (where we had an all too brief encounter with a marlin near the back of the boat) we steamed on to the Princes group, a chain of smaller islands running out from the western side of Great Island (the main one of the Three Kings group). These are wildly spectacular pinnacles swept by strong currents and populated by clouds of seabirds; uninterrupted swells pound the cliffs creating a welter of spray while powerful surge whips the fringing bull kelp into a frenzy; this is wild and adventurous diving territory!