By Lee Czerniak, images supplied by Dive Zone Bay of Islands.
Northland’s natural environment is something special. With over 3000km of coastline this is a diver’s paradise. It is in this region you get the chance to become the adventurer and explore a coastline that is steeped in history and an area that is sparsely populated offering you that raw untouched beauty.
Matauri Bay, about 30km north of Kerikeri, is particularly popular especially in summer, with over a kilometre of white sand and crystal clear waters. This coastal area offers secluded bays with beautiful beaches. The rocks around Matauri Bay offer bountiful diving and fishing opportunities, and this extends along the coastline to Flat Island.
Matauri Bay is the place where Reverend Samuel Marsden made his first landfall in New Zealand. Samuel Marsden was an English missionary to New Zealand where he was the first to present the gospel to the Maori. The great Nga Puhi war chief, Hongi Hika welcomed Marsden and his colleagues with haka (war dances), inviting them to a feast. They spent the night with Hongi Hika and his people at Putataua Bay before continuing to Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands to establish the first mission station.
The Cavalli Islands lie off the coast of Matauri Bay and recent history brings these islands to the fore. Within these waters the Rainbow Warrior, the famous Greenpeace vessel, has found its final resting place. During 1985, she was involved in protests against the French Government, who had been undertaking nuclear testing in French Polynesia. The Rainbow Warrior was sunk by the French Secret Service (DGSE) while berthed in Auckland. This created a national outcry ensuring the decision to preserve the memory of the Rainbow Warrior.
She was then towed to the Cavalli Islands and scuttled in 1987 to become a dive attraction. The wreck is now a complex ecosystem covered with corals and the most vibrant of sea anemones. A rainbow of colour, covered in jewel anemones, a living legacy for what was a tragic incident – and now a great dive site. Depth ranges between 12m and 23m with very little current.
This region is well known for some great spearfishing in waters that offer the diver an opportunity to get a good catch. If you are into photography, there is an abundance of dive sites to cater to you that are just stunning dives.
If you’re visiting the area and you are new to free diving or spearfishing check in with the Dive Zone team as they have a great two-day introductory course that could be included in your vacation. The Dive Zone team will cater to your needs, whether you want to extend your range in free diving or visit the Rainbow Warrior.
The Northland coastline and its islands offer some of the best diving in New Zealand. There are two wrecks to dive, some amazing coastline with some offshore reefs for spearfishing. A place to explore, where the history of early New Zealand is part of this unique area. And to top it off, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand.