Norfolk Island: Sub tropical diving paradise


by Norfolk Island tourism

If you’ve never tried sub-tropical diving before – and even if you have – Norfolk Island is the perfect place to give it a go. Less than two hours from Auckland, New Zealand Norfolk Island is home to more than 30 year-round dive sites ranging from reef-protected coral-infested coves to spectacular ocean diving amongst pelagic species.

Throw in Norfolk’s temperate waters – never below 18 degrees even in mid-winter – 20-metres and more visibility, and spectacular underwater vistas and you have a superb mix. Caves, tunnels, chasms and chimneys abound in the crystal clear Norfolk Island waters while the fish and coral life is befitting the island’s sub-tropical location in the South Pacific.

For less experienced or novice divers, qualified PADI diving instructors are on hand for PADI training and introductory dive courses right up to Dive Master. For those who simply want to float lazily in warm lagoon waters, there is great snorkelling to be had in several coves afforded protection by the islands broken coral reef.

Sit back and take a guided tour of some of the diving highlights on Norfolk Island. There are three main dive islands – Norfolk Island itself and the two close-by satellite islets, Phillip and Nepean Islands, both of which are national parks.

A great place to get acclimatised is Emily Bay at Kingston on the historic south coast of Norfolk Island and only a short drive from the main commercial area of Burnt Pine. Sheltered from boisterous southern surf by Emily Bays formidable coral reef, divers and snorkellers alike can cruise in depths ranging from one metre to six. It’s an area abundant with sea life – including species that can be found only on Norfolk Island – and coral outcrops to rival the South Pacifics best.

Non-diving partners can follow the action from one of two glass bottom boats that ply the area, the skilled operators recognising various fish not only by breed but also by pet name.

Slaughter Bay is similar in character to Emily Bay with depths of one to six metres. Nearby Cascade Pier is a high tide only dive site with 12-metres maximum in a further area ideal for instruction. Theres a little bit of everything here and it’s a great place to get into the swim of things if conditions prevent boat trips.

At the Gun Club in Anson Point, divers get a glimpse of just about everything Norfolk has to offer with a nice deep coral-covered wall leading to swim throughs and massive boulders. Slowly work back to the shallow waters of the point and encounter huge schools of kingfish and trevally.

Another great wall dive is Policeman’s Helmet in depths up to 18-metres with rocky walls perfect for coral growth and creating large overhangs. The more adventurous head for Duncome Bay (up to 20-metres) on the north coast where one remarkably long wall is dotted with caves, swim-throughs and arches. Keep an eye out for the hawksbill turtle.

Steels Point on Norfolks eastern extremity (20-metres) is sometimes surgy but this volcanic site is expansive with three vertical pinnacles of rock, coral and massive fish schools. Look for cleaner fish and starfish at Little Organ in 24-metres where a beautiful cavernous archway makes a perfect swim-through for fish.

Johney Stone is a 30-metre-plus dive riddled with cavernous swim-throughs and deep vertical walls with plenty of everything. The huge schools of Norfolk nanwi – known as ‘dream fish’ – are a feature of this site. It’s also a great place for Nudibranchs and flatworm spotting with wide varieties to be found.

Phillip Island: Six kilometres south of Norfolk, Phillip Island rises 280-metres above sea level and is home to seven excellent ocean diving sites. Their exotic names reflect the diversity of seascapes and sea-life – Halfway / Cow Drop, Hard Balli Stone and Dar Tomato Bay being just three.

Above the water the Jurassic Park-like scenery, complete with exotic birds soaring in the shadows of the towering cliffs, is rivalled only by the enormous beauty of the underwater world. You’ll find grand boulders, enormous walls dropping into the depths and hard and soft corals that stretch as far as the eye can see in limitless visibility.

Bronze Whaler and Gallapogos sharks are commonly seen at shark point. However, they are humbled by the gracefulness and beauty of the large green turtles that are more often than not spotted at Dar Tomato Bay and the Stool. Huge schools of kingfish and trevally are in abundance and you’ll spot the occasional hammerhead shark at South Rock.

The need for almost ideal weather conditions and depths ranging from 10 metres up to a heart-thumping, ear-crackling, narcosis-inducing 40 metres and beyond, make Phillip Island a dive site for slightly more adventurous and qualified divers. The lucky divers that do make it out to this pristine underwater paradise will undoubtedly realise that Phillip Island really is arguably the jewel of all South Pacific diving.

Nepean Island: Nepean is a small (1km-sq) limestone island about one kilometre south of Norfolk and rising 30-metres above sea level. Spectacular coral outcrops provide divers with a kaleidoscope of colours. A good beginners site on Nepean is Tii Tii with depths to 16-metres and almost no current and a mix of schooling fish and macro species.

Air New Zealand flies twice a week to Norfolk Island and you can be sure of a wonderful welcome from the locals, many of whom are descendants of the Bounty Mutineers. Ashore, there is a huge range of things to do and some wonderful restaurants.
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