Poor Knights Dive

Merry post-Christmas! My present this year was a weekend of diving…

The first day’s dive was scuttled due to weather, more on the rescheduled trip in another post. So we drove at a leisurely pace up to Tutukaka for Sunday diving. We had a nice dinner and went to bed early. It’s just as well that’s what we wanted to do… there ain’t a lot of choices in Tutukaka once the sun goes down.

Tutukaka and the Poor Knights rose to prominence after Jacques Cousteau called it one of the best dive sites in the world. That must be 50 years ago, and as far as I can tell it was the last big thing to happen there. Other travel writers have generally agreed, but they all quote M. Cousteau.

The dive shop (Dive Tutukaka, highly recommend) was already in full swing when we got there: paperwork done, get your suit and fins, grab a muffin, see you on the boat in 10.

It’s about 45 minutes (22 km) out to the islands. We took a small detour to check out a large school of fish that had come up the surface. More fun to watch than the photo suggests… That rock in the distance is one of the Poor Squires, which sit close to the Knights. And where we did our first dive.

The weather was rainy on shore, but it lightened up as we got away from the coast. We did not need our emergency beacon, I’m glad to say, but our skipper told us about it in the safety briefing he delivered with the str-r-r-r-ongest Welsh accent I’ve ever heard.

The whole area is preserved, above and below the water. That whitish stripe between the cliffs and the green part is a colony of Australasian gannets, who enjoy the solitude and freedom from mammalian predators.

7mm suit plus a 3mm hooded vest… more Neoprene than I’ve ever needed before. Water temp about 16C, about 61F, and I was still chilly down there. All that wetsuit meant a lot of weight was necessary to sink below the surface, but then once you get down there the air bubbles compress and you can drop quite quickly. So overall I felt quite awkward in my gear.

Due to technical difficulties, I didn’t have the GoPro, so no underwater shots. Lots of fish, some bright things on rocks, a couple of rays and morays. Kelp.

We dove two different sites, both featuring an underwater arch to swim through. I struggled a bit… my first dive in two years, cold, quite a bit of swell, not used to the gear, fairly challenging terrain (diving on a wall with no visible bottom so constantly monitoring depth), cloudy day so dim underwater, etc. On each dive I was the first in the group to run out of air. There was lots of marine life, no complaints in that department, but overall I was glad enough to head back in afterwards. It felt a lot more like a technical exercise than a fun outing.

Now that I’ve got my first taste of cold (er than the Caribbean) water diving, I look forward to going back. Preferably on a sunnier day, maybe to an easier site, with my camera working, so I can commune with Cousteau about what a fabulous spot this is.

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