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Diving at Goat Island Marine Reserve in New Zealand

Diving at Goat Island New Zealand
Near Leigh is the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Some say Goat Island Marine Reserve is a perfect diving spot. This was not our diving experience at Goat Island.

North of Auckland, New Zealand is a town called Leigh.

Near Leigh is a place called the Goat Island Marine Reserve.

Goat Island is a tiny island (approximately 1 hectare / 2.5 acres) in New Zealand located close to the North Island coast, north of Auckland, northeast of Warkworth, and directly west of Little Barrier Island.

It is within Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve, New Zealand’s first marine reserve.

Known for centuries as Motu Hawere by the indigenous Māori, the island is spiritually significant to the local tangata whenua iwi, Ngati Manuhiri, because their ancestral waka (canoe), Moe Karaka, is said to have landed nearby.[citation needed]. The name goat island came about as many offshore islands had goats placed on them in the event of shipwrecks, and the goats would provide a source of food for the sailors. There is however, no record of goats ever being situated on this island, however the name has stuck.

As well as being in a marine reserve, Goat Island is a scenic reserve and a scientific reserve.

With this information in hand, I’ve wanted to dive at Goat Island almost since the day we arrived in New Zealand. So when James mentioned that his parents have a place nearby, I expressed my interest in going diving, James offered both the place to stay and the boat to go out on.

Our friend James and his family (James works with us at Auckland Council) have a Bach (pronounced Batch) near Leigh, New Zealand.

To be more specific, their bach is shared with another family, and is near Baddeley’s Beach (right on the bay/beach which is, itself, completely beautiful).

They also have a boat there.

Amazing how life can give you pretty much exactly what you ask for.

James drove Carrie, me, and Dale up to his parent’s Bach on Saturday, where we spent the afternoon hanging out and having a nice time. We also went to pick up our dive gear at SeaFriends.

Since Lucia and Ivo are also Scuba certified, we were really looking forward to getting to dive with them, and James’ friend who is a PADI certified dive instructor and spent a few years doing commercial diving for crayfish.

Note: If you want to rent 10 tanks for diving, and the dive shop you visit tells you that you can rent a tank at a discounted price, ask them why.

In our case, the tank didn’t pass inspection.
Diving at Goat Island New Zealand
It’s not like it’s important or anything… It’s just oxygen, when you’re as much as 100 feet down in the water. No biggie.

Further Note (to dive shops): Offering people that they can rent oxygen tanks at a discounted price, because the tank discount is due to your tank not passing inspection is not a good idea. Get rid of (or fix) your tank before offering it again.

These are our SeaFriends for this trip…

So on to the diving…

It was a murky day, and visibility was pretty limited in the water. I had also gotten too much weight felt like I was fighting to stay buoyant the whole time.

Kind of disappointing for the first dive.

We did, however, see a huge crayfish.

Because we were in the reserve, James’ friend (NAME) couldn’t grab it for dinner. But he sure wanted to.

For those who don’t know, New Zealand’s crayfish is like lobster, but bigger and without the claws. They have powerful shell crushing jaws instead. Chomp, chomp.

Things always look a bit bigger in the water than they actually are. This crayfish looked to be about 2 ½ feet long (70 centimeters), but he was probably about 18 inches (45-50 cm). Still a large crayfish and cool to see.

Lucia had a pretty big malfunction with her regulator during the first dive (leaking air and wasn’t pulling enough air in), so Carrie offered Lucia her gear for the second dive.

For the second dive, Ivo got seasick.

So did Lucia.

Carrie had already left the boat between dives to go back to the Bach.

So James got to go in the water for his first dive ever.

James got a quick 10 minute basic intro to Scuba.

James, James’s friend, and I dove in a spot outside of the preserve.

After seeing the first crayfish, James’s friend wanted to get a crayfish he was allowed to take.

In the new spot, the visibility was even more limited. We had to move pretty quickly to keep up with James’ friend, who was quite experienced at the adventure of hunting crayfish.

I learned that to hunt crayfish, you need:
– a pole with a loop at the end (to pull the crayfish out of a hole)
– a bag with a snap opening to hold the crayfish in once you catch it (this one was neon yellow)
– Quick reflexes

However, even with the limited visibility, at one point during the dive a school of fish, about 20,000 little silvery fish, swam just above me. As they all turned together, the sun caught their sides, creating a beautiful silver ripple.

This happened 3-4 times before they swam away.

Looking back down, I saw that James’ friend seemed to be looking pretty intently at a rock and getting a little bag ready… I presumed he was getting that bag ready because he had spotted a crayfish.

He handed the canvas bag to me. I thought he wanted me to hold the bag so that he could catch the crayfish with a pole he had.

But he poked around the rocks some more and didn’t seem to find anything.

About 5 minutes later, it was time for James and I to ascend because we were running low on oxygen.

James’ friend was apparently much better at conserving his oxygen.

When we got to the surface, we were a long way from the boat, so we started swimming back.

Still carrying the bag, but wanting to backstroke to the boat. I set the neon yellow canvas bag on my stomach (I was wearing a BCD (like a vest) and a full wetsuit).

No sooner had I set the bag on my stomach than I felt something on the bag snap.

Thinking I had accidentally broken something on the bag, I tried to look at it, felt the snap, which was more like a thwap, and realized what had happened.

He caught a crayfish while I was looking at the silvery fish!

It had happened in like 7 seconds that he had caught the crayfish and got it in the bag and closed the bag.

And I had been carrying it for 10 minutes!

Hey, it could happen to anyone on their first time diving for crayfish.

But I felt pretty silly.

Overall, diving at Leigh and Goat Island wasn’t that great in terms of the fish we saw on the day we went.

But, the experience of getting to go with friends, being with James on his first dive, and carrying a crayfish through the water when I didn’t even know one had been caught make this an experience I will remember for a lifetime.
Diving at Goat Island New Zealand

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