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Philippines - A dive destination waiting for you to discover

Posted by Linda Bird

Dive holidays are always great and it was an amazing opportunity that presented itself – to be taken and shown some of the epic diving to be had in the Philippines!  Ian of

Allways Dive Expeditions, Australia invited us to join this trip with a number of dive shop owners from throughout NZ. Darrell couldnt make it so someone had to go - me. angel

Heading off early May, just as things were cooling down back here in NZ, we flew direct from Auckland into 30 odd degree, sunny and humid temperatures in the Philippines.  A quick skip through Manila airport and it was off again to land just over an hour later on Cebu.

Cebu is home of one of the renowned spots to easily see Whale Sharks but we were destined for the very small island of Malapascua, off the northern tip of Cebu, for the rare opportunity to see Thresher Sharks.  And see them we did.

Thresher Sharks are a very deep-water species normally not found at a diveable depth.  But here, they come to within 25 metres of the surface along the edge of the Monad Shoal, to the cleaning stations for a wee tidy up.  And they do this at dawn, which on Malapascua in May means a 4.30am start.  So, it was in the dark with the sun just coming up that we headed out for the 40 min run to the dive site.  Dropping in and down to the top of the shoal at a depth of 18 metres.  Here we met our first Thresher – just lurking at the edge of the gloom and on the top of the shoal.  He disappeared quickly so, dropping over the edge of the shoal, we made our way along past the cleaning areas keeping a keen lookout.  Another Thresher was seen lurking at the bottom of the wall but for me, it wasn’t until we came back up to the top of the shoal as we were nearing the end of our dive, that we encountered a beautiful 3-4 metre Thresher just mooching about.  It was a thrilling and close encounter.

Malapascua offered a range of other dives including the beautiful sites at Gato Island where we dived through the 40 metre long passage under the island and came out into an area of interesting structure and a large variety of fish life.  This was a haven for macro photographers with such a huge range of nudibranchs.  Devil Rays and Mantas are other frequent visitors to Malapascua.  So all in all it would be very easy to spend a week here enjoying both the diving and the relaxing on the beautiful white sandy beach.  We really enjoyed a good level of accommodation at Evolution Dive Resort with their lovely and very affordable meals, the three-hour happy hour of cocktails and professional, helpful and welcoming staff.  Highly recommended.

From Malapascua we moved on via Cebu to fly to the northern Palawan region of the island of Coron in the Calamine Islands group.  This region has been highly rated for its incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes.  We were picked up by Andy, owner of Sangat Island and taken by boat to play Robinson Crusoe (well, it felt like it) at his beautifully positioned resort on a sandy beach on the island he owns. 

Sangat is an eco-resort.  Andy generates all his electricity by way of solar so there is no air-con or hot water.  But the positioning of the

chalets under the palm trees and with plenty of fans made the temperatures bearable.  And you really didn’t feel the need at all for hot water.  The house reef was outstanding for an early morning snorkel (after you had dodged the family of monkeys scampering through the grounds and throwing berries at you as you made for the beach).  The meals here were delicious – our dinner was a rotisseried suckling pig with all the trimmings.  We headed out for two beautiful wreck dives in the morning – both only a few minutes run-time away.  The area is known for a fleet of Japanese supply vessels that were sunk by the Americans in a raid in 1944.  These wrecks are dripping sea life and I loved finding Crocodile fish, Lion fish, Bat fish and many, many more all hanging around the coral and fan encrusted wrecks.  The waters around Sangat are a marine protected area and as well as the many wrecks there are a variety of reef dives too.  Which unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore.  Apparently the island has its own geothermal springs to soak in too.  I could happily get lost here for a week.

We moved on from Sangat via the Carribean Tigress – a beautiful live-aboard vessel that operates out of Busuanga Bay back on the main island of Busuanga.  The scenery was stunning and the sea like glass as we headed to Busuanga Bay Lodge – with a wee stop to drop in on another wreck along the way.

Busuanga Bay Lodge is a 5-star lodge set on the edge of a bush clad harbour.  Beautifully set out on a hillside – with golf cart service to run you up and down the hill to the hilltop restaurant and stunning pool as required.  The following morning we headed to Black Island to dive another wreck of unknown origin and once again covered in an array of marine life.  With our flight home to NZ scheduled for the following day, we spent our “off-gas” afternoon on South Cay – a tiny atoll – where we enjoyed a beautiful BBQ lunch and cocktails for the afternoon.  We swam and snorkelled the afternoon away, feeling like we were a million miles from civilisation.

The Philippines proved to be a beautiful destination with an abundance of dive opportunities and plenty else of interest to explore if you make the time.  Bang for buck this destination is great value.  Sea temps in May were 30 degrees on the surface and dropped to 28 at depth.  Very nice! 


Dive Zone Whitianga will be taking a group dive trip to the Philippines probably June 2019.  Details are still being worked out.  If you want to register your interest in joining this trip then just drop Linda an email





Living the Dream!

Posted by Kelly

As the summer has drawn to a close Dive Zone Bay of Islands has had quite a hectic period with several very fine candidates completing their PADI Instructor exams. The PADI Instructor Exam is a two day evaluation carried out by PADI staff. It follows the Instructor Development Course (IDC) which is taught by PADI Course Directors and Staff Instructors. Like any exam the PADI IE can be a nerve racking event but is usually less daunting than most expect if they have prepared well.

This past summer Dive Zone BOI has had some great Candidates! A 100% pass rate is a great result for all the staff involved as well. It shows we've done our job and is a great reward for time put in to training.

The big question now is What next??

Already one of our new PADI Instructors Alexa Dodson had completed training to become a Speciality Instructor, taught her first Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses with us and recieved a job offer to go and work in Zanzibar!!! If you don't know it Zanzibar is a stunningly beautifil Island off the coast of Africa with an amazing history, warm water and people visiting from all around the world. Definately has been on my bucket list for a ;ong time - very jelous!




Posted by Linda Bird

I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Moehau Environment Group (a long established group who work with predator control in the northern Coromandel Peninsula) on one of their walks across part of Great Mercury Island along with Pete Corson of Department of Conservation and Andy Hopping – the resident Ranger on the island.  The purpose of the walk was to see and talk about the effects since the pests were eradicated on the island in 2014 – and enjoy the absolutely stunning scenery and bays along the way.

We learnt that without rats or cats (there has never been possums or stoats on the island) a number of things have flourished:

  • Pre-eradication there were 7 – 8 breeding pairs of Dotterals on the island.Today there are 25 breeding pairs and each of these had 3 eggs this season and likely to hatch them all and raise these babies.The national average for a breeding pair is less than 1.

  • Kaka have flourished in the bush and we saw and heard many of these beautiful parrots flying through the trees.

  • Kakariki have increased too and their calls were numerous.

  • Bumble bee populations have exploded – they burrow underground and were targeted by rats.Bumble bees are great pollinators – better than honey bees.

  • The island is home to the biggest amount of snail species in the country and it is thought they are increasing in numbers.


And really this is only some of the examples of change and is only the beginning of what this island can become.  For us scuba divers here in Whitianga, the benefits will likely extend to increased flora and therefore fish life along the coast of this island, as increases in seabird life and their fertilisation of the foreshore and sea fringes has downstream benefits.

The really important thing is for you – our boating population – to really be mindful when visiting this island and even if you intend to anchor just off any of the Mercury Island group, that you are maintaining pest control on your vessel and you are extremely careful not to harbour any pest in any bag or container that could escape onto these islands.

Tips to help keep your boat free of pests

  • Keep your boat tidy and clean.

  • Don't leave rubbish or fish scraps on board.

  • Before departure, inspect your boat for signs of rats and mice, eg chewed wiring or holes in gear or bags, and for insects (especially ants).

  • Owners of larger vessels are encouraged to maintain pest control on board. Use glue boards for insects, and traps or bait stations for rodents.

  • All food should be packed in sealed containers. Don't just use open shopping bags or cardboard boxes as these are known to harbour pests.

  • Do your loading in daylight hours. Most pests are active at night and will come aboard then.

  • Vessels should stay anchored offshore except for embarking and disembarking passengers. Tenders are OK as long as you inspected them for pests before arrival.

These steps will help keep the Mercury Islands pest-free and could also save you from pest damage on board your boat.

At the end of our walk Sir Michael Fay (one of the owners of the island) met us and it was great to hear his enthusiasm to continue this project and protect this very special part of our local environment and such an important jewel in the efforts for species preservation and protection.

If you are interested in volunteering on the island for a 5 day stint working on the projects they have going on there you can contact Andy Hopping, Ranger.

For more information

Peter Corson, Project Manager
Ahuahu-Great Mercury Island Pest Eradication
Whitianga Field Base, Department of Conservation
PO Box 276, Whitianga 3542





We are off to the tropics - Wanna Come?

Posted by Linda Bird

Join Dive Zone Whitianga on an epic adventure trip to Taveuni and dive through tunnels, along walls of white, purple and yellow soft corals while enjoying the view of marine life.  Weave in and out of bommies and keep your eye open for leopard sharks or blue-spotted rays.  You can expect to see plenty of pelagic fish species, barracudas, octopus, reef sharks and manta rays.  And if we get lucky with tides and conditions - we hope to dive the Great White Wall (no guarantees but the stars should align!).

Cost:  $3799pp (based on share twin)


Return flights with Fiji Airwaysfrom Auckland

Return Airport transfers

10 x dive package based on 2 dives per day.  Includes tanks & weights

7 nights twin/double share in an Ocean View Bure at Tavenui Dive Resort.
1 x night twin/double share in Nadi, Fiji Gateway Hotel (1 July)Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner while staying at Tavenui Dive Resort

In the translucent blue waters separating Vanua Levu and Taveuni — the second and third largest islands of Fiji — lies the Rainbow Reef. Among its many wonders is the Great White Wall, a sunken escarpment blanketed in luminescent white corals.The Rainbow Reef can be found in the Somosomo Strait located between the Fijian islands of Taveuni and Vanua Levu. It is considered one of the most famous dive sites in the South Pacific. The Great White Wall is a popular scuba diving site. It is named because of the white coral inhabiting the area between 15 and 65 meters

Consistently rated as one of the world's best dive sites, the wall is reached via a tubular swim-through and starts at a depth of 20 m. Between a tangle of flexible, treelike soft coral are explosions of the harder stuff, home to millions of beautifully colored anthias and other pelagic fish. Larger species of marine life lurk there too, including manta rays, barracuda and harmless reef sharks.This striking environment is the product of a rare phenomenon that sees a large volume of seawater forced through the narrow, shallow passage that is the Somosomo Strait. The pressure creates strong currents brimming with nutrients eagerly anticipated by the marine life, in particular the soft corals, which expand to their most enchanting at feeding time. "The best time to dive it is at low slack tide, when there is no current and the wall has been fed with nutrients for seven hours.

On land - Taveuni is known as the garden island - and for good reason.  The Bouma National Heritage Park is rich with hiking trails and wildlife, being home to more than 100 species of birds, including Kula Lorikeets, Silktails and Orange Doves.  Many areas of natural significance have been protected and are open for visiting nature lovers to enjoy - from mountain ranges to river gorges, mangrove forests and coral reefs. Intact forests stretch from mountainous peaks down to the coastline of some islands. Take a hike deep into these thick natural rainforests treating your lungs to some of the freshest air you will ever likely breathe. Discover waterfalls pouring into cool crisp pools you can swim in as you marvel at the beauty of the surrounding native plants and wildlife. 

Darrell and Linda are looking forward to this 9th trip away with a keen group of divers.  We welcome singles, couples, the older and the younger divers - just have a keen sense of fun and adventure and you are sure to enjoy experiencing one of our trips with like minded others.  Our daughter Caitlin (10 on the next trip) joins us on our trips and is always happy to have friends to hang with so if you need/want to bring a child or two they are welcome.  So if you think this trip is a bit of you then drop Linda an email and ask whatever questions you may have.



New Face(s) of Dive Zone

Posted by Nicki

WOW - what a month!

The opening of scallop season on 1st September coincided with unusually persistent rainfall, but those of you who braved the elements have reported that these tasty treats are fat & plentiful which is great news.

On a personal note, it’s been a month of preparation for some changes to the crew, so you’ll be seeing some fresh faces both in & out of the shop.  The end of September sees us saying farewell to Dania who is taking a much deserved break from the industry to pursue other interests.  I wish her every success in her future endeavours, even though she will be sorely missed here. 

It’s also time for me to say goodbye after 8 years at the helm, which has been a chapter of my life that’s presented more highlights & challenges than I ever anticipated.   That being said, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce the new owners Tony & Liz Plank, who are super excited to take the reins:

“Liz and I are really excited to be the new owners of Dive Zone Tauranga.  We are both keen divers who did our Open Water courses while on our OE 15 odd years ago – mind you, my Portsmouth in November (10 degrees 5m vis) was a bit different to Liz’s Dahab, Red Sea experience!  Since then we have experienced some cool dives on our travels and enjoy hunting and gathering locally.  We have two young girls who we are looking forward to introducing to diving once they are old enough.  We take over at the start of October, & Nicki is going to stay on for the first two weeks to show me the ropes, so why not pop in to say goodbye to her and introduce yourself to me … we’d love to see you!”

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your valued custom & loyalty, & I know that I’m leaving you in very capable hands with Tony, Liz & the rest of the Dive Zone Tauranga team.