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Dive Zone - Whitianga



10 Campbell St, Whitianga,3510

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MAY

31

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 linda@divethecoromandel.co.nz

 

 

FEB

09

BOATIES – YOUR HELP REQUIRED - PEST FREE GREAT MERCURY ISLAND

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
Email: pcorson@doc.govt.nz

 

 

DEC

04

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)

Includes:

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.

AUG

18

Get Your Gear Ready!

Posted by Paige Thomson

Spring is nearing…..

And it is that time of year to get in nice and early and arrange for your yearly servicing of any equipment. If left until summer time it’s likely to experience delays due to increased demand in the service department. So get into it now!

Your BCD’s & regulators are equipped with numerous parts that will deteriorate over a period of time, regardless of whether they've been used or not.  So, keeping them in good working condition is a huge important part about your safety when diving.

BCD/Regulators

Your BCD and regulators should be serviced and safety checked annually and when necessary. These inspections go a long way towards ensuring your gear is safe and well-functioning equipment.  

Safety checks and servicing are carried out onsite at Dive Zone Whitianga by our trained service technicians, using manufacturer approved methods and service parts. These safety check procedures are for us to check functionality and to check for any abnormal wear or leaks that may lead to failure during a dive, this may mean your equipment is unsafe for use. Remembering this is your life support system under the sea which needs to be serviced by a trained technician to maintain proper and safe functioning so come on in and see us at Dive Zone Whitianga.

Cylinders

New Zealand regulations state that scuba cylinders must be hydrostatically tested every 2 years, & visually inspected every other year.  Failure to do so will mean that your local dive shop won't be able to fill them.  If your cylinder is due for inspection, come on in & we'll sort it out for you. Once the cylinder has passed the test, your cylinder will be all ready to go with a complimentary air fill included.  Worksafe NZ have confirmed the condemning of all aluminium tanks made from metal 6351.  Our team are able to identify for you if your tank falls into this category – just bring it in for us to have a look at.

JUL

27

Winter Diving in Mercury Bay

Posted by Elise Norman

It’s that time of year when putting on a wetsuit & jumping in the ocean doesn’t seem that appealing to most people. Staff & Students at Dive Zone Whitianga aren’t most people!

Winter Diving for us means clearer water, less boat traffic & an abundance of fish life regenerating after the summer peak. It also means migration for the whales, moving from the cold waters to the warm tropical waters. We have been privileged to see Orca’s & Humpback Whales this winter season, plus dived with dolphins.

For all you keen hunter gatherers out there, Crayfish – Soft & in Berry, but what does this mean?

Soft; Crayfish discard their outgrown shell and have a brief ‘soft’ phase as the new shell absorbs water and swells as it hardens.  They are very vulnerable to predators during this time and you are not allowed to harvest them. It takes a little while for the shell to fully harden, so use good personal judgement & read the fisheries rules for what constitutes a soft or hard shell.

In Berry; the females produce eggs that they hold under their tail for months after fertilization before being released as larvae. The number of eggs produced is directly proportionate to the size of the female cray.

All females will tend to be in berry at the same time and it’s obviously best to leave them alone during this period. 

The boys are still fair game though and you can tell them apart without grabbing them by looking at the size of the front legs, which are much bigger on the males.

We are blessed to have such a large variety of incredible dive sites allowing us get out & shield whatever Tāwhirimātea (The Weather God), throws our way – Rain, Hail or Shine.

Whitianga_OrcaDive_Zone_Whitianga_dive_boatHumpbacks_Mercury_Islands