Tucked away in the most southern point of the north island is a small fishing village, Ngawi. This prime example of New Zealand’s beautiful rugged coast was the location for our Labour Weekend Dive trip. Only problem was we didn’t go diving! With so much to do and see nobody seemed all that bothered about staying dry though.
Months ago we decided to go out on a limb and book a group of divers to explore this little gem of New Zealand coast. The only issue was that booking so far out we had no idea what the weather would be like and just had to cross our fingers and hope. Turns out we didn’t cross our fingers hard enough, as I arrived on Friday evening I was greeted by a 3m southerly swell and gusty northerlies. Diving was off the cards. But I still had hope, our resident meteorologist; Brian had a feeling that Sunday morning would be fine for diving.
Saturday morning rolled around and as the dive club started arriving they were greeted with the same 3m swell. It didn’t matter though, the sun was shining and we were ready to take advantage of all the area had to offer. We decided to make our way down to the seal and check out if the seals were brave enough to face the swell! The Ngawi seal colony is the largest in the North Island, and we were pretty quickly confronted with the overwhelming smell that precedes seal colonies. Climbing over the craggy rocks we found seal after seal hiding under the bushes to escape the Wairarapa sun. Kevin quickly stumbled across a small nursery pool where all the young pups were diving, rolling and play fighting under the ever watchful eye of a wary mother seal. After being “encouraged” to move on by one of the larger seals we had a bite to eat then left the seals in peace.
From the seal colony we decided to get adventurous and took a few vehicles off road to go check out a waterfall and cope out a few potential dive sites for Sunday. Then sun was really beating down at this point and the water as rough as it was, looked be inviting. The waterfall tucked away in the hills gave us a welcome respite from the sun. One look at the calm waters of the waterfall was all it took for Brian to strip down and get in. Peer pressure sucks. I don’t know why, but as soon as Brian said the water wasn’t that bad 3 more of us, myself included, stripped off and dived in. I don’t care what you wetsuit divers say but that water was not fine. Instantly my breath was pulled from my lungs, my brain was pierced by the cold and like any sane person I of course popped my head out of the water and said “yeah its fine!” in the hope others would get in and share my pain. After we had cooled off we made our way back to the cabins and got stuck into the BBQ.
Sunday morning was glorious – the sun was out, birds were singing, and Brian had promised the swell would be down (it is his job to make the weather after all). And he was right! The swell had dropped! Dropped from 3m to 2m. As I saw the waves rolling in from our cabins I spotted a few surfers heading into the water. Never a good sign for diving. That was that. I pulled the pin on the diving but it really didn’t matter. There is so much to do around Ngawi; some people decided to soak up the sun and just lounge around while the rest of us went for a small walk up to the Putangirua Pinnacles.
At this point I don’t know if I was imagining things out of desperation to get in the water but it looked like the swell had dropped just enough that we could try getting in for a wee snorkel. Five of us hit the water with catch bags, floats and spearguns. This time in the water could only be described as snorkelling by brail. Diving down you had no idea where the bottom was until you basically ran into it. Being the big tough manly hunter gatherers we are, after an hour or so in the water we had managed to provide for the camp. Between the five of us we managed to get a whopping three paua… like I said snorkelling by brail. But still it didn’t matter; we had a great time ducking in and out of the waves and just messing about. With our monster haul of food we shot back to the cabins to enjoy another round of BBQ and beers in the sun.
As the night turned to day it was time for us to back up and hit the road. But I was desperate! I thought let’s try one more time to hit the water. So we piled back into the off road vehicles, and drove though farmland and narrow paths in the hope we could find a sheltered bay. But it wasn’t to be. This was always a risk in trying to dive in the Wairarapa. Still it didn’t matter. We had all had a great time. We never had a dull moment and enjoyed just spending time together as more of a social club than a dive club. We had seals, waterfalls, bush walks and of course BBQ’s and beer. Even though this may have been our first dive trip with no diving we will definitely do it all over again. Ngawi is a great place and it was awesome to share it with great people!