Diving at Baxters Reef – Kaikoura

We pulled up to Baxters Reef in the Dive HQ van I could barely contain my excitement as I looked out the window at the picturesque conditions. The rest of my diploma group must have felt the same as we all scrambled out of the van to get a better look. Our instructor Jackson could tell we were itching to get in the water, so he began his briefing straight away. Afterwards, my buddy Ella and I we got ready as quick as we could. Within minutes we’d finished our predive safety check and were ready to head out for our dive. Kicking out to the ‘school’ I remember the water looking like glass on the surface. As I looked down, I saw we had a good 5m visibility and squealed in excitement.

It was my first taste of Kaikoura’s underwater world. I swum through what seemed like an underwater forest, it was something I had never seen before. Lines of kelp stretched up from the seabed, swaying gently with the ocean current. Colourful sea stars, sponges and spiny creatures scattered the rocky topography. It was beautiful. It wasn’t long before we come face to face with Baxter, the local stingray. I was that stunned I forgot to blink; I remember my eyes straining as I starred in awe at my first stingray sighting. Ella and I stayed by Baxter for over half of our dive. We watched as he moved towards a snack of snails, hovering over them for only a few seconds before swimming off leaving no trace of the snails. In the distance I saw him stir up a sandy patch before letting it all settle on top of him, almost as if he was getting ready to take a nap. We let him rest as we swum back through the forest of kelp, peeping around the rocks we saw multiple mini crayfish, massive paua and many kinas. As our tanks began to get low Ella and I headed back to the ‘school’. There were a few blue cod cruising around the school’s sandy bottom, so we dropped down to check it out. To my surprise the cod were super friendly, we started putting our hand under the sand and wiggle our fingers which attracted the cod to swim towards us and sit on top of our hands. Since then, I see cod as friends more than food, they are smart and curious creatures who come to visit each time I dive at Baxter’s. After hanging with the cod, it was time for Ella and I to make our way to the surface. We were stoked, the beaming smile on both our faces said it all.

Since then, Baxter’s Reef has always been my favourite dive spot in Kaikoura, and I’m not the only one who thinks that. When the conditions are good, it can be pretty hard to find a park along the bay. Baxter’s reef is located down South Bay Parade, it is a great dive spot for both beginner and advanced divers hence its popularity. If you are lucky enough to see Baxter the stingray, don’t be alarmed as he has no barb and wouldn’t hurt a fly. Kaikoura’s diving conditions are super unique. The kelp forests are one of the main aspects that separate Kaikoura diving from the rest of the world. These underwater towers of kelp provide food and shelter for thousands of fish, invertebrates, and marine mammal species, making kelp an extremely important part of the ecosystem. Do keep in mind to always check the conditions before heading out. Depending on the wind direction Baxters reef can either be a hit or miss. This can really affect the the visibility, surge and therefore your dive. But if the conditions are good, I say go for it. This unique dive site won’t disappoint.

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