Taupo Diving

One of the most memorable dive trips for me was hands down the Taupo trip- where I got to drift
dive down the Waikato River.
As a part of my divemaster course with DIVEHQ we had a 4-day trip down to Taupo where we had
the opportunity to do 4 drift dives plus a drift snorkel in the mighty Waikato River. The trip was
scheduled in the middle of our Divemaster course right before we started the practical assisting
workshops, it was almost like our final week of carefree fun diving before all the responsibility and
pressure of being a dive professional really set in- maybe that’s why it was so memorable.
On Monday morning we met our instructors at the shop in Mt Roskill to get ready to go, it was early
February so everyone was rocking their summer hats and sunnies and you could smell the sunblock
from a mile away. There was a huge sense of excitement amongst us students as we chatted and
joked while packing the van that morning, everyone was looking forward to the drift dives and
getting out of the city for a few days.
We set off from Auckland mid-morning and arrived in Taupo by early afternoon. We stayed at the
Rainbow Lodge in Taupo, which was full of travel-loving backpackers and is a cute and cozy spot
within walking distance to the main Taupo shops, but still far enough that you don’t feel like your
right amongst it all. Everyone was quick to drop off their bags and get changed as we were only at
the lodge for about half an hour before we were all piling back into the vans to do our drift snorkel.
We started the drift at a place known as ‘Cherry Island’ where our instructor gave us a briefing and
split us into buddy teams. With much anticipation we started our snorkel drift, we went around a
few bends practicing our duck dives and getting used to the feeling of the current. Around one bend
we came to a stop near an 8m high ledge where we all took turns jumping off into the river, trying to
see who could make the biggest splash or pop the fattest manu. Further down the river we came to
a slower part in the current and just off the right side of the river are some thermal hot springs.
Everyone dashed under the falling warm water to heat up before continuing a few hundred meters
to the end of the drift at ‘Reid’s Farm’.
If you think the snorkel sounds fun just wait till you here about the dive on scuba!
Lake Taupo open its floodgates around 8.30am in summer so early morning is the best time to do
this drift dive as there’s more of a current than any other time of day. So, over the next couple of
days, we all woke up early to have breakfast and get ready before hitting the river.
I can think of many words to describe the feeling of drift diving: Incredible, unreal, insane, amazing
are among a few. I honestly wasn’t expecting to have so much lighthearted fun while drift diving, it
was like being on an amusement park ride with no seatbelt and no brakes.
On the dive we followed the same course we did on the snorkel, starting at Cherry Island and
finishing at Reid’s farm. This time we didn’t stop to pop manus or jump in the hot water pools, but
there was still a whole lot of excitement under the water.
If you’re not dodging rogue tree branches and rocks, you’re dodging eddies which the Waikato River
has plenty of. My buddy and I found ourselves in an eddy without even realizing for about 5 or 6
minutes, constantly swimming in circles like we were in a washing machine with no escape. It was
startling at first but we both thought it was hilarious when we were chatting after the dive, obviously
we made it out eventually.

As the drift continues there are moments where it is super shallow (2-3m) and very fast. We call this
the rapids, possibly the funnest part of the dive but also the time you need to be the most onto it
with your skills and awareness.
Midway on the drift is a placed called danger island where it forks and you have to choose to go left
or right. The left side is a slower current and not many obstacles- in other words it’s the boring side.
If you get the chance I highly recommend going to the right side of danger island, just make sure you
have your wits about you. The current is strong and fast and there’s tree branches and obstacles
Overall, the drift from start to finish took us about 20-30minutes and me and my buddies dived it 4
times over the course of this trip. The rest of our days were filled with sunbathing, exploring the
Taupo town, and even managed to sneak in a game of mini golf while we were down there.
Eventually the trip had to come to an end and we all piled back into the vans to make our way back
to Auckland but ever since the day we left Taupo in February 2021 the drift dive has been on my
mind as one of my all-time favorite dives.
Can’t wait to get back down there for another dive, are you keen?

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