World Class Wellington Diving

I have been lucky enough to dive some of the top spots around the world – I’ve seen the swirling
vortexes of barracuda in Sipadan, tons of turtles in Thailand, schooling sharks in the pacific, wrecks
of WWII in the UK and Europe, shoals of millions upon millions of sardines in the Philippines – and
still I believe Wellington has World Class Diving! Having been back in Wellington for almost two
years now, people are still surprised that I am just as happy diving here than I was abroad. For me
Wellington Diving has it all, there are abundant hunting grounds, 2 stunning marine reserves and
more wreck sites than you can shake a stick at. Wellington always has somewhere worth getting in
for splash; and no matter where you are there is always a diverse and unique spattering of life.

For the hunters among us there is no shortage of dive sites where you can comfortably pick up a
feed. I remember the first Cray I caught was out the back of Moa Point. I was newly certified and had
no idea how hard those little bugs can fight! Too scared to burry my arm up to the shoulder in a
deep dark crack I as aiming for the Cray’s hanging around the entrance. All I had been told was “go in
hard and fast” good advice wish I had listened. Instead I struggled with this Cray for what felt like
forever trying to twist, turn and pull him from his hole. In the end I got him out, but to say it was
easy would be a lie. I still remember the thrill and pride of having gone out and back then going back
to a flat of hungry uni students with a couple of crayfish. Hunting around Wellington is still abundant
if you know where to go. I try to get out towards Makara as often as I can, though now I leave the
tank and regulators behind and take my Speargun and Wettie Composite Fins. I love lurking in the
kelp trying to aim up a fish before start to run out of breath. Some days it feels like the fish are just
swimming straight into the catch bag for me. I love that I get to dive and hunt around Wellington but
we need to protect what we have. Gone are the days where we should full our boots with food,
instead hunting in Wellington should a way to get only what you can eat and leave the rest for the

Hunting not your thing? No drama Wellington has two incredible marine reserves: The Taputeranga
Marine Reserve stretching from Princess Bay all the way to the old quarry at Red Rocks, and the
Kapiti Island Marine reserve which covers most of the eastern and north western sides of the island.
Getting out for a dive around Kapiti Island is rare for me now but what I have done out there was
always stunning. With deep walls and warmer water the life there is incredible for photographers
and nature lovers out to see something call. One dive I made out there as part of a PADI Advanced
Open Water course, I found myself with one extra student for the dive. This extra student was a
particularly inquisitive fur seal. For a good 30 minutes of the dive this same seal would come and go
just checking out my students (probably checking out their trim). It wasn’t until the end of the dive
when I deployed my dSMB for to collect us that this seal decided it had better things to do. You
don’t need to go all that way for interactions like that though. I can’t count how many times I have
had a curious octopus cruise towards my GoPro at the Island Bay Snorkel Trail, the heart of the
reserve. The diversity and wealth of life in these two Wellington reserves is why no one comes out of
the water here saying they had a crap dive. But every now and again fish just won’t float my boat, and I end up with a bit of lust for rust!

The Greater Wellington region has over 20 different wreck sites, all in differing degrees of degradation.
Of course we have our well known wrecks like the F69, Yung Pun and The Progress but those are
only just scraping the surface of what Wellington Wrecks have to offer. Recently Claire headed out on an advanced diver trip in search of a wreck along the south coast. All they had to go on was a hand me down story from our Divemaster Alan’s grandfather of roughly where they could see the
bow poking out of the water when he was young. The first attempt yielded no result, but the second
dive was right on the money. After some research back at the shop we learnt that this was the
Wreck of the Woollahra. I recently made my own adventure over to Cape Palliser to find the wreck
of The Ben Avon. While the location of the Ben Avon is reasonably well documented, I didn’t know
this at the time. So I thought I’d put a few of my search and recovery skills to the test and search for
it. I knew the approximate location but that was about it. I can tell you there is nothing like the
feeling of coming across exactly what you’re looking for when you don’t really know where to look.
While the promise of finding a rumoured 100 year old bottle of whiskey is what drew me to the site,
I was blown away with how intact and interesting this wreck was. These two wrecks are an amazing
part of our history in Wellington and are something of jewels in the rough in my opinion.

You can’t beat Wellington on a good day – it’s true, but Wellington diving is rewarding even on a
crap day. There is always somewhere you can get in the water. Northerly winds tend to keep the
south coast clean which opens up the Taputeranga Marine reserve or maybe head further east and
check out the stunning swim throughs and terrain of Breaker Bay. In a southerly we have the Inner
Harbour where you can pick up scallops for a feed, or track down some of the world’s largest
seahorses. Seeing up to 10 or more 20cm seahorses is not all that uncommon when you’re diving
around Kau Bay or Mahanga Bay. The reward trudging through the silty water with limited vis to
come across these massive examples of what looks like evolution gone wrong is fantastic. No matter
how many times I have come across seahorses I still always stop to have a good look and take some
video. Maybe you would rather head out west to Whitireia Park or Rocky Bay in a southerly where
encountering huge short tailed sting rays are common. These local goliaths of Wellington can
measure over 2m wide, while daunting at first these gentle beasts are truly awesome. No matter
where the weather takes you in Wellington you’re sure to have a rewarding dive.

When I say Wellington has world class diving, I mean it. Wellington is a treasure trove of diving to
suit everyone’s wants and needs. We have cram packed crayfish nests, some silty scallop beds and
kelp forests brimming with butterfish. Our two marine reserves offer an incredible array of life to
admire and photograph if that’s more your thing. There are wrecks galore to satisfy hardcore history
buffs. And no matter the weather there is always somewhere worth getting your gear wet. I love
Wellington diving and am glad to be back! How could anyone argue that Wellington doesn’t have
world class diving when it has all of this and more on offer?

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