“This can’t be happening, how can this be happening? I just got bitten by a shark, we’re actually going to get eaten alive by sharks”. Left alone for 24 hours in the middle of the shark infested ocean, piss poor scuba diving actor David and his well stacked and buoyant girlfriend Susan pack their pants, float aimlessly, during their last remaining few minutes of living existence, contemplating their upcoming grim obliteration.
With Bouzo by my side we smash back and swallow our tequilas, watching the first ‘Open Water’ shark attack scene. Seemed like a funny idea at the time, til memories came quickly flooding back of my childhood ‘Jaws’ trepidation. With all our classroom theory and pool training nailed, we focus fully on the following morning’s PADI Open Water two-day course at Goat Island Marine Reserve. We all know full well that neighbouring Omaha had a 12 foot Great White spotted in close just days before, so we tuck in our skirt, refuse the lemon and salt, and knock back hard yet another tasty tickler. Tempt fate, can’t wait, got to get out - there’s no time to hesitate.
Goat Island Marine Reserve
The main event loomed; a 34 metre dive down to check out the Leander class frigate HMNZS Waikato, purposely sunk recently off the Tutukaka coast. But hold up, having never dived before our ambitious goal required a bit of know how, so we can do.
Chomping hard about gaining our PADI’s, we’re both frothing knowing very soon we’ll be in amongst another array of un-spoilt bliss, a world not to be missed is now oh-so close. So keen to get in the mix that we both jump in fully rigged, but are quickly stopped by our onboard dive masters, as sure enough we’d forgotten to turn on our air! Within seconds of our large ass splish splash, forty Snapper all bigger than any I’d ever caught were happily swimming within arms reach. Eagle 'rays, monster Crays, menacing Morays and huge Red Moki shadowed our every movement for the next two days as we fine-tuned our underwater finesse.
Upon resurfacing from 15 metres to change tanks for another suck back, an enormous shapes glides closely below. With balls in mouth, I witness the largest stingray I have ever seen, easily stretching 8 ft in width, with its serrated barb following 12 ft behind. At the completion of our fourth open ocean dive, we resurface totally stoked and fully qualified to witness the girls, also in fine foxy form cracking open the beers and bubbly – good on ya girls, let’s get on it!
Having had an epic taste of the underwater world, us spoilt lil’ children want more and we want it now. So a day’s breather before the legendary Greenlane Dive HQ hook the brutha’s up once more, this time with a guided tour of the ‘Waikato’. In her prime this sensational 113.4m long frigate powered by 30,000 hp engines used to smoke along at 30 knots. In November 2000 she was put to rest in the world record time of: 2 min 40 seconds, hitting the bottom with such force the bow section completely ripped off upon impact.
On board the 'Hendrik J’ we burst through the reef lined Tutukaka harbour on course for our first ever gnarly deep water experience. On route to our 30m deep wreckage, a school of Flying Fish help point us in the right direction of the mooring as light wind, low cloud and light rainfall obstruct our 360 degree coastline and horizon outlook.
Accompanying Bouzo and I in our quest for deep penetration are our Greenlane Dive HQ Instructor and Skipper respectively: John and Ben. With the water at a NZ tropic 22 degrees and visibility hovering just over 15 metres, we could just make out the wreck from the surface. More than twice the depth of any previous dive, I had fears of struggling to equalise on the descent, ears screaming viciously and blood vessels continuously bursting inside my nose. The inner ear anxiety disappeared instantly as soon as I realized I was in the middle of the deep blue sea, and a free for all, all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. Witnessing a colossal congregation of Kingfish furiously rounding up and feasting on a mammoth school of Yellowtail then seared a life-long image into my retina. More was to come….
Upon landing on the frigate’s deck I stand, taking a minute to soak up another epic sensation. Another classic NZ dance floor uncovered, opening my eyes and letting loose possibilities of unlimited lifetime worldwide explorations, opportunities and aspirations.
Quickly surrounded and guided by at least eight different fish, we start our pursuit by circling the mammoth propeller, then navigating bow wards. The helicopter hanger was investigated next, and then we negotiated a tight staircase back to the top of the deck, with the ships bridge attracting most of our attention. What a surreal sensation it was being surrounded by over 30 years of NZ Naval history on this decommissioned frigate – a total trip. With air running low we slip through what once were windows, and gun it for the frigate’s turrets for our final incursion before ascending.
Stoking hard when back on the boat I struggle to put a sentence together, feeling like I’d funneled a six-pack in sixty seconds flat. Underwater at depths approaching 30 metres, nitrogen has a noticeable intoxicating effect that intensifies as you go deeper. Sweeeeeeeeet, I had received my first comical case of Nitrogen Narcosis (Narced) heightening even further this underwater wonder.
So cut loose, learn something new, and remove those four walls surrounding you. This is not an advert of Dive HQ, but take my advice - learn to dive and learn with the best. Enough said.
Epic NZ as always in full swing, an untouched ocean floor, abundant marine life, with a worthy wreck, and oh yeah - all to ourselves. Regrets for me are few, however I am now planning to catch up as I continue to explore and pursue the untouched goodness below. Inside my mind, is a clock tick-tocking time; not going to stop until my last days are done. Summer’s prestigiously high on our agenda, so in true kiwiana spirit charge hard to grasp and conquer the remains of an already all time Summer. Livin it, and oh so Lovin it once again and always.
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