Dive On at Mercury Islands!
This is what happens when two people, with feelings about the ocean on the opposite sides of the spectrum, go diving in New Zealand. Robin, who literally learned to walk on a boat as a baby, is unbelievably excited for today’s Coromandel activity: diving at Mercury Island. Honestly, the day before he was all like: “I’m so excited! I need to go to bed early so I have enough energy!” (“And I need to go to bed so tomorrow comes more quickly”, more like).
Laura, on the other hand, not only has a weak stomach for the sea but was scared away from diving after taking a course practically telling you all the ways you can die when diving. Hum, this is going to be interesting…
We are meeting the Dive Zone Whitianga team, Darell, Ryan and Alyce, in the delightful town of Whitianga on the Coromandel coast, (you know, the one where we were in an epic battle with the seagulls the other day). The Dive Zone team are pumped to have us fly the drone, get some 360 pictures, and take some underwater footage. We instantly get some good vibes from this trip.
First things first, we sign a few forms, which is necessary when diving as it always has an element of risk in it, (which is part of the fun, right?) Then we get suited up! Ryan, who we are diving with today, makes sure we are well equipped for the cold, even double checking when Laura’s wetsuit seemed a little on the big side for her, he made sure to get her a more comfortable one. Small things like that are always reassuring, especially for people who are a wee bit nervous…
Boarding the Scuba Doo
Straight out of the harbour, the banter is flying around the Scuba Doo. (Yeah, that’s right the boat’s name, proudly displayed with a picture of Scooby Doo on the side). It’s great to be able to make stupid jokes and take the piss out of people you have just met. (That’s not meant to be as bad as it sounds). Plus, we are surrounded by people who are super passionate about diving: two dive instructors who have come to Whitianga to dive on their day off, and some guys training for their scuba diving course. We’re pretty honoured to get an insight into their passion.
“There’s a big swell coming in when we get out of the harbour, does anyone get seasick?” Darrell, our skipper, asks.
Laura gives the shifty eyes, but says she’ll suck it up. No biggie.
Well, if anything, the waves are a biggie! (And our boat is a smallie). Robin was having an absolute blast, being back on the ocean again, feeling the boat “get some air” before landing on the other side of the wave every two seconds. Meanwhile, Laura is holding onto the side, daring not to keep her eye off the horizon and repeating to herself: “Don’t be sick. Don’t be sick.”
Great Mercury Island and all its surrounding islands are just up ahead: our first dive location for the day! This is it.
Time to dive
Ryan goes through a clear safety briefing with us, reminding us of all the hand signals we need to use to communicate underwater, and, of course, the importance of decompressing your ears.
BCD on our backs, weight belt strapped, flippers on, mask on: let’s do this. We don’t d*ck around at BackpackerGuide.NZ, even if one of us is a complete sissy when it comes to diving. We went straight for the “falling backwards off the boat” technique. Pretty fun! You should try it. Now, we descend down the chain of the anchor.
There’s a little trouble with us both needing an extra weight in our belts to get us down (skinny bitch problems) and Laura’s mask not being quite on right, but that is quickly sorted out and the descent goes incredibly smoothly after that. Now, Laura can relax and Robin can continue on his streak of over-excitement!
This is so “school”!
Fish are everywhere! Everywhere! This is so cool! Or should we say, so “school”?! Schools of fish are seen in every direction: big, small, yellow, blue, black and white. Crayfish are even hiding in the rocks between the kelp forests. We just take our time and watch all this marine life that we have rarely had the chance to witness. While some fish swim away at our presence, others come up to us and our cameras in curiosity. We swear if it was possible to wipe the tears from our eyes in a scuba mask, we would.
Even the pure joy from Robin just radiates underwater, as he is more preoccupied with following fish than Ryan’s instructions… Gawwwd!
Finally, back at the surface we could convey to each other how truly awesome that was. Back on the boat, the couple of “on vacation” dive instructors showed us photos of the shark they had seen! Ah! See how different dives can be? We can’t wait to get back in the water for our second dive.
We better see a freakin’ octopus
The cruise over on the Scuba Doo was easy-going (especially in comparison to the f*cking voyage we had on the way over here) over the calm turquoise waters. We navigate the perimeters of the Great Mercury Island, staring in awe at the vertical cliff faces and the hilly terrain of extinct volcanoes. How we would love to spend a night on this island. But, screw that. We’ll dive here instead.
“I better see a freakin’ octopus!” Robin whines after he gets super jealous of the shark-spotting incident.
What d’ya know! First thing we see at the bottom of the anchor: a Goddam freakin’ octopus! We see its tentacles curling and swirling around a little cave. Ryan tries to play with it but the little f*cker just hides. Still, we’ve seen an octopus. Job done.
We make this dive shorter than the last one so we have time to fly the drone, much to the crews’ entertainment, as they watch us battle the wind over the ocean with our expensive equipment…
Laura makes a dick of herself again…
The waves on the way back have even become a novelty for Laura to the point where she was making a fool of herself, shouting: “Oh my God! This is insane!” as the boat seems to surf the waves on the way home. God, these first-time boaties are a nightmare.
The adrenalin starts to wear off as we get back to shore. Diving really takes it out of you. We say our goodbyes to the Dive Zone fellows, after a truly amazing day. Robin even classes it as his best day on the road so far!
Hot shower, please!
Now, we are pretty keen for a burning hot shower at the holiday park right now. So, we’ll see you tomorrow for more time out on the water when we kayak over to Cathedral Cove. See you then, travel chums!
From underwater to sky high! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
So do we! We are so alike!
For more adrenaline out on New Zealand’s waters, check out these:
- 9 Places to Scuba Dive in New Zealand
- Top 8 Water Sports Activities to do in New Zealand
- Adrenalin Activities in New Zealand
Laters, travel-lovin’ lobsters!