Clear Kayaking at Goat Island Marine Reserve

Finally, on our last morning here in Waiheke Island and we see the island the way it’s seen on the postcards: sun reflecting off a coast made up of forest-topped cliffs and white sandy beaches. We might have been a bit unlucky with the weather over the last three days but we have still done some awesome activities, from winery crawling to ziplining over the island to walking in the palm tree-filled forests. Now we just have the scenery to enjoy as we take the ferry through the Hauraki Gulf back to Auckland city.

A morning sailing back to Auckland

The sun blinds us from behind Waiheke as we leave, then we have the cliffs of Motutapu Island to marvel at, as well as the forested island volcano of Rangitoto Island. Usually, the ferry trip between Waiheke and Auckland takes around 40 minutes, but this first morning sailing of the Fullers ferry isn’t wasting any time! About 25 minutes later, we are approaching the urban jungle of Auckland, along with its distinct skyline which includes the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building piercing the sky, the Sky Tower.

NExt stop, Goat Island Marine Reserve!

It’s been just over a week since we last used our car, in between exploring Auckland Central and Waiheke Island, it has just been easier to leave it parked. Now the time has come to make our way up north to a new region on our 365 Days: 365 Activities, Northland. Whangarei is our final destination today, but we’re going to stop off in a sweet spot along the Matakana Coast called the Goat Island Marine Reserve! Here, we’re going to be watching the marine life in a pretty unique way!

Probably chasing stingrays at this point Probably chasing stingrays at this point
A snapper swimming with us A snapper swimming with us
Clearyak selfie! Clearyak selfie!
Eagleray and snapper combo! Eagleray and snapper combo!

Meet Clearyak!

After a drive through a mix of rolling hilly farmlands and bush, through the toll road because we are on a bit of a tight schedule, we arrive in the wee town of Leigh – the gateway to Goat Island. We park up in the marine reserve’s large parking area just in time to see a trailer full of crazy-looking kayaks make its way down to a loading bay toward the beach.

We meet Brook, the boss man behind Clearyak! Who is preparing one of the clear kayaks made out of shatter-resistant transparent plastic – the kind that bulletproof glass is made out of, Brook tells us. At least if the fish turn on us, we’ll be sweet!

The adventure starts on our transparent kayak

After brook gives the double kayak a quick wipe down, we are helping him carry the Clearyak down to the beach, popping it straight into the water – getting sand all over it would be counterproductive.

Brook helps us into the Clearyak which as wide seats and a flat bottom for optimal underwater viewing. Already we are mind-blown by how clearly we can see under the water. For the time-being it’s ripples of sand on the floor, but as we start to paddle toward Goat Island itself, a mere 600m off shore, what we see underneath us is pretty magical!

Weird underwater perspectives!

the fish find us!

We glide over rocky reefs which become more and more abundant with kelp the further away from the shore we get. Where there’s kelp, there’s life and sure enough, we start spotting the first fish of the day! Blue spots glisten in the sunlight off snapper that are coming toward our kayak in all sizes. Baby ones, giant ones, beastier ones… When Brook joins us out on the water on his paddle board, he even introduces us to Monkeyface that is swimming underneath us, a snapper with dark scales and a scrunched up face that is said to be around 60 years old! One small groups of snapper spot our Clearyak, they tend to start following us, attracted by its reflection off the sun – even bumping into the bottom of the kayak. We don’t even need to look for fish – the fish find us!

Snapper, red moki, eagle rays and more!

Although snapper are definitely the most abundant species in the marine reserve, we keep an eye out for other species too. In the kelp forests close to Goat Island, we spot a couple of pairs of striped fish called red moki, which Brook informs us that they are usually found in pairs because they mate for life. There are heaps of smaller fish sticking together on the seabed, along with a couple of sightings of eagle rays! These diamond-shaped rays glide along the bottom of the water, seemingly flapping their wings like an eagle. We get to spend a bit of time with these little dudes before they sneak away under a rock.

They'll never notice me down here... They'll never notice me down here...
Oh yeah, and there are birds too! Oh yeah, and there are birds too!
And the coastal scenery isn't that bad either! And the coastal scenery isn't that bad either!

Heads stuck looking between our knees…

The shallow water and the clarity on a still day like today at the reserve makes it unbelievably clear under our kayaks. Even if we start to smudge the bottom of the Clearyak with our feet, we have a wet cloth to wipe it down and keep the fish sighting coming. In fact, we don’t do much kayaking at all, as the views below are just too mesmerising. Our heads are simply stuck between our knees.

Bathtubs back to shore

As more people enter the water on Clearyaks, we then realise how it looks like we’re floating around in transparent bathtubs. So after seeing plenty of marine life we take our bathtub back to shore, Brook helping us back out, and handing it over to the next keen fish-finders! We say goodbye and hit the road for the final leg of our journey up north.

Arriving in Whangarei

Travelling up State Highway One finally brings us to the Northland hub of Whangarei. We check in at a homely backpackers of the Bunkdown Lodge. This colonial-style villa is unlike any other we have stayed in – boasting some old-school vibes.

So we have seen the fish from the shallows of the Goat Island Marine Reserve today, but tomorrow we are going to check out what lies in the deep at the Poor Knights Islands – one of the world’s top diving spots! See you then!

Laura and Robin

Just look down and you'll see some snappers following us!
Just look down and you'll see some snappers following us! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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