Bay Of Islands Holiday Park
I watched the small child get thrown from the flying fox (also known as a zip line) and spin twice in the air, before hitting the ground in an eclectic jumble of arms and legs. I then watched as both parents almost fell over laughing. After a while, they became aware that the child wasn't actually moving, and ambled over to where he lay. The father gave the kid a poke with his foot, causing the child to suddenly laugh hysterically. The mother wasn't amused at this, and proceeded to tell her progeny off. I hope he learnt the valuable lesson that it is ok to laugh at people when they might be dead, but not to give people a fright. That is the lesson I got from her lecture, anyway.
I was at the Bay Of Islands Holiday Park, in the north of the North Island of New Zealand, and the flying fox was one piece of equipment in a well stocked playground that included a trampoline, swings, slides, and a volleyball net.
The Bay Of Islands Holiday Park is situated 10 minutes from the tourist town of Paihia. It is set amongst 5 hectares of trees and grass, with a river trickling on one side of it. The Waitangi River provides good swimming in the summer, and doesn't flood... very often. Ducks can often be found on the river, although these shouldn't be eaten.
The camp ground provides ample space for picnics and BBQs. The shower block is huge, and the hot water is free and unlimited. There are also about 30 toilets, although the toilet block is a long way from the tent area (and with a river trickling past all night, expect several dark runs to the toilets).
Campers have access to a very good kitchen, with heaps of gas cookers and a fridge, and there is a smaller kitchen attached to the cabins. This includes a huge lounge area with tables and chairs, and a TV. There is also a laundry with washing machines and dryers.
The reception is open until 7pm, and will help book campers on the local tours for free. Local attractions include bus trips to Cape Reinga (the northern most tip of the country), dolphin swimming, sailing, cruises on Bay of Islands, and diving trips. The airstrip is next door, and skydiving is available. Just down the road is the Hururu Falls, a pleasent little waterfall and walking track.
Prices at the Bay Of Islands Holiday Park are:
Tourist Flats $100
Tents $14 [more ]
Bay of Islands – A scenic and idyllic Outpost
One of the most beautiful coastal areas of New Zealand,this bay should be on every itinerary.But take care on bookings like dolphin swimming as there is just a 50% probability for doing that.Nevertheless it is nice to take a boat trip to the “Hole of the Rock” with an island stay on the way. To explore the bay by kayak however,is a much more individual way and much cheaper. [more ]
Diving In Northland
Warm water to dive in is wonderful, especially in New Zealand, where most of the water is cold enough to freeze the proverbials off a brass monkey. But it does bring with it one major problem - sharks. The only time I saw sharks while diving in New Zealand was in the area north of Auckland, at the top of the country. In fact, one of my surfing trips was cancelled when a Great White was spotted just off shore (surprisingly, only 13 people have been killed by sharks in the country since the 1840s, and most of them were during a period of Great White attacks in Dunedin, in the far South of the country, in the 1960s). I also saw a great many other varieties while diving, mostly small sand sharks and hammerheads, although one of my dive buddies had seen blue sharks, makos, and even a Tiger shark. Pretty impressive.
But warm water also brings visitors from the tropics, with many bright and colourful fish species, as well as large and graceful manta rays.
Northland tends to be less rocky than the rest of the country, with more large expanses of sandy beach. It is also peppered with islands, and many of these lie in marine reserves. Many of the islands are wildlife sanctuaries, and you are not allowed to land on them (their status should be checked with the Department of Conservation before you go diving around them).
The West Coast is difficult to dive on, as big waves generated by the Tasman Sea pound the shoreline (although this makes for excellent surfing). Most of the good sites are on the East Coast, where wrecks, reefs, bays and harbours provide ample opportunities to get underwater.
The most popular site is around the Poor Knights Islands, reached by dive charters from Whangarei and Tutukaka. This marine reserve provides amazing underwater colours and wildlife, and includes beginner, intermediate, and advanced sites. The Tutukaka Coast is also the home of the wrecks of a couple of old warships, the HMNZS Waikato and the HMNZS Tui, both of which are good for intermediates. Another good wreck is The Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace boat sunk by French agents in 1985.
Water temperatures in the Summer reach around 23 degrees C, and drop to 13 degrees C in the Winter, providing good year round diving. The underwater visibility is best between Feburary and June.
Dive operators are situated in most towns up and down the east coast, and take day divers out for around $130. [more ]
Diving The Rainbow Warrior
My depth metre read 20 metres, and through the murk a school of small fish spread out like bubbles. Their silver bodies reflected haphazardly in the little light that penetrated this depth. I followed the chain of the bouy above me down into the chilled water, and soon saw a shadowy propeller in the darkness. However, there was something dead about it. Perhaps it was the rust, or the strange slime that covered it. Whatever it was, I knew I had found the wreck I was searching for.
The wreck of the Rainbow Warrior lies north of the Bay of Islands, in the North Island of New Zealand. Situated southwest of Motutapere and the Cavalli Islands, it sits where it was towed to and sunk as an artificial reef in 1987. Originally a research trawler launched in 1955, the boat was subsequently bought by Greenpeace, and used to protest about the French nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1980s.
In 1985, while the boat was moored at Auckland Harbour, two limpet mines exploded on the hull, crippling the boat, and killing crew member Fernando Pereira. It was soon discovered that the bombs were placed there by agents working for the French Secret Service, an act of terrorism that was covered up by the French Government.
The wreck now attracts divers from all around the world, and several dive operators will take people with dive certificates to this site, and provide guided dives.
The first thing you notice on the boat is the propeller, and by ascending to 15 metres, you then find the deck. An astounding aray of encrusting life covers the railings, and fish cover the deck in their search for food. Also growing on the deck are cute little nudibranches, tiger shells, and sponges.
It is a good idea to watch where you put your hands, as there are many scorpianfish hiding on the deck, and I saw a couple of octopuses. My biggest fright was with a moray eel, but those things also scare the life out of me.
It is easy to stir up silt within the hull, which can be a problem with large groups of divers, and there are plenty of cables dangling everywhere to be a hazard.
But it is the fish that swarm around you that give the greatest pleasure, and on the day I was there, I was surrounded by gigantic King Fish, as well as leatherjackets and snapper.
After diving on this superb wreck, and by visiting the nearby memorial at Mataura Bay, I hope this amazing Pacific Ocean, with its abundant sealife, remains nuclear free and clean, and that big nations will stop ignoring their own political terrorism. [more ]