With over 30 hours of traveling behind us when we arrived to the rooms it was only a matter of a few minutes before I was in a coma. Morning came quickly as we gathered for a group breakfast featuring a range of local fresh fruit and French Toast. Shortly after breakfast we meet our driver who took us down into town and delivered us to Dive! Tutukaka, right away I could tell the shop was going to provide a very memorable few days. We where meet by Kate who I assume was the general manager or owner, she provided us with a run down of the operations and introduced us to our private guild Laura who would be spending the next few days with us. The shop itself is well kept with a great selection of rental equipment for those in need. Unlike most destination shops Dive! Tutukaka is technical and rebreather friendly but sadly lacks the ability to provide mixed gases, but I suspect they could make arrangements for it if needed. Tanks provided to divers are aluminum 80cf bottles and can be provided in either yoke or dinner configurations.
Our first trip of the adventure would be on the Calypso a 55′ cairns custom that is easily one of the nicest non-live aboard dive vessel I have been on in a long time. The crew of six attended to every need of the 15 passengers on board, and where already meeting our needs before we could even make a request. Unlike many of the operations where the crew is focused on top level customer service this crew where trained well enough to be able to identify who would want help and who wouldn’t, adjusting the provided assistance to the skill of the individual. With in minutes of boarding the crew had us underway and heading out to the poor knights. The hour long trip out was extremely comfortable and in no time we where closing in on the poor knights and the 60′ dive sites in there shadows.
Our first dive adventure in the poor knights was at Rikoriko Cave. This amazing location is on the south island known as Aorangi in Maroro Bay on the North West side of the island. At 7.8 million cubic feet in size dive boats can easily drive directly into the cave, a practice started in world war 2 by the Japanese who parked a submarine in the cave for two weeks while conducting repairs. Due to the lack of light penetration at the back of the cave you can even find life here that can normally only be found in 400′+ of water! Also located in the back of the cave is the remains of a whale that spent its final days in the safety of the cave. Multiple types of eels, molluscs, urchins, and stars all call the walls of the cave home. At the front of the cave a kelp garden sits housing carpet sharks, eagle rays, and a range of fish life. As a cave enthusiast this site kicked the trip off right for me.
After a relaxing hour long warm up dive we returned to the Calypso for our surface interval. After boarding the boat we where greeted with hot coco, a range of warm soups, and a prepared lunch. Instead of just driving to the next dive site Dive! Tutukaka takes it a step further by providing a wonderful and informative tour of the islands. The tour of the islands is nothing short of amazing and is like stepping back in time to the Jurassic era. The tour included a trip through one of the amazing arches on Aorangaia Island known as “The Tunnel”, during the filming of a Jacques Cousteau documentary a helicopter pilot actually flew through the arch way. Words can never due justice to the wonders of this area and even photos can only do so much. This is simply just one of those spots you must experience first hand for yourself.
With our surface interval coming to a close we made our way back to Maroro Bay where we anchored for our second dive at a site known as Travor’s Rock. Even though this site is only a stone throw from Rikoriko Cave it provides for a completely different dive. Blanketed in a forest of kelps Eagle Rays and scorpion fish rest on the floor of the kelp forest. After another relaxing hour dive exploring the kept forest we where again greeted with a selection of soup and drinks to warm us back up from the exposure to the subtropical waters.
With the first day of diving in the books the Calypso turned towards shore for the hour ride back to Tutukaka. Back at the dock Laura took care of our gear ensuring it was cleaned, stored, and ready for our next day of adventure to the Poor Knights. We headed back to the resort, showered, and everyone quickly succumbed to a “nappy poo”. In the early evening we headed back to town for a relaxing dinner at the Oceans Resort. This newly developed location features the second restaurant in town and a great nightly pub special offering a range of dishes and your choice of drink for only $15.00 NZ about $11.00 USD. Like Schnappa Rock the food is great but Schnappa Rock does have a better atmosphere for those on vacation. After dinner everyone retired to there rooms and I imagine sleep came quickly to all.