Experience Diving & Snorkelling…
The coast from Pakiri south to the Takatu Peninsula has a good variety of dive sites that you can get to from Leigh.
The islands of the Hauraki Gulf are also on Leigh’s doorstep.
Diving & Snorkelling…
• Join a guided snorkel or dive tour
• Swim with dolphins when they visit
• Snorkel amongst mangroves in Whangateau Harbour
Goat Island Marine Reserve
Everything is protected in this marine reserve which is why there is much more marine life than the surrounding coast. You can hire dive and snorkel gear locally or bring your own. There is a five-minute loading zone near the beach entrance where equipment can be dropped off before parking in the top carpark.
Divers and snorkellers are usually best to enter the water off the beach, but where you go depends on the direction of the wind and swells, if any. The best time to visit is when there is less than one metre swell and the wind is offshore. If you are an inexperienced snorkeller consider going out with someone experienced or on a guided snorkel tour.
Shag Rock, about 150m directly off the beach, is best during high tide when thousands of fish move in to feed. Alphabet Bay on the north-west side of the island has good kelp forests and fish life. The channel is also good for snorkelling especially alongside the island. These sites are also ideal for beginner scuba divers with depths of up to 6m.
It won’t take long to see fish such as snapper that follow divers. A bright float and dive flag is a good safety measure for divers. Divers should swim out to around 3m depth before descending. Avoid swimming just below the surface as boats cannot see you, especially if conditions are choppy.
Diving off a Boat or Kayak
To get to deeper dive sites, you are best to dive off a kayak or a boat. There are many dive sites to explore and the best places often depend on the weather and sea conditions. Boats can be launched at Leigh Harbour. Take note of the marine reserve signs at boat ramps. Large yellow triangular markers show the boundaries at Cape Rodney and Okakari Point.
North Reef is a large reef just north of the northwest point of Goat Island and is best dived when there is limited swell or current. Schools of large silver drummer, blue maomao, big snapper and occasional blue moki are regularly seen. The depth here drops to over 20m.
Reefs to the west of the main beach are good places to see large crayfish and snapper plus the occasional giant boarfish or electric rays. In summer there are often very large stingrays. Depth is 6-18m.
The Outpost (Panetiki Island), Leigh Harbour
This dive site, just a short trip from the Leigh boat ramp, is sheltered when the wind is coming from the north. Be aware of any current near the point. The wall drops to sand where it is dotted with rocks covered with sponges, kelp and heaps of goatfish. Look for snake eels protruding from the sand or stargazers that hide there. The walls have solitary corals, brachiopods, sponges, soft corals, nudibranchs and a good selection of fish species. During summer large schools of kingfish move in and if you’re lucky you may spot a giant boarfish or a porcupinefish. Depth 6-25m
Snorkellers can swim out alongside the rocks at the eastern end of the beach and across to the little island. There are a few small snapper, parore, blue maomao and leatherjackets. Invertebrate life is good with plenty of crabs, sea stars and kina or sea urchins plus the occasional octopus.
Divers have easy access off the beach and can explore the channel where there is a variety of nudibranchs or swim to the outer edge of the island. Sometimes old chains from the ship-building era, can be seen in the sandy bay. Depth 5-25m.
It’s easy to find this reef as numerous boats anchor there to fish. Divers should be experienced and a boat person is a must as there are strong currents. In summer big kingfish feed on the schools of baitfish. There is a wealth of colourful reef dwellers and plenty of rocky reefs and caves to explore. Depth 12-30m.
Tawharanui Marine Reserve
Snorkellers will need to take equipment and should check out the sea conditions as there is often some swell. You will be rewarded with plenty of big snapper and crayfish to view, lovely sponge growths and kelp forests. Schools of baitfish move through in summer plus reef fish, the occasional giant boarfish and large stingrays.
Divers are best to access the sites from a boat as it is a long walk carrying gear from the parking area. There are plenty of places to explore along the coast with the best places inside the marine reserve. Depth ranges to 25m. Remember this is a marine reserve and all marine life is protected.
Omaha and Kawau Bay are good areas for collecting your limit of scallops in season. The sand is nice and clean and divers may also come across big stingrays. Measure and count your catch before surfacing. Depths vary from 12-25m in Omaha Bay and 10-20m in Kawau Bay.
The best time to snorkel this estuary is around an hour before high tide when the water is still flowing in. Start from the Whangateau Domain or the holiday park and swim towards Horseshoe Island or the large mangrove trees just to the south. Expect to see yellow-eyed mullet in schools of hundreds. Camouflaged against the sand are flounder and there are lots sea shells like cockles and whelks. In the little holes live mantis shrimps and crabs are prolific. Parore and other fishes usually school around the mangrove trees. Watch for any boat traffic that may be moving past.
Dive & Snorkel Safety Tips
- Check sea and weather conditions before entering the water. (If you are unsure check with local dive or snorkel hire businesses)
- Always snorkel or dive with a buddy (friend or family) and stay together.
- Wearing a wetsuit will keep you warmer so you can stay in the water longer and it will also help you float. It will also give you protection against sunburn.
- If you are not confident in deep water, stay in the shallows where you can stand up.
- If you swim out into deep water save enough energy to get back.
- Protect yourself with sunscreen especially your back and the backs of your legs when snorkelling.