Knowing what you’re looking at can add to your experience

New Zealand’s marine life is fascinating. To get close to fish, identify the various species and gain insight into their environment, you need to go under.

Te Whanganui-A-Hei, or Gemstone Bay, in the Coromandel was designated a marine reserve in 1992. With a ban on all fishing activities within the nine-square kilometre reserve, the fish here are thriving. Here you’ll find the snorkel trail, consisting of four bobbing buoys anchored 50 to 165 metres offshore. Each buoy has an interpretation panel attached with images and information identifying the habitat and the creatures commonly seen beneath the surface.

Because the buoys have handles on them, it’s the perfect spot for less confident sea swimmers to become comfortable with the art of snorkeling.

Keep a look out for good sized snapper, a range of elegant rays, colossal crayfish and plenty of waving kelp and seaweed. You’re also likely to spot blue cod, trevally, red moki, wrasses, marble fish, butterfish, blue maomao and leather jackets, with a range of habitats, from sandy to rocky.

If you don’t have your own gear, you can hire some in nearby Hahei.

From the main Cathedral Cove car park, walk ten minutes and look for signs directing to Gemstone Bay. 

Other marine reserves for snorkelling fun:
• Goat Island, Leigh
• Poor Knights Islands
• Tonga Island, Abel Tasman National Park
• Akaroa, Banks Peninsula

Reported by Elisabeth Easther for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue

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