The Tauranga area boasts a huge number of great dive sites that some say rival the Poor Knights Islands up north. From offshore islands, to submerged pinnacles that rise from the deep, the Bay of Plenty’s underwater terrain is heaven – drawing scuba divers, freedivers, snorkelers and spearo’s from all over the country.
The waters surrounding Tauranga and Mount Maunganui - becoming known internationally for an array of sites and marine life - form a year round tourist attraction. Among the more well-known spots are Motiti Island and Mayor Island, but some smaller sites offer awesome visibility and fantastic terrain for aquatic sportsmen and women of all levels.
Motiti Island 20 kms to the east of Mount Maunganui, offers a range of diving for all levels, from fresh open water dives to technical diving, along with great opportunities for photography and hunting. In a sheltered bay on the south-eastern corner lies the wreck of the Taioma (Maori for ‘running with the tide’).The old tug was sunk in 2000 in 27 metres of water, to form an artificial reef for divers. The 310-ton vessel had spent 35 years at sea, and then a few more in the former Tauranga Historic Village, before assuming its undersea role. It sits upright on sand and is regarded as the ‘perfect wreck,’ with hazardous materials removed, and holes cut for easy access.
Karewa Island is a small island about 9 kms from the Tauranga Harbour entrance, which offers a wide range of diving, swim-throughs, and hunting, and there’s even a wreck - the Taranaki – although you have to look very hard to see it. The rocky island itself is a bird sanctuary, and landing is prohibited.
Rabbit Island (Motuotau) is a small island 800 metres off Main Beach at Mount Maunganui – to your right if you’re standing looking out to sea from the end of Moturiki, the rocky peninsula jutting out. Even though the island itself is small, the surrounding reef system is an extensive one which covers considerable ground. It’s well suited to shore or kayak diving, and divers of all levels.
Penguin shoals, Astrolabe, Brewis and Okaparu are just a few of the pinnacles that rise from the deep. These are more advanced dives due to the depths and at times, the strong currents that sweep across them. They provide excellent photographic opportunities and hunting grounds. Due to the location of the reefs, visibility is normally outstanding. They have deep canyons with sheer walls, abundant with life.
Mayor Island (Tuhua) 35 kms north of Tauranga Harbour entrance, is the top dive site of the area. It offers a wide range of dive sites from rolling kelp forest to sheer drop offs and swim-throughs. The visibility is generally outstanding due to the distance from the coast. The northern end is a marine reserve and offers excellent photography and scenic dives, while the rest offers some great hunting grounds.