So, we have had our mid-winter trip and this year the club night consensus was to head out to the Alderman Islands and hopefully dive the Honeycomb Caves. Our last two trips to the Alderman Islands had weather that was definitely not conducive to diving the caves but this time we had good luck and got out on a beautiful sunny day with crystal clear water.
For a dive trip in the middle of winter I was surprised to see we had a full boat but considering the amount of times Sam Jupe and myself had raved to customers about the fantastic diving in this group of Islands I guess we should have expected it. Some of the dive sites here rate amongst my personal top 10 worldwide, and the Honeycomb caves would have to be near the top of that list!
We headed out of Tairua at an early hour so we could beat the strong outgoing tide on the return journey. The day started off beautifully, with glassy water and just a wisp or two of cloud in the sky. By the time we had loaded up and made our way out to the islands the Sun was out and hinting at an unseasonably warm day. Once we got out to the caves the water was like a millpond except for a gentle swell. We anchored 50m off one of the entrances and there was the usual rush to be the first in the water.
I had taken my dry suit but really needn’t have bothered. The water was a balmy 16 degrees and the lack of wind chill or cloud meant a wetsuit was more than ample. Sam and his advanced student divers got in first followed by the rest of the divers, then it was the turn of my buddy team and I.
Wow! Sometimes you can forget what a joy it is to dive in winter but a dive like this brings it right back. The visibility was 25 – 30m and one of the first things I saw when I headed for the wall was a huge stingray gliding by. For one diver who had yet to see one this brought an immediate grin around the mouthpiece and a high five. The light play once we got inside the caves was incredible and the amounts of fish at the mouth of the caverns had even the experienced divers clicking away like mad with their cameras.
We did a leisurely tour through the various passages taking plenty of time to explore and check out the marine life before exiting at the far side of the point and following the wall back to our starting spot.
Back on the boat we basked in the sun and ate lunch as our skipper motored over to the Rock Gardens another fantastic dive site that catered to every level of diving. The crayfish enthusiasts spent the majority of their dive right up in the shallows and most came back happy. My group spent this dive around the 16m mark swimming around the reefs and boulders and, if it were possible, there were even more fish than the first dive! sandager’s wrasse, blue maomao, snapper, moray eels, conger eels and crayfish in the cracks and loads of nudibranches. Once again my dive buddies were blown away by the variety and colour of the marine life and once back on board the talk was about who had seen what and how soon they could plan a return trip.
All in all, this was a fantastic trip and everyone who went is now promoting the benefits of diving the Alderman Islands in winter!