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For café, snorkel hire, school programmes go to  the Octopus Hideaway
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Diving and snorkelling Goat Island
Make your visit to Goat Island unforgettable and snorkel or dive with the
friendly fishes in the Goat Island marine reserve. Visit Seafriends for the
best, safest, cleanest and cheapest gear and for advice from the experts.
If you can't swim at all, you will learn in ten minutes with our safe and floating
5mm unisuits. Let this be the most awesome day in your life. Bring your friends.
Follow the links on this page to prepare your visit.

where - snorkel/dive - hire prices - safety suits - sea conditions - Goat Island - café - aquariums - schools

You don't need to be a confident swimmer to meet the friendly fishes in the water, because a full floating wetsuit protects you and gives you all the safety you need.
Leigh is the closest place to Auckland to do fascinating and memorable dives. (on this page)
It's always beneficial to take in some advice. (on this page)
If you are confident in the water and familiar with mask, snorkel and fins, you have the making of a good snorkeldiver. In just 4 hours of fun and learning you will discover and use abilities within you that you would never have thought existed. Anyone can be a good snorkeller! (on this page)
Let Floor Anthoni teach you the secrets of snorkeldiving without fear, and never forget. (10 pages)
Make sure your school won't miss out on the most talked about school trip: guided snorkelling, rocky shore studies, lecture with aquarium visit and video. An unforgettable experience.
Hiring dive and snorkelgear at Seafriends is convenient and affordable. We have special wetsuits to fit all sizes. Also optically corrected dive masks for short-sighted and long-sighted eyes. (1 page)
We designed our own safety suits to match the sea conditions at Goat Island. Be safe rather than sorry in our full cover 5mm thick safety suits that protect you from cold, drowning, sunburn and stings. And they are affordable too! (2 pages)
There's always a place where you can pitch your tent.  (3 pages)
Visit our very extensive section about Goat Island, its history, the history of the marine reserve, its ecology, biogeography and many tips and special dive sites (80 pages)

Seafriends home -- back to about us -- Rev 20070806,20091018,

Snorkel with the fishes
Much of the area around Goat Island is not deep, so that the marine environment can be observed from the surface loooking down. With protective snorkel gear you will be completely safe to spend a long time in the water and to swim considerable distances while exploring the seascape, caves and more.
Visit Seafriends to hire the perfect gear: Once equipped like this, children can easily outswim their parents, so that family fun can be had by all. So where do you go? Study the large chapter on Goat Island for all the useful information it offers. You will also find annotated maps here.

Most people do not stray far from the beach, reason why many fishes are attracted there. But the water near the beach is usually murky, clearing as you swim further out. The environment also becomes more natural, even if this means fewer fish. Here is some advice:

The currents in the channel are never dangerous but they could be a nuisance during spring tides. Swim close to the rocks for minimum currents. If necessary, use your hands to pull yourself along. Remember that you can get out of the water in many places.
Goat Island forms a barrier to waves and swell and you can usually swim or dive in its shelter. But avoid the white water areas where the water runs swiftly over submerged rocks. Here you could easily be swept into a most uncomfortable situation. Should you need to get out on a rock, take your time and find the most sheltered and accessible spot. Remember that there's always a better spot to be found. Look where the urchins are and where to put your foot. Take one fin off. Let the waves push you up. Put your foot down firmly and stand upright in one motion. Let the waves wash back past you before clambering up the rock. NEVER crawl out of the water on your knees!

Here are some DOs and DON'Ts to help you:

Take time to make sure you have the right amount of lead on your weight belt. Do as follows:

A good snorkel diver does not fight the water or the waves. One goes down effortlessly and balances oneself in the water by blowing excess air out. Here is how you go down with a 'duck-dive':

In order to be able to stay down for a long time: When protected by a warm wetsuit, you will be able to go much further than without. Most people stay in the water for about one hour, but wetsuits and hoods allow you much more time, like 4 hours. When conditions are right, and if you are a good swimmer, you will be able to swim around Goat Island. A fast swim takes 50 minutes and snorkelling about 2 hours. On the far side, one finds deep caves and steep drop-offs. But remember that it is a two hour swim and that the furthest point is only one third of the total distance. Above all, let people know about your plan.
Goat Island beach by low tide
f015803: the Goat Island beach at low tide looks wide, but at spring high tide, disappears almost completely. It is easy to go in the water from here, but there are two other good places, further to the right, past the rocks.
aerial view of Goat Island marine reserve
f992323: aerial view of the most interesting snorkelling area at the most sheltered end of Goat Island. roughly between the island and the beach is Shag Rock and the kelp area around it, which are always interesting.
large snapper, blue maomao and trevally
f010221: large snapper, blue maomao and trevally await the snorkeldiver, even close to the beach.
blue maomao and trevally with a snorkel diver
f022121: a school of blue maomao and trevally investigating a young snorkeldiver.

Diving around Leigh
Leigh is not only the nearest place to Auckland with clear water but it also offers some of the most exciting dives in New Zealand or even in the world. The Goat Island Marine Reserve is the only place in New Zealand where one can dive in a typical New Zealand coastal seascape and meet shy snapper at touching distance; observe common coastal fishes from nearby; count dozens of mature crayfish in one cave; see NZ's past and future in a single dive.

The marine reserve opens our eyes to the past by showing what immense bounty our shores used to have. But the dense plankton blooms of 91-94 have destroyed much of this rich underwater life, which afterwards recovered slowly. Although these plankton blooms cycle with the El Niño weather pattern, it is likely that they will become worse with time. See what the future holds in store: The kelp bed disappeared deeper than 10m but bounced back and expanded; many fish stocks have been depleted, such as blue maomao, trevally, demoiselle, jack mackerel, koheru, kahawai, spotty and even snapper, but those who remain are friendly. Most sponges and seasquirts have disappeared. Vertical rock walls now look barren, lacking the dense cover of anemones, bryozoa and hydroids they once had. See also how the seascape is recovering: there are big snapper awaiting you in the Goat Island Channel as well as schools of blue maomao and other locals.

It is safe diving from Goat Island beach but you will be able to dive only the sheltered shallow underwater community. For the legendary crayfish and pelagic fish, you will need a boat and dive North Reef, Tabletop Rock or Floor's Reef. The dented coastline offers many alternative dive spots to suit the weather and waves. Experienced divers can dive the world-famous caves under Leigh Reef. A guide and powerful lights are recommended. This dangerous dive can only be done by experienced divers in small groups.

Several dives can be made without a boat: The Whangateau Estuary can be dived from Ti Point Wharf at high tide. Here one can marvel at 6m high flexible weed 'trees' with countless baby fish and mature parore; schools of jack mackerel, yellow-eyed mullet and trevally. Interesting dives can be made in and outside Matheson's Bay to search for well-camouflaged life. The sheltered reefs around Leigh Harbour can be dived from the rock shelves at its entrance.

f030211: a diver and a large snapper in the Goat Island marine reserve.
f035736: you may even see the 40-year old snapper 'Monkeyface'


Tips for diving
Goat Island is entirely safe for diving because it is not deep, has many sheltered places and does not have very strong tidal currents. However, a number of precautions must be taken:

A special snorkel course
Form a small group and enjoy our snorkel course. You will discover skills you never thought you had, skills that enhance your enjoyment of the sea for the rest of your life. And it is fun. You will be snorkelling in the nicest spots around Leigh, visiting seascapes you could never have dreamt of.

Dr Floor Anthoni has developed a new snorkelling method aimed at the recreational skindiver rather than the spearfisher and hunter. You will learn to overcome inborn and natural fears and you will discover how your body reacts when you stop breathing. You will learn how to hold your breath and how to hold it longer. You will learn how to preserve energy and eventually you will be able to stay down for a minute or more. You will learn a number of tricks that make snorkeldiving so much more enjoyable and you will have ample opportunity to rehearse these and to train yourself. Read more about advanced snorkelling without fear.

In the meantime you will be able to observe a vast variety of fish from the mangrove habitat to the exposed reef. You will also be able to feed the fish and with your newly acquired techniques, enjoy this better.

Our new technique gives surprising results but you must be confident in the water, although you don't need to be a good swimmer. You must be happy with a mask on your face while breathing through a snorkel, but this is acquired easily. You must also be able to compensate your ears by closing your nose and 'sneezing' lightly. This makes your ears go 'click'. Only then will you be able to go down deeper than 2 metres. You need to have a thick wetsuit in order to stay warm and a weightbelt, mask, snorkel and fins but all equipment can be hired from SEAFRIENDS.

Book now but allow for weather conditions.

Ph 094226212, SEAFRIENDS, Goat Island Road, Leigh R.D.5, Northland.