|Rotoroa Snorkel Day Trip Report
Saturday 28th of November 2020
Images from the day
I will start this with a question – how do you get a bunch of diverse individuals from all over Auckland to get out of bed on an early Saturday morning and meet at 7.30am on the loading dock of the ferry terminal ? Easily – the promise of an epic day out exploring the Hauraki Gulf and sharing the fascinating underwater world with like minded souls (or those that want to become like minded souls) made everyone appear motivated and bubbly at the EMR trailer for an early morning workout session.
The current roadworks around meant our first challenge of the day was a little morning cardio (and weight workout) as all the gear had to be moved from the trailer down to Pier 4 – Sophie and her team had made sure everything was nicely (and rodent proof) packed so really all we had to do is get some human power to move it all across. This first adventure of the day involved some of the following activities: expertly talking the Fullers crew into letting us borrow some luggage trolleys (hats off for that, Sophie), navigating around fellow ferry searching humans, making sure nothing drop offs the trailer and carrying a bunch of individual items over to Pier 4. There might have been the accidentally use of a megaphone alarm button – ooops so if we hadn’t already managed to get people’s attention as to what we are doing now we made sure everyone was aware we are on our way with kayaks, snorkel equipment and many helping hands 😊
Once we and all our kit were at Pier 4 we made sure that all personal kit was pest proof, shoes were brushed clean and we have everything and everyone together. Participants got checked in, Sophie had the biggest ticket pile of ferry tickets I have seen so far and once the Fullers crew gave us the all clear we were allowed to board the ferry – and so the packing (and stacking of gear) started again – we managed to fit everything surprisingly well onto the ferry and got everyone on board. After a brief safety instruction from the crew we were on our way – and quickly discovered that it was good to have our gear safely stored in waterproof bags – at least most of it - as there was a fair bit of ocean spray going in -she was a windy day. Teschna and Sophie did a quick volunteer briefing on the boat and then we started our scenic boat ride across to Rotoroa Island.
After about an hour we reached the island and what a beautiful sight it was – the pohutukawa trees were blooming, the water was a beautiful blue and the sun was out - only the wind was a bit on the stronger side so the DOC rangers that look after the island and it’s wildlife got everyone into the local shelter to introduce the island. We volunteers went about unloading the boat and were very grateful to be able to use the local truck plus driver to move the gear down to Ladies’ Bay – our snorkel destination for the day.
Rotoroa Island was closed off for the public for over 100 years and was home to New Zealand’s first addiction treatment centre so there are still lots of historical buildings and exhibitions to explore – this was not our mission for the day however but rest assured that this writer will head back another time to learn more. Some of the local birdlife could also be heard and spotted and one of our first instructions once on site was to make sure that we don’t disturb the protected dotterels, that were nesting along the beach.
We set up the EMR tent and started getting all the gear ready – a quick shock moment when one of the boxes with masks was nowhere to be found – until the lovely local ranger appeared and delivered it from the wharf – phew!
We got out own snorkel safety briefing and then we finally started what we came for – we started guiding our snorkel groups. A lovely reef only a brief swim from the shoreline provided shelter for a variety of marine creatures - I think the most frequently spotted fish of the day would be – no pun intended – the spotty. But we also saw goatfish, triple fins, kina and there was one lucky group who found an eagle ray – yay!
Lots of questions were asked by participants and the boogie boards provided with the fish charts helped us figuring out which sea life we had just encountered. On the break between snorkels we did get fed well with a yummy vegetarian lunch and brownies, watched gannets go about their hunting business and see the local oystercatchers looking for food and company. After three rounds of snorkelling it was time to pack up again and everyone chipped in - all the gear had to get back to the main wharf (thanks for the truck again!) and we all made our way slowly back – not without getting some ice cream and/or souvenir post cards from the local island shop and a quick chat to the lovely people from the exhibition centre.
On the way back we encountered a new challenge – there was a lot more gear on the ferry than on the way to Rotoroa – so we quickly developed new skills and talent in stacking our equipment in a smaller space.
After a long and successfully day we made it back to Downtown Auckland and got everything back to the trailer.
It was a great day had by all – participants and volunteers and for me a great introduction to volunteering for EMR.
-- Written by Anne Baum