This magnificent bay of 50 islands and innumerable reefs is home to a multitude of marine life including common and bottlenose dolphins, stingrays, manta rays, octopus, moray eels and many fish species.
The Bay has a huge variety of undersea features such as deep canyons, large kelp forests, volcanic reefs, caves and pinnacles. And it is all very accessible. Dive shops in Paihia and Kerikeri can book you on charter trips to the top scuba diving spots listed below.
An area of spectacular volcanic rock formations. Black Rocks, Lion Rock, The Needles and Cape Wiwiki offer countless caves, tunnels, canyons, caves, guts and drop-offs to explore in visibility that varies from 5-30m.
This striking headland includes the famous Hole in the Rock tunnel, Cathedral Cave on Piercy Island and the dramatic Deepwater Cove. Kingfish, kahawai, trevally, and maomao cruise the sheer rock faces, which plunge to 37m in places. Tropical species like flying fish, sunfish, marlin and mako sharks can be seen in summer. Bird Rock is a top spot for sighting large pelagic fish like marlin and sharks but fast currents can be a problem.
Red Head Island, 13km from Russell has good diving in deep channels with rugged outcrops alive with reef fish and often crayfish (lobsters). Hope Reef (2-30m) often has clear water and prolific marine life. White Reef, just one hour by boat from Paihia has lovely marine life, good visibility where the depth ranges from 2-25m and is ideal for both snorkelling and scuba diving. Urupukapuka Island has some superb sheltered leads and passages for both diving and snorkelling. Camping is permitted on the island. Dolphins can sometimes be seen frolicking off the east coast of Urupukapuka.
On the north west side of the Bay is an interesting 10m deep lagoon, which offers marvellous snorkelling. The seaward cliffs descend to 22m revealing caves packed with baitfish darting in and out of the openings. Expect occasional visits from predators such as kingfish, kahawai and snapper.