Every once in a while you stumble across a little piece of heaven. A place that is humble in size, and on the surface looks simply divine, but it’s not until you break the surface that the magic really begins. The place I’m writing about isn’t for everyone, in fact some will find it impossible due to medical reasons or maybe even a phobia, will allow only half of the magic to be experienced.
The name of this location will mean forgetting it, will be near impossible, and in no way reflects the location. Goat Island.
Tucked away only minutes from the small town of Leigh, approximately 1hr and 10minutes driving up the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand, you come across a small town known as the “Snapper Capital of New Zealand”. Leigh has a population of just 300 people, not including the students studying at Auckland University’s Marine laboratory.
My first time at Goat Island was while I participated in my PADI Open Water Diving course. The addiction to explore the underwater world is partly because of the intensely abundant sea life just inches below the sparkling water lapping the coast and shores of Goat island.
During peak times; school holidays and weekends, the car park can sometimes be a game of cat and mouse, and see’s the grassy road embankments used as an overflow. Children are safe directly in front of the island as there are no currents, and being a marine reserve, taking of sea life from the ocean is strictly prohibited. Local shops sell fish food in the form of pellets that you can hand feed to the fish. Cray fish the size of small monkeys pop their heads out of they’re holes to say hi, spotted sea slugs, moray eels and angel fish glide throughout the shallow reefs.
Snorkelling is by far the most popular activity here, however for a real experience, slap a tank on your back and spend 45mins sitting on the bottom and marvel as you’re completely surrounded by schools of a variety of fish species.
The Goat Island experience is completely free. Pack a lunch, bring a sun umbrella, and make sure your mask and snorkel are in order and enjoy yet another of New Zealand’s unique experiences.