Winter. Is. Here.
Any diver dreads these 3 words, especially if you live in a colder climate. New Zealand, although lovely and warm in the summer, is generally pretty miserable and cold in the winter. With endless days of rain and wind it can be pretty unmotivating to get out and go for a dive. Most days it's much more comfortable to sit inside and re-watch videos of your favorite tropical destinations and wish you were there. I do it all the time, I dread winter so much that for the past couple of years i've been escaping to the tropics to swim with whales, leaving the miserable, cold, windy, rainy days behind! But not this year, no, as most of you know, 2020 has been a very different year for the majority of us: no travelling, no whales, no warm water. For me that means a full four months of winter. Just the thought of that makes me shiver, or is that just the 10 degree temperature today? Nope, cold water diving doesn't sound very appealing at all...or does it?
Believe it or not, winter can be a great time of year to dive, but I totally understand it can be difficult to motivate yourself. So, i'm going to tell you why you should rug up warm, grab your wet suit, crank up the car heater and head off on a winter diving adventure. I'll even throw in a few of my "Hot Tips" to ensure you have the best winter dive ever!
Here in New Zealand, summer time is when plankton blooms. Although the water is warm, the visibility can be absolutely terrible, but in winter it's completely different. When it's not pouring down with rain and blowing a gale, the lack of plankton means the water can be crystal clear for weeks on end, you just have to be motivated enough to get out and find that cold clear water!!
It's less crowded
My favourite photo shooting spot is pretty popular in the summer months, Goat island (read about it here) can get incredibly busy during the summer, and with so many people in the water, fish life becomes scarce. In winter, however, more often than not, I get the whole bay full of fish all to myself. Winter can make for some pretty peaceful and tranquil dives, and as a bonus the light can be fantastic for photography.
Seals: Need I say more? Who doesn’t wanna dive with seals?! From my experience, winter is the best time to see them in Auckland. In fact, just last week I had an encounter with 6 of them! They're like huge puppies. Depending on where you dive, you may have sea life that is more abundant in winter - the perfect reason to head out in the cold to explore.
Dolphins: Again, who doesn't wanna dive with dolphins? I have had my best dolphin encounters in the middle of winter, just me, a friendly bunch of bottle nose and torrential rain. I couldn't think of anything better.
Anemones: Winter in NZ is a pretty special time if you're an anemone fan. For just a few nights of the year there is a special location in northern New Zealand where you can watch the anemones spawn, just like on those old BBC documentaries narrated by everyone's favorite TV star David Attenborough. It's a winter night spectacle, well worth braving the cold water for.
Winter forces you to explore
At times, the ocean can become undiveable for weeks on end. Freshwater anyone? Lakes, rivers, streams and estuaries can all be brilliant alternative dive sites in the winter. When you just need to get out for a dive and blow the cobwebs out, go out and explore your local waterways.