ianskipworth.com > Skip's Underwater Image Gallery > Doubtful Sound Fiordland 2004 - The Gut


The Gut

Of all the dives I've done The Gut rates as one of the best. Under favourable conditions it's easily as good as anything at the Poor Knights.

Let's just call it New Zealand's best dive.

The current always seems to run out towards the coast and it's because of this current that the marine life in the area is so prolific. It's often strong but on that perfect dive, it's barely noticeable and you can hang motionless in the prettiest of underwater gardens.

On a sunny day make this your second dive so you hit it late in the morning. By this time the sun has emerged from behind the mountains and the otherwise gloomy depths are bathed in beautiful sunlight.

As with any dive in current, don't piss around on the surface. Jump in from the boat tied to the mooring line and head straight down. Don't try to fight the current but keep close to the reef and follow it down to the white sandy bottom which starts at about 20m.

Keep swimming out across the sand and at 27m or so a few sea pens will start to appear. Bring a torch and have good look at them.

After viewing the sea pens, keep swimming out across the sand and at about 35m a reef should appear ahead of you or slightly to your left. If you can't see it at 35m you need to turn to the left. Otherwise, nitrogen junkies will find sand all the way to 60m and beyond. Save your N2 hit for one of Fiordland's endless walls because the reef is not to be missed.

It's here that you find the mother lode of Fiordland's exquisite red coral, Errina novaezelandiae. There's lots of it in good condition but also plenty of evidence of broken stuff. The red coral is mixed with white corals and beautiful yellow zoanthids. Underwater photographers are advised to stay close to edge of the reef where it's possible to rest on the sand and get good shots of the coral mixed with zoanthinds.

Unfortunately, you're now about 15 minutes into the dive and approaching no decompression limits.

Before you depart the deeper red coral reef,
duck back down onto the sand to your left and check out the dense field of sea pens in the little sandy bottomed gut between the deep reef and the island.

Go with the current while ascending to shallower depths and scan for a few last hands of red coral at 18m.

At 12 to 15m there's time to hang in the beautiful gardens and check out the rich encrusting life. If the current is strong get in behind some of the bigger boulders while you let the nitrogen ooze out. Eyeball the grandaddy crays who seem to know they've found safe refuge in this little marine reserve and walk out of their holes to inspect you like curious cats.

Continuing to drift with the current, you'll still find plenty of pretty stuff in 10 metres and less where the current has eased considerably. It's a very relaxing end to a beautiful dive and although the water's chilly, you may have been under for over an hour before its time to surface.

Please maintain good buoyancy control at all times and be very careful with your finning. The red corals in particular are incredibly fragile and we're very lucky to be seeing them. The reality is that even the most careful divers cause some damage and if this site was more heavily dived, most of the red coral would have been smashed years ago.


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