Marlborough Sounds are so full of marine life, and even writing this a couple months later has been some of the best diving (scuba and free diving) we have encountered in New Zealand. On a bike ride one day we happened upon the Waikawa Dive Centre just outside Picton. They had a sale going on, and as Oli had been aching to do more diving, we ended up splurging on some 7mm wetsuits. The sea back in October was about 10-11 degrees celsius, or 50-51 degrees Fahrenheit.
After spending quite a bit of time in the shop and purchasing all the equipment we needed for free diving, we made friends with the dive shop owner Stewart, and began making plans for some scuba diving adventures. We had only planned on staying in Picton for two nights but ended up staying over a week to do some diving with our new friends. Stewart was an absolute gem and really took care of us like family!
Our first dive we went for a sunset dip. It was our first dive since Mexico about a year ago, and faffing with the thick suits and cap took some getting used to but Oli spotted an octopus and the sunset was beautiful. We lost light fairly fast, but it felt so good to be back in the water and were we clearly happy campers. We ended the night with a glass of wine, a sushi feast, and even tried some raw sea urchin which I loved!
We had some a wonderful time we quickly made more plans to dive a wreck with Stewart. It was a beautiful day, but being still spring the day had a bite. The ship wreck was awesome and full of life! Stewart let us borrow some lights, and you could see the vibrant purples and reds that the green water washes out. We took some awesome photos on the wreck and pretended we were on the titanic and carried on to feed some fish in the marine reserve. Being a marine reserve means you can’t fish there, which was heartbreaking because the blue cod were massive! I was freezing by the end but we warmed up with lunch at Lochmara Lodge to thank Stewart for such a lovely couple of days spent in the water.
After recovering for a day, our Airbnb hosts offered to take us fishing and Pāua (abalone) free diving on their boat, and without hesitation we joined them for some fun on the water. After a slow start, we caught a few fish, found a fantastic Pāua garden in the shallow coastal waters of the sounds, and even caught a shag that tried to steal our fish. He wasn’t hurt, but he was freaked out enough that he did not come back. We ended the night with a fish fry and frying up some Pāua to try for the first time.
Our fantastic time in Picton is 100% owed to the incredible people we met who opened their homes, their boats, their scuba gear, and their fishing gear to us. Even months later, I look back on Picton as one of my favorite stops we have had. ❤