Snorkelling and Shark Diving in New Zealand

shark diving in new zealand

New Zealand is full of world-famous attractions such as the Lord of the Rings filming locations and the stunning thermal activity in the North island, but many visitors to the country remain unaware of some of the best experiences on offer: Snorkelling and Shark Diving.

Read on learn about the best diving locations in the country, where to spot the varied exotic native marine life, and the best time of year to visit New Zealand for a shark cage experience.

The Best Places to Go Snorkelling in New Zealand

Visitors to New Zealand’s North Island have a number of options to go snorkeling in Auckland or Wellington. However, the best places to go snorkeling or scuba diving are really in the country’s numerous marine reserves, including:

  • Goat Island – Located just an hour’s drive north of Auckland, Goat Island is New Zealand’s first-designated marine reserve and is commonly ranked as it one of the best places to snorkel in the country for beginners and advanced divers alike. Snorkel tourists to Goat Island can expect to see a wide variety of marine life in the waters, including king fish, snappers, stingrays, and even dolphins and seals. A number of glass bottom boat tours also operate around the area, allowing those who prefer not to get their feet wet to take in the incredible marine life.
  • Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve – One of the best places to go snorkeling in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands,Poor Knight Island Marine Reserve is located just 30 minutes off the coast of the North Island from the town of Whangarei. One of the best places to experience the country’s incredible coral fields and the fish which call them home, the reserve is also home to the Riko Riko Cave, the biggest sea cave in New Zealand.
  • Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve – One of the best places to go snorkeling on the Coromandel Penninsula north of Auckland, this marine reserve includes Cathedral Cove and Gemstone bay, perfect for spotting a huge range of native fish species from under the water. Film buffs will also recognize the stunning beach and rock archway as a key location in Prince Caspain, one of the Narnia films.

Those who wish to go Snorkeling in New Zealand’s South Island also have a number of options, including guided diving tours departing from two of the major cities, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Where to Go Swimming with Sharks in New Zealand

Travelers who want to add a little bit of extra experience to their diving experiences in New Zealand have the option to get up close and personal with some of the more exotic marine life in the waters surrounding the country: sharks.

Although there are only a limited number of operators which provide this service in the country, shark cage diving is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in the New Zealand.

The most common location to go shark diving in New Zealand is in the north island. Shark cage diving in Auckland is incredibly popular at the iconic Kelly Tarltons Aquarium, which promises a safe yet exciting experience to visitors.

All snorkeling equipment and wetsuits are provided, and the experience includes a comprehensive training session from experienced guides.

Another popular location in the country to go shark diving is in Bluff, off the South Island of New Zealand. A shark dive from Bluff allows travelers to explore the Foveaux Strait and Titi Islands off the South Island’s coast and come face to face with a great white shark from behind the safety of their submerged cage.

The best time of year to go Shark diving in New Zealand is during ‘shark season’ from December to June.

Types of Shark You Can See in New Zealand

Alongside Australia, California, South Africa, and Japan, New Zeland is a global hotspot for spotting great white sharks in the waters off the coast, as they are a protected species in the country.

However, an additional 72 species of shark can be found in New Zealand, ranging from the small pygmy shark to the enormous giant whale shark.

Visitors who choose to go shark spotting at Kelly Tarltons can see a number of these species while at the aquarium, including:

  • Broadnose sevengill sharks
  • Carpet sharks
  • Sand tiger sharks
  • School sharks
  • Wobbegong sharks

Is Shark Cage Diving Safe?

Shark cage diving is not illegal in New Zealand is considered perfectly safe if conducted by an authorized operator.

In 2019, the Supreme Court of New Zealand officially ruled that the activity was safe and gave permission for the sole outdoor operator in Bluff to continue its operations.