Got up before dawn to get my gear together and catch the dive van picks up. Checked in at the dive shop, checked out gear, and went to buy some lunch at a nearby store. When I got to the boat I found Brenda and Paul are here as well. They were both on the same dive I was out of Paihia (the Rainbow Warrior dive). The hour ride out to the Poor Knights Islands was smooth and beautiful. Both dives were fantastic! This has got to be one of my favorite dive sites ever (only the Red Sea and Madagascar would beat it).
The first dive was at (actually in and around) Riko Riko Cave. Swam out to the point between the cave and The Gardens (next cove over), then back and did a quick circuit inside the cave. The highlights were the novelty of diving in the giant cave (specifically the blue glow from the entrance), the jewel anemones (though not as good as the Rainbow Warrior), an eagle ray, and a free swimming yellow moray eel.
The second dive was even better. The dive boat did a little tour of some of the arches on the north island of the Poor Knights Islands, ending up at the gardens - one cove over from the first dive site. We explored several of the many caves and arches in the cove. The first cave had a bell shaped cross section with the top bit above the surface. It dead ended 10 or 15 meters in. We swam to the end and turned around and sat there for ten minutes just watching the fish swim by backlit by the beautiful blue light of the opening. We entered a couple other caves and looked around some pinnacles and arches. Finished off in a blow hole - plenty of water below the surface, so not too dangerous, but uncomfortable because of the booming pressure changes - it forced your breathing to match the surfs rhythm.
Back on shore decided I wanted to dive again tomorrow. They were booked out, but there was a cancellation and I was able to grab a spot. Brenda (who ended up as my dive buddy) offered me a ride back to Whangarei so I went out with a bunch of the other divers and the dive masters for a few beers and diner. Next thing it was midnight and no one was driving. Our divemaster, Caroline, offered to let me crash in the spare cabin on the boat she lives on. An amazing day of diving, a good diner, and too many beers and I end up on a yacht. Only in New Zealand.