The Cavalli Islands are a slice of subtropical paradise and a platform from which to plunge into the treasures of New Zealand's Far North. The terrain is volcanic so diving in the Cavalli Islands is filled with swim-throughs, tunnels and caves.
Between the Cavalli Islands and Matauri Bay lies the Northland's famous wreck: Rainbow Warrior. This scuttled Greenpeace ship is an artificial reef covered in coral - an unmissable wreck dive filled with jewel anemones, eels, monster crayfish and John Dory.
Waters in the Far North attract the world's largest stingrays. Northern scorpionfish are huge compared to tropical ones - plus they don't have the deadly sting. It's not uncommon for a pod of dolphin to put on a display as you cruise back to the mainland after diving the Cavalli Islands.
The best time to dive in the Cavalli Islands is from February through June when the water is at its warmest and currents are mild - but the stunning reefs and Rainbow Warrior wreck can be dived year-round.
Divers will want at least 5mm of exposure protection for the summer when the water temperature is around 71°F/22°C - keen divers will be tempted to discover what the Cavalli Islands have to offer at night - juvenile packhorse crayfish roam free unafraid of their sleeping predators and playful squid cruise past. Winter's 59°F/15°C water calls for at least 7mm and a hood.
Visibility is consistent through all seasons (up to 10m) and heaps of scorpionfish, octopus and rays parade around all year making diving in the Cavalli Islands a firm favourite.
The Cavalli Islands are a small group of islands located off the east coast of New Zealand's Northland (on the North Island). Accessing the islands from the mainland is easy - you can paddle to the islands by kayak on a good day.
For diving the Cavalli Islands, the best and most connected airport to arrive into is Auckland. From there, rent a car and hop straight onto the SH1 (one of New Zealand's main highways). Head north for 3h before switching to SH10 for the last 40m of the journey. This will get you to Matauria Bay - the closest departure point for dive boats going to the Cavalli Islands.
Whangaroa Harbour is another option: boats head out of this stunning inlet daily to the Cavalli Islands, just 20 minutes away. The hike up the Duke's Nose should be mandatory for all who visit.
Captain James Cook named these group of islands on his first voyage to New Zealand in 1769- diving the Cavalli Islands is a special and historical treasure waiting to be explored.