While Rotorua is more famously known for its geothermal wonders, Maori culture, and beautiful landscapes, it also presents unique freshwater diving opportunities that are quite different from your typical oceanic experience. The area's clear lakes, formed from ancient volcanic craters, offer a serene environment to explore submerged forests, geothermal vents, and a surprising amount of freshwater marine life.
Best Scuba Diving Spots for Experienced Divers
Lake Rotomahana: This lake is historically significant due to the Pink and White Terraces that were submerged after the Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886. Experienced divers can explore the remnants and experience the warm waters from geothermal vents.
Lake Tarawera: With its sunken forests and submerged lava flows, this lake provides an eerie yet fascinating dive environment. The water clarity is exceptional, making it a photographer's paradise.
Best Scuba Diving Spots for Beginners
Lake Rotoiti: This is a great spot for novice divers. The calm waters and several accessible dive sites allow beginners to experience freshwater diving without venturing too deep. There are several underwater caves and tunnels to explore at depths suitable for those new to the sport.
Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake): Another ideal site for beginners, this lake boasts crystal clear waters and is often used for dive training because of its calm conditions and good visibility.
Though Rotorua's lakes don't have the colorful coral reefs of the ocean, they are home to unique freshwater marine life. Divers can encounter freshwater crayfish (koura), various species of eels, and a multitude of native fish species. The underwater geothermal activity also attracts certain algae and microorganisms, creating a distinct underwater ecosystem.
Rotorua's freshwater lakes tend to have cooler temperatures, ranging from 10°C (50°F) in winter to around 20°C (68°F) in summer. Visibility in these volcanic lakes is often impressive, sometimes exceeding 20 meters. Due to the cooler conditions, a 7mm wetsuit or a drysuit is recommended.
Diving in Rotorua is generally affordable, with guided freshwater dive tours ranging from NZD 150-250. Equipment rental, if needed, might add another NZD 40-90 to the cost. Those looking to get certified in freshwater diving can find courses priced around NZD 500-800, depending on the specific dive shop.
To conclude, Rotorua offers a unique and tranquil freshwater diving experience. It's an excellent opportunity for divers to step away from the saltwater norm and delve into the serene, clear waters of ancient volcanic lakes.