Mayor Island (Tuhua) is a dormant volcano off the Bay of Plenty coast. It is a sanctuary above and below the water.
Tuhua Marine Reserve lies off the northern end of Mayor Island. It covers about three square nautical miles, including five kilometres of coastline from Tumutu Point east to Turanganui Point. Boating, swimming, diving and snorkelling are all encouraged within the reserve‚ provided they don’t disturb or endanger plants, animals and natural features.
There are many excellent dive sites. Two Fathom Reef, which lies close to the edge of the continental shelf, illustrates the depth related patterns of plant and animal distributions. Schools of pelagic fish species can often be seen.
Within Orongatea Bay there is an extensive shallow water rock platform suitable for snorkelling. Bubbles emitted from a series of underwater hot springs can be seen close to shore.
At the eastern end of the reserve is a sheltered area known as Turanganui or Elephant Bay. The bay is flanked by steep borders of jagged reef, while the beach and shallows are formed of boulders giving way to coarse sand.
More than 60 species of fish are found in the reserve Common species in shallow, rocky areas include black angelfish, leatherjackets, hiwihiwi, marblefish, paketi, banded wrasse and red moki. Two spot demoiselles, sweep and blue maomao occur widely and red mullet or goatfish are common in sandy areas.
Moray eels and stingrays are seen in some areas and schools of koheru, kingfish, trevally an pink maomao often congregate near pinnacles and deeper water drop-offs. Subtropical species sometimes seen include Lord Howe coralfish, long-finned boarfish, clown toado and crimson cleanerfish.
Beyond the reserve, the waters around Tuhua are prized by game fishermen - marlin, mako and swordfish are regularly caught here. Several charter companies run trips to the island for fishing, diving and sightseeing - enquire in Tauranga, Mt Maunganui or Whangamata.