The Upside down
If you’ve ever watched the netflix serie “Strangers Things” you will recognize the term “The upside Down”. In this series a couple of young boys discover this parallel world. A mirror image or copy of the world we know, but than (in this series), dark and scary. Their friend Will has opened up a portal, was visited by a monster from the underworld and is now lost in that world.
For me, diving is like opening a portal to a different world as well. But then a positive and beautiful other dimension.
The first time I really experienced that was in Sipadan, Malaysia. A fantastic dive spot between Malaysian Borneo and the Filippines. As we were heading out to the reef by boat we encountered a huge school of Barracuda. I was snoozing on the boat and hadn’t been paying attention to where we were and thought we were still out in the open and deeper ocean. The driver called out we could jump in straight away to have a look. And while looking at the enormous school of fish I turned around and all of a sudden… Boom… I saw a gigantic coral area. Reefs everywhere, fish, colours, life everywhere. And as I came up again and looked in the same direction on the surface, there was nothing. Maybe a seagull or two. But it was a completely separate world under the surface. And I realised just how lucky we are as divers that we have created a way for us to be part of that beautiful different world, even if it’s for a limited amount of time.
The Poor Knights
Recently I had a fantastic Upside Down Experience here in New Zealand. The Poor Knights. A bit of side information. When you’re in New Zealand and talk about diving to a Kiwi there’s a good chance you will hear the term “Poor Knights” in that conversation. Maybe even in combination with the name “Jacques Cousteau” The Poor Knights is a group of Islands off the coast from Tutukaka, Northland. The area is a marine reserve that has been protected for decades now and next to that it’s in a spot where a cold and a warm water stream meet, making it an extremely furtile area, teeming with life. And great visibility! Severl factors that make it a beautiful and astonishing place. And rated by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top ten dive spots in the world.
So I was very excited to join Auckland Scuba Dive on a trip to this Island Group. After maybe 20 minutes on the boat heading out to our destination I started to see a few specs of land or rock in the distance, being the Poor Knights. And I felt the adrenaline coming up. There it was. The place I had heard so much about. No pressure…
As we dropped the anchor next to the island I looked up to the high, steep cliffs that come straight out of the ocean and was struck by that “Upside Down” feeling again. Beautiful, but rocky and somewhat empty cliffs meeting the surface of the ocean under which……..I couldn’t wait.
As we were preparing to get in we saw a few seals playing and swimming around so I was hoping they would stick around. And then me and my buddy plunged in. And there it was… The upside down, glooming in the deep about 20 metres below us. And I immediately understood every bit of excitement I had felt in every conversation I had had about this place . Life everywhere. Schools of big fish, small fish of all sorts, beautifully bright coloured seaweed, red, yellow, green, orange, spunges, corals, anemones. Moray eels, scorpion fish, nudibranches. It was all there. Next to some beautiful caves you can swim into as well. They say the ocean reefs have a higher density and variety of life than the tropical rainforest. That is not hard to believe when you dive at places like the Poor Knights.
The destination totally lived up to every expectation I had and made me wonder why it hadn’t been called “The Rich Knights” It made me want to come back again and again. In fact, my next visit with Auckland Scuba Dive is planned already. I want to be Upside Down!!
And the seal? Yep, it waited for us to come and play. It swam with us. It showed off. It was fantastic!
Aart Jan van Dijk
For an impression of the dive trip.