Barney’s Rock is most definitely my favourite shore dive around the Kaikōura peninsula. For those who do not know, Barney's rock is 10km south of the peninsula and is located in the Hikurangi reserve. The reserve has over 10,000 hectares of water covering the canyon that comes into a close connection with the land. With how rich in nutrients the canyon are, the reserve helps supplement an abundance of marine life. From seabirds to seals you can experience plenty of close encounters in this reserve. It is fantastic. The rock is not hard to miss. You can notice it driving down the highway or see it off in the distance on top of the peninsula. However, getting ideal conditions to dive there is quite rare. Less than half a metre swell and good visibility makes for a fantastic day of diving. Anything else and you might find yourself getting kicked around in the channels. There is so much there you want that visibility so you do not miss anything. To familiarise you with the site and the dive itself I will outline the dive. The first part of the dive is the casual 20 minute surface swim out to about 5 metres from the eastern face of the rock. Usually there are seals playing around in the water. Once the swim is complete you descend down in front of the face into about 5-7 metres of depth. The ocean bottom here is covered in rocks and kelp. This can grow here easier because the rock somewhat shelters it from the open oceans swell. This is where you will encounter seals and octopus and, of course, fish. Heading north, you keep the face of the rock on your right hand side and head to complete a full loop of the entire rock. On the northern face you descend through some nice channels to about 16-18 metres. You will notice the kelp slowly become less and less until you are on a sandy bottom, the rock face on your right and the open ocean to your left. Here, look into all the cracks and holes there are crayfish just everywhere! Coming around the south face of the rock you want to start your ascent as you come into the channel between the rocks. Here, look at the rock face and notice that it is covered in anemones. Please be aware of your air before this point. I know of plenty who do not make it around the rock entirely without consuming the majority of it. If you do make it to the southern face you can ascend to make your safety stop as you make your way back to the eastern face. It is a great dive! I would recommend it for all intermediate divers that come through to Kaikōura. Make sure you plan for 40 minutes total surface swim time and 45-60 minutes of diving.
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