Friday, March 11, 2011

Travel Photo of the Day: Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove), New Zealand

After arriving in Auckland, New Zealand in March 2004, I was almost at the end of a four month trek through Asia and the Pacific and needed to decide between visiting the North or South Islands. After much debate, I chose the North Island since I would be able to cover more ground and was very interested in visiting the amazing geological and marine sites there. Whitianga, the main settlement of Mercury Bay situated on the Coromandel Peninsula, seemed like the perfect jumping off point. Although small, with a population of less than 4,000, the town offers a wide range of activities: water sports, skydiving, animal parks, golf, whale watching, diving, snorkeling and kayaking tours.

I opted for a full-day kayaking tour to Te Whanganui-A-Hei (aka Cathedral Cove), a marine reserve covering nine square kilometers (3.5 square miles) and home to crayfish, snapper, coral reefs, mollusks, blue cod, black angel fish, kelp forests, sponge gardens and anemones. In season, breaching whales and dolphins can also often be seen. Although the cove can only be reached by foot or by boat, it is so popular that it nonetheless receives over 150,000 visitors a year.

After kayaking out to the cove and stopping for a Kiwi-style cappucino break on the beach, our group paddled on to Hot Water Beach, which gets its name from thermal springs located beneath the sand. Our guide showed us where to dig a hole in the sand, which immediately filled with hot water, creating a kind of natural jacuzzi, the perfect way to relax after a long day of kayaking!       

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