Dive Tatapouri is the perfect destination for your next school trip or educational tour. Here you’ll learn about the penguins, sharks, dolphins, stingrays, fish and other sea creatures encountered at Dive Tatapouri in Gisborne, New Zealand.
This is the smallest penguin in the world, growing up to just 25 cm tall and weighing up to 1 kg. These small penguins visit Dive Tatapouri during their mating season and can be seen as night is falling coming and going to the sea to feed their chicks. Cats, dogs and rats are their main predators at Tatapouri Bay and a project to protect the Little Blue Penguin is being developed to increase their chances in our waters.
Māori name: Mako
Mako sharks are also called “mackerel sharks” and are part of the Lamnidae family. They are a deep blue colour on their back and sides and white underneath. Makos are also the fastest kind of shark, swimming as fast as 48 kph (30 mph), and use this speed to catch their fast-swimming prey. Mako sharks are considered dangerous and have been known to attack swimmers and boats. At birth, pups are about 28 inches long. Makos are ovoviviparous, which means the female produces eggs, but they remain inside her where the pup is nourished by the yolk (the shell is just a thin membrane, which is shed). Now, here’s the cool part. As the pups mature inside the female, they get extra nourishment by eating the other eggs or pups inside. Yes, really! That is called “intrauterine cannibalism”.
Māori name: Mango pounamu or Poutini
The Blue Shark is one of the most widespread shark species in the world. In New Zealand, blue sharks are likely to belong to a single, large, wide-ranging stock probably comprising the entire South Pacific, and possibly the North Pacific and Indian Oceans. Studies show that blue sharks grow quickly initially, reaching about 200 cm TL within five years of birth. Age at maturity is about 4–6 years for males and 5–7 years for females. The oldest blue shark aged was 16 years, and a shark that was 151 cm TL at tagging.
Dolphins have a special place in mythologies from many parts of the world as protectors and friends of humans. Several individual dolphins have become part of New Zealand folklore over the past 100 years. From 1888-1912 Pelorus Jack (a Risso’s dolphin) guided ships from Wellington to Nelson. For two summers, a bottlenose dolphin nicknamed Opo (after the Northland settlement of Opononi) played with children, allowing them to touch her and ride on her back. The latest high profile relationship of dolphin and human was Moko, another bottlenose dolphin. He was based around the East Coast and even visited us here at Tatapouri.
Māori Name: Whai Repo
Stingrays are beautiful and graceful swimmers, gliding like flying carpets of the ocean floor! These flattened-out fish are related to sharks and have a distinctive, sleek tail with sharp spines on it. Each spine has little barbs along the edges like thorns, which sting like a scorpion’s tail to defend the stingray from predators. Their sandy-brown color is great camouflage while they dig into the mud for crabs, shrimp, clams, fish, and worms to eat. Stingray mouths are conveniently located on their bellies, so when they find something, in it goes! If a stingray eats a clam, it eats it whole, crushes it up, and then spits the shell out.
Māori Name: Whai Repo or Whai Keo
The Eagle Ray grows to about 3 ft in width and has a thick body with a bluntly rounded snout. Its flukes are extended laterally to tapered points so that the whole outline resembles the shape of a kite. The colour varies from dirty greenish-grey to almost black. It is harmless except for a hard, bony spine set at an angle on the smooth whiplike tail. This spine can inflict a nasty wound and is dangerous, since there are poison glands and ducts associated with it. The eagle ray feeds largely on shellfish, which it crushes with powerful jaws lined with hexagonal flat teeth set like paving stones.
Māori Name: Tamure
Tarakihi grow up to 70 centimetres and may reach 45 years of age. They are common all around New Zealand and are a highly sought after fish. The species spawn in a small number of areas (East Cape, the northeast of the South Island and Fiordland). They live mainly over muddy or sandy bottoms and along reef edges.
Māori name: Haku
The yellow tail of the kingfish identifies this worldwide species. It is widely distributed around the North Island and northern South Island, extending southward in summer. Mainly an open water fish, the Kingfish may enter estuaries and enclosed waters in search of small pelagic fish (pilchards, kōheru) and crustaceans. Kingfish are aggressive predators that swim quickly. Schools often hunt around offshore reefs. They can reach 1.7 metres in length and weigh 56 kilograms.
Māori name: Kahawai
Although the kahawai is sometimes called sea trout or sea salmon, its resemblance to trout or salmon is only superficial. The average size is 40–50 centimetres. The fish group together according to size, and schools of juveniles 20–35 centimetres long are quite common. Kahawai live in open coastal waters throughout New Zealand, but are more common around the North Island. They seldom venture more than 20 kilometres offshore. Adults eat crustaceans and small fish, while juveniles feed on plankton. In turn, they are prey for orcas, bottlenose dolphins, kingfish and bronze whaler sharks.
Māori name: Koura
Crayfish vary in color from reddish-yellow in shallow water, to purple and creamy-yellow in deeper offshore waters. The easiest method to distinguish males from females is by looking at the fifth walking leg (counting from front to back). In females the fifth leg has claws, which are used to tend to the eggs under her tail during the spawning season. Males do not have this claw; their fifth walking leg ends as a single point. Females also have two rows of swimmerets or pleopods on their abdomen/tails to hold their eggs, while males have a single row of swimmerets. Males also tend to have two larger front legs, whereas the female’s are much smaller. Crayfish are mostly found around rocky reef areas where they hide amongst the cracks and crevices in the rocks and underneath kelp, which provides both food and shelter. Crayfish are nocturnal creatures and can often be seen walking around on the seabed at night, scavenging for anything from small fish to crabs and other crustaceans.
Māori name: Kina
Paua inhabit shallow waters (generally less than 6 metres) off the coastline of New Zealand. They can form large aggregations on rocky reefs. Movement is over a sufficiently small spatial scale that the species may be considered sedentary. Adult size ranges from 7-14 cm in some areas and 10-12 cm in other areas. They are thought to be long lived and slow growing. Paua are herbivores, feeding on red and brown seaweeds.
Limpets are hardy shellfish that can withstand storm waves and hours of sun exposure. They have a powerful muscular foot that clamps the shell to rocks, preventing moisture loss when the tide is out and anchoring the animal when the seas are rough. Limpets are herbivores, feeding on the seaweed that covers coastal rocks.
Māori name: kōkiri
The Leatherjacket has a distinctive body shape (it looks like a rugby ball) and a dorsal spine.