On the diving between volcanos series, now is turn of a freshwater place, a volcano caldera in the middle of New Zealand North Island. This one is not roaring as much as series one, but it’s still a volcano feature, Lake Taupō, lies in the caldera of Taupō Volcano, in the center of the North Island, New Zealand.

There are in total 131 volcano calderas in the world, but less than 20 of them actually diveable: mainly, due to the inland situation together with lack of a liquid element of most of them, like the Grand Canyon, or maybe because that liquid could not be actually water, like the Erta Ale in Ethiopia as an example.

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Lake Taupō was formed after the collapsing of a massive eruption 26,500 years ago, and the ashes from this event can still be seen in Chatham Islands (stay tunned!!! And also see my previous post The Chathams). Only one column didn’t collapse, and it´s what is called today Motutāiko island, one of the best dives on the lake.

Motutāiko island is a column of rhyolitic lava, a completely perpendicular rock of 200 meters, half of it above the water and half of it below. Horomatangi, the evil spirit of the lake, it´s said to be living on the island, by Maori culture.

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Lake bed of Taupo lake, with lake, with 164 meters depth on the darker side, with an average of 91 meters. Source: Te Ara.

Being prepared for this, we boarded the boat that took us, and our scooters to the island. With a maximum agreed depth before the dive of thirty meters, there was not a time for any Deco dive, we went down the sandy bottom on the western part of the island and quickly found the vertical walls of rhyolite lava. It comes again the same feeling of vertigo looking down and not seeing the bottom of where you are, just floating over the unknown.

Being prepared for this, we boarded the boat that took us, and our scooters to the island. With a maximum agreed depth before the dive of thirty meters, there was not a time for any Deco dive, we went down the sandy bottom on the western part of the island and quickly found the vertical walls of rhyolite lava. It comes again the same feeling of vertigo looking down and not seeing the bottom of where you are, just floating over the unknown.

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Walls on the North Side

Most of the dive ran along these walls, just admiring the formations around every corner, and how sharp they are on some areas, where you can distinguish the typical lava rocks edges when they go through thermal contraction. After 30 minutes scootering the island clockwise starting on the most western part, we turned around, keeping the depth above 20 meters, which gives you the same sensation of vertigo again, but a completely different view of the trees and walls from above: it´s like diving on a completely different place. The water temperature ranges from 22º to 12º on the surface depending on the time of year, dropping quite quickly with depth, down to 12º in summer.

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After cruising past the sandy patch, we decided to explore a bit more the South-Western part, by going anti-clockwise, and finding more immense vertical walls this time. We finished the dive on the sand, where the boat was anchored and Rob saw a freshwater crayfish, it would have been funny to play with!

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Dive log and map

It´s important not to forget we are on a volcano caldera, therefore, it´s highly likely to be in altitude, as it was, so adding that to the technicalities, it´s an altitude(-ish) dive.

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Walls on the South-West wall

If you want to simplify the dive, and not think about the geology of the site, you can set your mind for a regular wall dive, either in fresh- or in saltwater. But if you have any interest about geology, the formations of those walls, rocks, or even the underwater trees, could date from thousands of years ago, therefore you have, in front of your eyes, a tree, with thousands of years, underwater, before the collapsing of the caldera after several eruptions.

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Trees with grown algae

Some of the trees have a growing layer of algae on them, due to the nutrients that the river brings and the increase in nitrogen on deep water. Other residents of the lake are trouts, catfish and crustaceans like freshwater crayfish.  

Thanks Rob Edward for the awesome dive and featuring on the photos, AWOL divers for taking us out, Wellington Underwater Club for the laughs and Tecfest New Zealand for the weekend.

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