Live Your Little Mermaid Dreams With These Underwater Experiences in NZ

Hydro Attack

New Zealand is known for its thrilling adventures, but while its on-land experiences get the most hype — like sky diving, bungee jumping and heliskiing — some of its underwater activities are lesser-known. Still, they’re just as memorable and, for water babies, are at least worth considering.

Ahead, from swimming with seals off a boat in Kaikoura, an experience voted ‘Top 10 Marine Encounters’ by Lonely Planet, to pretending to be a mermaid as you free dive, these are our picks for some of the best unusual water activities in New Zealand.

Swim With Seals in Kaikoura

Listed as one of the world’s ‘Top 10 Marine Encounters’ by Lonely Planet, swimming with seals through Seal Swim Kaikōura is an unforgettable experience. The wild New Zealand fur seals you’ll swim with are nicknamed ‘sea dogs’ for their playful and social behaviour.

Seal Swim Kaikōura water activities in New Zealand
Image: Seal Swim Kaikōura

Kayak Through Glowworm Tunnels

If staying dry while doing a water activity is more up your alley, then sea kayaking through the glowworm tunnels of Tauranga on Waimarino Kayak Tours is for you. Starting at twilight, the tour will see you paddling down a narrow, high-sided canyon, where you’ll see thousands of bioluminescent glowworms give the caves a starry glow.

Waimarino Kayak Tours water activities in New Zealand
Image: Waimarino Kayak Tours

Pretend to Be a Mermaid in Northland

Mermaiding is a global movement that combines free-diving with wearing a mermaid tail, a type of monofin. On Free Dive Aotearoa’s PADI Mermaids course, students will learn about mermaid diving culture, master the art of holding their breath, swim with a tail and learn to read ocean conditions and how to respect and care for marine life. New Zealand has hundreds of offshore islands, as well as a rich network of underwater volcanoes, so there’s plenty to explore. If shipwrecks are of interest, head to the Cavalli Islands to see the wreckage of the Rainbow Warrior.

PADI Freedive water activities in New Zealand
Image: Free Dive Aotearoa

Swim Like a Shark in Queenstown

Ever wondered what it would feel like to be a shark? Hydro Attack is the world’s first commercial operator of a semi-submersible machine with a shark design. Rides are one-on-one with the pilot so riders can push their own limits and go as ‘mild’ or ‘wild’ as they want. The experience feels like a cross between a fighter jet and a torpedo. The vessel skims across the top of the lake at 80km/h before diving under the water so you can see underwater life through a glass cockpit at 40km/h.

Hydro Attack
Image: Hydro Attack

Dive an Underwater Cave

The Poor Knights Islands / Tawhiti Rahi are the eroded remnants of a group of ancient volcanoes that erupted in the Pacific Ring of Fire. The crystal-blue waters are filled with caves, arches and tunnels, and are inhabited by an array of underwater life. The islands are also home to Rikoriko Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world. Dive! Tutukaka is New Zealand’s largest dive charter company and has a range of options for divers, both qualified and learning, snorkellers and wreck divers.

DIVE! TUTUKAKA water activities in New Zealand
Image: Dive! Tutukaka

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