84. Meet the stingrays at Tatapouri Bay
With a natural landscape that encompasses everything from geothermal wonderlands to magnificent fiords and glaciers – you’ll be expressing your astonishment at every turn: here is No. 84 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
They’re not helped by their name, or some high-profile history, but really stingrays just want to be friends – especially if there’s food involved. In beautiful Tatapouri Bay on the North Island/Te Ika-a-Māui’s East Cape, a short drive from the quirky town of Gisborne, you can experience this for yourself. You’ll learn a lot more besides on the interactive Reef Ecology Tour that’s offered by Dive Tatapouri. Don’t be misled by its name either: no diving is required for this low-tide paddle out to the reef that lies close to shore.
Friendly local guides set the scene for what you will be seeing and doing, kit you out in chest-high designer waders, and give you a staff to lean on. Then you’re led across the beach and into the water, to wade out to the reef, or be towed there on a banana boat in the case of small children. Here you’ll see all sorts of sea life, wild and in its natural environment, not just the diamond shaped short-tailed stingrays and round eagle rays. The sharp-eyed might spot octopus, kingfish and more, recognising them from the onshore briefing, or having them identified on the spot – but it’s the rays that are the stars of the show. Old hands like Pancake and Waffle will glide right up close, even seeming to climb up your legs in their eagerness for a treat, and they are perfectly at ease with you stroking their smooth, rubbery skin.
It’s a remarkable experience, not only to be so close, but to actually interact with wild creatures from what is, to us humans, a foreign environment. As you stand there you’ll remember the guide’s description of them as tamariki, the children of the Māori god of the sea, Tangaroa, and be both delighted and honoured to have made their acquaintance.