I spent my house deposit on a boat to reach the Mokohinau Islands – the magic on our doorstep | Clarke Gayford

My total expertise of Auckland modified when I received a boat. It was the excellent antidote to a skilled DJ life-style, the place getting up at 5am to be on the water turn out to be immeasurably preferable to coming dwelling at 5am from work. On journeys out I started sticking my head underwater with such vigour that I in some way turned it into a complete new occupation.

It didn’t occur right away, after all. My 40-year-old, 14-foot beige fibreglass boat with a semi-reliable two-stroke engine, named Brown Thunder, solely had a lot vary, and my actual aim lay a lot farther offshore, tantalisingly out of reach. A spot the place tales of clear blue tropical water and large fish swirled round a group of uninhabited islands, teasing me from the pages of marine magazines or the crusty lips of outdated salty sea-mates.

Clarke Gayford with his personal best kingfish catch, weighing 34kg
Clarke Gayford along with his private greatest kingfish catch, weighing 34kg. {Photograph}: Mike Bhana

I don’t thoughts sharing the Mokohinau Islands with you as a result of getting to them is just not a simple journey. They’re simply shy of 40km out to sea, with no shelter in between, with calm climate home windows fleeting. A little bit of wind in opposition to tide can rapidly make an uncomfortable journey flip harmful. After all, this solely provides to the intrigue.

From launch the islands aren’t seen however trusting a compass bearing the horizon steadily throws up a lump of land that splits into three on method. It’s exactly this remoteness that makes the islands so particular to me. The Auckland isthmus is lapped by totally different oceans.


On the Pacific facet, the Hauraki Gulf is described as the metropolis’s jewel in the crown. It’s an expanse of water full of greater than 50 islands and an unbelievable range of life. Greater than 20% of all the world’s seabirds might be discovered right here; 5 of those birds breed no the place else on Earth. And out alongside one boundary lies the Mokohinau Islands, the location a true convergence zone the place the wealthy gulf waters merge with a distinct jap present.

In summer season this heat conveyor belt brings a gorgeous vary of tropical guests. I have discovered myself in the water right here with tuna, marlin, mako sharks, bronze whalers, manta rays, sunfish, false killer whales, actual killer whales, pilot whales and even a huge spine-tailed satan ray.

As an lively freediver I have been humbled in big vortex clouds of blue mao mao, large colleges of trevally, acres of kahawai and, after all, New Zealand’s legendary monster yellowtail kingfish. They’re an internationally famend sportfish and New Zealand occurs to maintain 23 of the 24 world information relating to them. I was even fortunate sufficient to as soon as win the nationwide Kingfish Cup, spearing a specimen of 34kg – all at this magical place fishers affectionately name “the Mokes” however I like to refer to as Jurassic Park.

Waters of the Mokes, off Auckland
The waters of the Mokes are lively, from tuna to killer whales. {Photograph}: Mike Bhana

The rock formations that rise out of the water differ to the mainland a lot that guests I carry right here describe it feeling extra like Thailand than Aotearoa. On the proper tide I can match my boat by means of an archway into a lagoon in the center of 1 island, half anticipating Leonardo DiCaprio to leap out and stab a shark, à la The Seashore.

The islands weren’t at all times uninhabited: alongside their wealthy Māori historical past it’s nonetheless doable to go ashore and examine a once-occupied lighthouse with a troubled previous. One lighthouse keeper ran out of meals so hooked up pressing notes to a mannequin boat he created from tin and aimed for the coast. Miraculously, provides have been despatched out simply 9 days later. One other keeper wasn’t so fortunate and the excessive isolation drove him to take his personal life.

An archway on the Mokohinau Islands
On the proper tide, a boat can match below this archway that leads into a lagoon in the center of 1 island. {Photograph}: Mike Bhana

My journey to these islands additionally modified me in methods I couldn’t have imagined. I had been saving for a house deposit however when my excellent pal’s breast most cancers received the higher of her I determined to dwell in the second as she had so valiantly, and spent my financial savings on a greater boat. Whereas not a financially astute motion I lastly had the capability to get to the Mokes, and I honoured this impulse by naming my boat after her.

The primary journeys have been all the pieces I had hoped for and I began to make movies of the expertise as a result of I needed to present others the unseen magic we have now on our doorstep. This led straight to me growing my personal tv fishing/journey collection now 5 seasons deep and enjoying in additional than 85 international locations as a Nationwide Geographic title. It developed in me a robust perception find methods to join folks to the ocean, to give them a purpose to care about what’s going on in and round it.

I owe these islands for opening this complete new chapter and serving to me uncover in myself the issues which can be actually necessary in life.

  • Clarke Gayford is the host of tv collection Fish of the Day and writer of the guide of the identical identify

  • What’s your favorite wild place? If you need to contribute to the collection inform us about it in 200 phrases and ship it to [email protected]

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