Bay of Islands Fish, Rays & Sharks

The Bay of Islands has a huge variety of undersea features and variety of ecosystems. Within the two headlands, the Bay of Islands is home to everything from mangroves to marlin.

Where we snorkel on our cruise is on the reefs, in the bay, where we stop for lunch.

The snorkeling is safe and easy from the beach. We do recommend you have been snorkeling before, if you would like a lesson or tips check with the crew, before you go in the water.


Reef Fish


Wrasses are mainly loners that swim around rocky areas, eating almost anything that lurks on the bottom or on the rocks. They have flexible bodies and thick lips and use sharp teeth to pick small creatures off the rocks. The most common species seen is the endemic spotty.


Known to Māori as kōkiri, this fish has a distinctive body shape (it looks like a rugby ball) and a dorsal spine.


This long, slender fish looks like a spear. Found in shallow coastal waters and feeds on sea grass fragments, shrimps and crab larvae. In turn it is preyed on by kahawai, kingfish and, as it is often near the surface, gannets and shags.

 Juvenile Snapper

 Juvenile snapper seem to particularly thrive in coastal environments where there are sea grass meadows, horse mussel beds, kelp forests and sponge gardens. sea grass provides important habitat for young snapper and other fish like spotties

Red-banded perch

The endemic red-banded perch has six or seven vertical brown bars over its reddish-brown body. This reef-dwelling species is unusual in that some individuals undergo a sex change from female to male as they mature.


Parore are found in shallow coastal and estuarine waters where the frequently congregate in large schools in the vicinity of rocky outcrops. The small juveniles use sea grass beds to hide from predators. This species is an omnivore which use their small sharp, incisor-like teeth for grazing on seaweed The colour and pattern of the parore is dark greenish-grey dorsally and silvery grey stripes on the flanks


Kelpfish or marble fish are any of several brilliantly colored percoid found in the  shallow water of the Bay of Islands. They can hide among a variety of seaweeds because they come in a variety of colors: red, green and brown, along with a series of silvery patterns. Individual kelpfish can even change colors to match changes in the colors around them. 


The puffer’s unique and distinctive natural defenses help compensate for its slow locomotion. It moves by combining pectoral, dorsal, anal, and caudal fin motions. This makes it highly manoeuvrable, but very slow, so a comparatively easy predation target. The pufferfish’s defense mechanism, used if successfully pursued, is to fill its extremely elastic stomach with water until it is much larger and almost spherical in shape. All puffers have pointed spines. The majority of the pufferfish’s species are toxic.

Eagle ray

Eagle rays can be seen around New Zealand’s coast in the summer months, when they come in to breed. Eagle rays get their name from their protruding heads, which appear eagle-like in profile. Eagle rays feed on mollusks and crustaceans, crushing their shells with their flattened teeth.

What you could see from the Boat:

Hammerhead sharks

 We sometimes  from see juvenile Hammerheads, while we are sailing, they are sun baking on the surface in late summer. The distinctive skull of the hammerhead shark is believed to help detect prey, and to add lift like a hydrofoil, counteracting the downward push of the tail. Hammerheads are olive to dark grey, with a white underbelly, and grow to 4m.

Bronze whaler sharks

 They live in shallow coastal waters during the summer – reefs, bays, estuaries and surf beaches, and in winter are found further offshore. On average they are 1.5–2.5m in length.