Scuba Diving in New Zealand, Wreck of The Rainbow Warrior

Perhaps no other shipwreck on Earth has the poignancy of the Rainbow Warrior. Sunk in an act of international espionage that shocked the world, it now lies off the Cavalli Islands, in one of the most beautiful regions of New Zealand.

The conservation vessel Rainbow Warrior was moored in Auckland harbor on the night of July 10, 1985. Shortly before midnight, two explosions ripped through it, killing the vessel’s photographer, Fernando Pereiro. This senseless act of terrorism was traced to the French Secret Service, leading to international condemnation and lengthy jail sentences for the two agents who planted the explosives.

The Rainbow Warrior wreck remained in Auckland for many months, before being refloated and towed farther north to the Cavalli Islands, a beautiful marine sanctuary granted sacred status in Maori law. Here it was sunk as an artificial reef, and has become a popular dive site. The Rainbow Warrior is a small vessel, and so can easily be covered in a single dive. It sits almost upright on the bottom, and its superstructure rises to within 50 ft (15 m) of the surface, with the seabed below at 85 ft (26 m). Its bow section is still largely intact, creating the illusion that it is sailing across the white sands of the seafloor beneath its hull.

The Rainbow Warrior’s hull is covered in a multicolored carpet of jewel anemones, and the vibrancy of color on display here is remarkable. Its superstructure is now a home for scorpionfish, blue cod, and shoals of

golden snapper, plus kingfish, and the distinctively shaped John Dory. It seems fitting that this former conservation vessel now serves as a home for so many fascinating marine species.

Scuba diving conditions

Water Temperature   –   57–75°F (14–24°C)

Ecosystem   –   Temperate

When to visit   –   Year-round, but September to April is best.

Expected to be seen   –   Scorpionfish; the prow; the Rainbow Warrior Memorial; the ship’s propeller and stern.

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