In 1985, Greenpeace’s flagship, The Rainbow Warrior, was en route to protest nuclear testing by the French in Moruroa Atoll, French Polynesia. It never reached its destination, after French Secret Service agents sank it in Auckland Harbor. Two years later, the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior was moved to create an artificial reef off the Cavalli Islands in Matauri Bay, New Zealand.
Diving the Rainbow Warrior
The Rainbow Warrior, 130 feet (40 m) long, lies in 88 feet (27 m) of water at the deepest point. Ironically, the wreck lives up to its name, now covered in spectacular, colorful jewel anemones. It is home to a variety of macro life, and divers can see schools of golden snapper, kingfish, and john dory. The rear cabins house bigeyes, while divers can spot roughies in the forecastle.
Although the top of the wreck sits at around 50 feet (15 m), the main structure descends hits 88 feet (27 m). The depth of the wreck makes a dive on the Rainbow Warrior a deep(er) dive, which requires at least an advanced qualification. A wreck specialty qualification is required for penetration.
The wreck is upright, leaning slightly to the starboard side. Although penetration is possible, the hull has started to break apart, and pieces of the vessel can be seen scattered along the bottom. The top part of the bridge has collapsed; the masts are gone, and the decks are covered in kelp. Divers can easily see the hole caused by the blast that originally sank the vessel on the starboard side of the hull.
The port side of the wreck faces north and is covered in seaweed that attracts leatherjackets. The starboard side’s shade creates perfect conditions for sponge growth.
Water temperature ranges between 59 F (15 C) from late winter to early spring and 71 F (22 C) in summer, with visibility between 50 to 65 feet (15 to 20 m). Summer and fall (between January and May) bring the best visibility. The currents around the wreck are usually quite mild, although stronger currents can be present at the surface.
You can dive the Rainbow Warrior either by small boat from Matauri Bay, or by joining a charter boat that departs from Paihia in the Bay of Islands.