This article is intended to provide the already qualified Scuba diver with information which will help to plan dives in the waters of the Hen and Chicken Islands, off the east coast of North Island, New Zealand. Information is provided without prejudice, and is not guaranteed accurate or complete. Use it at your own risk.
The Hen and Chicken Islands are off the coast of northern New Zealand to the east of the North Auckland Peninsula about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) east of Bream Head and 40 kilometres (25 mi) south-east of Whangarei.
The islands were named by Captain James Cook in 1769. The islands were made a scenic reserve in 1908 owing to the rarity of their flora and fauna, and became a wildlife refuge in 1953.
Hen Island, (Taranga), is about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) to the southwest of the rest of the goup. It is larger than the Chicken Islands, (Marotiri), which are a group of five small islands running north-west to south-east, comprising Wareware and Muriwhenua Islands (together forming North West Chicken), Mauitaha (West Chicken), Lady Alice Island (Big Chicken or Motu Muka), Whatupuke (Middle Chicken), and Coppermine Island (Eastern Chicken).
Taranga (Hen Island) is the largest island with an area of about 4.7 km2 (2 sq mi). It has a length of 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) and an average width of less than 1,000 metres (1,094 yd). It is the remnant of a four-million-year-old volcano, and is dominated by a rocky ridge reaching to about 417 metres (1,368 ft) at its highest point, called “The Pinnacles”.
Sail rock, (a stack), rises from the sea about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the south of Hen Island.
Muriwhenua and Wareware are two small rocky islands with a combined area of 3 hectares (7.4 acres).
Lady Alice Island is the largest of the Chickens with an area of about 1.4 km2 (0.54 sq mi) and is surrounded by rocky reefs.
Whatupuke has a large eastern section and a peninsula to the southwest which forms Starfish Bay. The island has an area of about 1 km2 (0.39 sq mi), and is steep, rising to 234 metres (768 ft).
Coppermine Island has an area of 75 hectares (190 acres). It has two sections joined by a short isthmus.
Mauitaha is a 20 hectare (49 acres), rugged, scrub-covered rock about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the south of Muriwhenua. It has a height of 125 metres (410 ft).