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Joanna Smart's February Photo Journal: An Our World Underwater Rolex Scholar Journey

The latest leg of my journey sent me to Tutukaka, New Zealand, where I was incredibly lucky to complete my PADI Advanced rebreather training

I headed to New Zealand’s north with the kind, generous and incredibly patient Pete Mesley, of Lust 4 Rust diving. Pete and I joined the amazing team at Dive! Tutukaka for a week of diving in the Poor Knights Marine Reserve, where I completed my training on an AP diving Buddy Inspiration Rebreather.

Learning how to dive the rebreather was challenging and completely different to open-circuit scuba. I had to start again learning how to control my buoyancy, different techniques for breathing and the importance of attention to detail, checklists and being methodical in the setup and pre-dive checks. However, once I got the hang of it, and had my camera in hand, the experience was addictive.  

Rebreather diving has provided a valuable opportunity to further expand my underwater photography skills and, with no bubbles all of a sudden, the fish were not swimming away from me. I could come face to face with a moray eel and instead of shrinking away, he would come out of his hole curiously. I had a lobster walk along the rock mere centimeters in front of me fearlessly and a large bronze whaler shark checked out our dive group. I had always heard that rebreather diving was an incredible tool for underwater photography – but I had no idea how much so until I tried it.

In addition, the Poor Knights Islands provided an incredible backdrop for learning to rebreather dive. With walls of jeweled anemones, kelp forests and enormous schools of fish, the islands provide some of the best temperate water diving in the world. Photo opportunities seem to show themselves around every corner in this area. Thank you to Reef Photo and Video for providing the equipment to make this experience possible. My Panasonic Lumix GX9 got a workout on each 90-minute dive!