We have been to so many beautiful places and seen so many amazing things on our trip that picking just one to write about was the hardest part of this blog assignment. One of my favorite group stops in terms of geology and biology thus far, though, has definitely been Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel. While we were there for only a very short time, the amount of biological and geological features available at such a small pocket beach was incredible, making Cathedral Cove one of my most memorable encounters.
Just getting there was hike… literally. It was about a 45 minute walk down a cliff over rough, and sometimes steep, terrain to get to the beach. It was a tough walk, but the scenery was spectacular! One minute you are walking through a dense, forest area with large ferns reminiscent of the Jurassic Park jungles and the next you find yourself on grass fields with a great view of the Pacific Ocean. On the way, we saw many bird species, such as Quail, and many different plants. Finally walking down the last bit of stairs and onto a beautiful, sandy paradise was breathtaking.
Though Cathedral Cove is a popular tourist attraction, we were fortunate enough to be given instruction on the biological and geological features of the area that usually go unnoticed by the typical tourist or beachgoer. For example, the small beach includes examples of all three stages in the geological evolution of sea stacks. There were many sea cave (the first stage in forming a sea stack) and a huge sea arch that you can walk through. Once you are through the arch, you can see a large sea stack just off the beach. Also, there was clear evidence on these geological structures of erosion processes, such as honeycomb weathering patterns. All of this helped show how geological features are not permanent and are governed by dynamic processes and constantly changing.
In addition to geology, Cathedral Cove had some interesting biology. The cove is the first marine reserve to be established on the Coromandel peninsula. In addition to the array of mollusc sea shells that can be found on the beach (the sand is also made of many shell fragments), many organisms dwell in the cove's subtidal zone. I was fortunate to have brought my snorkel equipment and dove right in to explore. Among the vast amounts of submerged macroalgae were large schools of fish. It was a great experience to swim among them.
The wealth of geology and biology at Cathedral Cove marine reserve made this stop a great opportunity to learn and to explore. In addition to this hands-on learning, I did a little self-exploration that afternoon. There was a large rock in the water that many swimmers were jumping off of. Scared at first, I finally convinced myself to climb the giant rock and jump. It may seem quite trivial, but this experience helped me to take risks and leave my comfort zone throughout the rest of my time in New Zealand, for which I am very grateful.