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Sunrise at Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Coromandel Peninsula

Cathedral Cove, just west of the small township of Hahei, is the centrepiece of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei marine reserve. Gazetted in 1992 as New Zealand's sixth official marine reserve, Te Whanganui-A-Hei was the first reserve to be established on the Coromandel Peninsula by the Department of Conservation. The marine reserve also takes in several offshore islands including Motukorure, Mahurangi and Motueka, around which can be found complex and diverse communities of marine life in near-pristine environments.

Onshore, the coastal landscape is equally spectacular. Beautiful golden-sand beaches are backed by dramatic cliffs of chalky-white ignimbrite, a rock formed from blistering hot volcanic ash that was deposited during one of the many explosive eruptions that rocked this region during its turbulent geological past. This rock is relatively soft, so that wave action has been able to erode it to form the beautiful coastal landforms that make Cathedral Cove what it is today.

Sunrise is one of the best times to visit and photograph Cathedral Cove when, if conditions are right, the cliffs may be illuminated by the sun’s first rays in a striking display of colour. With this in mind I came here on a day when the sky was clear just before dawn, but as sunrise approached on this particular morning so too did a mass of cloud from the west that threatened to dash my hopes of a sunlit photograph. Fortunately the eastern horizon was still clear when the sun finally appeared, its rays lighting up the coast for a brief, fleeting moment — just long enough for me to get this photograph before the light faded into overcast greyness.


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