Growing up on the beach and along the Ningaloo Reef, young Hayley just wanted to be in the water. While many who live by the sea understand the sound of the waves makes magic that enters your blood, Hayley just wanted to be in it.  In a boat, snorkelling, diving, and surfing, it was getting up close to the wild marine life around the reef that captured her interest from the start. Whale sharks, humpback whales, manta rays, turtles, octopus - big or small, the richness of their daily lives and their interactions fostered a deep fascination and connection in Hayley.  Chucked out of the fishing club in Exmouth for castigating some sport fishers proudly showing off their magnificent big (dead) fish, Hayley knew that gaining more knowledge of the marine environment and working to protect its wildlife and their habitat was going to be her future.

Starting her working life in the office of a whale shark tour company, it wasn't long before Hayley was guiding, with a divemaster ticket and skipper's course  to follow.  Teaming up with partner (now husband) Mark, a marine scientist, the pair left the whale shark experience to travel and extend their knowledge of the marine world and explore the possibilities for eco-tourism.

Coming ashore to Whitianga to work with the Glass Bottom Boat was a deliberate decision, and as good timing would have it, Hayley and Mark were able to purchase the business not long after.

"Nature waits for no one," says Hayley, who recommends always having a mask and snorkel within reach.  There is something about the ocean that invites you to take a closer look, and the Glass Bottom Boats are set up for snorkelling in small groups and viewing the underwater wonderland through the glass.

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"Fish look at you," says Hayley, "they see you, they know that you are there.  How can you not care about these creatures when you have seen them up close, doing their thing? Our mission is to help people make that connection with what is often an unknown environment up until they come out with us. We see some real awesome things through the glass and always make an effort to have a good look and explain what we are watching, such as getting to see crayfish moving around the shallows in the day when they are usually hiding.”

"The fish life is so interesting and getting to watch the dynamics through the glass can be an eye opener to their world. Did you know that red moki mate for life? They are soul mates, and when you learn this sort of information, you have a whole new perspective on marine life. If we don't form an attachment to these creatures and the environment, how can we become passionate and be a voice to reduce overfishing and practices that are destroying the seabed and countless creatures that are all co-dependent on the ecosystem?" 

The business has grown, and now three boats are in action over summer in Te-Whanganui-a-Hei marine reserve, with multiple daily trips year-round.   "We always have an excellent team as we have passionate like-minded people wanting to join us," says Hayley.  

Two daughters have since joined the crew, and the eldest, Amelia, writes her name on the roster to make sure she's on board.  "It's never been a job for me, "explains Hayley. "I always knew that was how I would live my life".

Glass Bottom Boat Tours are two hours long, departing Whitianga main wharf.  In addition to teaching you about marine life and sustainable practices, the crew share their knowledge of how our magnificent volcanic coastline was formed and the geology of the landscape and stunning rock features as you visit sheer cliffs, towering pinnacles, blowholes and the Orua Sea Cave. Also, the history of Whitianga unfolds, from the arrival of Kupe and Cook, to today's laid-back Coromandel culture.