Experiencing Marine Reserves offering free guided snorkel trips to find New Zealand sea life

Forget going for a walk on the beach - how about a guided free snorkel trip to find marine life next to the shore?

One group called Experiencing Marine Reserves has already guided 130,000 people and is training the next generation of guardians of the sea.

Have you ever been to your favourite beach and really explored the shallows for sea life? It's amazing what you can find.

Well, one group is now putting on snorkel tours free for young and old at Reotahi Beach on Whangārei Heads.

It's the first marine reserve in the world created by a school. Experiencing Marine Reserves founder Samara Nicholas studied at Kamo School and worked with the kids there to set up what is now a nursery and a haven for the hunted. Snapper here are safe.

"They know that this is a sanctuary, I think so yes, yes, because they start off as juveniles and they get used to the area, because they know that we're not the threat," guide Ray Downing says.

And it's a place where young people, in particular, learn to love the ocean.

"It's something different to be able to learn about it, want to protect it, because they've had that experience," Nicholas says.

And what an experience - a chance to see all kinds of sea creatures close to shore.

Downing, nicknamed 'Sting Ray', is an experienced guide with a knack for finding marine life amid outcrops and kelp.

"Just getting everyone inspired to, you know, get excited about the marine life, the reserve then hopefully become kaitiaki of the future," he says.

Guiding skills are being passed on to the next generation of guides who've learned how to pass on their love of marine life and the water.

"Definitely, especially back home, back out at Pātaua, we want to bring that out and show them that our place is beautiful," volunteer Brandy Henare says.

It was an unforgettable day for Finn Soury who overcame his last disastrous school trip.

"Last time I didn't really see anything because I dropped my snorkel," he says.

"This time I saw a pike fish... lots of little ones, triple fins, at least 100."

A hundred people enjoyed the first trip of the season.

"These events are all about communities being able to experience their local marine environment and fall in love with it and want to become kaitiaki of it themselves, guardians of the marine environment," Nicholas says.

A cohort of guardians growing ever stronger.