The Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve
In 1981, the ocean surrounding the Poor Knights Islands, off the East Coast of Northland was established as New Zealand’s second marine reserve. The marine reserve extends for 800 metres offshore around the Poor Knights Islands.The islands can be reached from Tutukaka Harbour, 30 kilometres from Whangarei. A number of charter boats operate from Tutukaka.
Beneath the waves at the Poor Knights an ocean of diving has been compressed into a relatively small area. The caves, arches, tunnels and sheer cliffs provide a great variety of habitats to explore. From turbulent sunlit waters and kelp forests on the upper reaches of the tumbling "giant staircase," to the dark waters of the islands' many caves, the Poor Knights offer an extraordinary variety of underwater experiences. Sponge gardens and gorgonian fields are inhabited by a myriad of fish, shellfish, urchins and anemones, with black coral found in deeper waters.
Rich in biodiversity
The steep cliffs, which fringe the islands, plunge 100 metres below sea level in places before reaching a sandy seafloor. The arches are some of the most interesting places to explore. A rich nutrient soup is washed through them, feeding the countless animals that compete for space on the walls. Squadrons of stingrays can also be found cruising the waters of the archways during warmer months.
Many of the subtropical fishes living in the marine reserve are found nowhere else in New Zealand, having found their way to Poor Knights on the subtropical East Auckland current. Some of the fish include subtropical species such as spotted black groper, mosaic moray and Lord Howe coralfish. They are renowned for their friendly nature and make visiting the marine reserve a truly memorable experience.
Nursery Cove, and some of the shallower parts of the South Harbour are the best places for novice divers. Experienced divers can find spectacular and challenging dives all around the islands. Poor Knights is also home of Riko Riko cave - recently surveyed as the largest sea cave in the world. If you're diving please take care to avoid damaging underwater features, and no souvenir hunting please.
Navigation and mooring is permitted within the Poor Knights Marine Reserve. While landing on the Islands is prohibited, the marine reserve around them is yours to enjoy, provided you observe the rules and follow environmental care code. In the interests of preserving the environment and retrieving your anchor, please use the minimum of chain necessary.
Find out more on the DoC website, including interesting facts, monitoring projects and how you can be involved.
With many of the MarineNZ team based in Northland, the Poor Knights is one of our favourite local dive sites. Check out some of the stunning underwater photography taken at the Poor Knights on the MarineNZ image gallery.
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