• Janice

Guide to the Poor Knights Islands: Scuba Diving and Snorkelling Attractions

Updated: May 20


▪️ About the Poor Knights

▪️ Book the 'Perfect Day'

▪️ On Board the 'Perfect Day'

▪️ Our Trip Highlights

▪️ The Bullers Shearwater

▪️ Sea Caves

▪️ Snorkelling in the Marine Environment

Map of North Island New Zealand showing map location of the Poor Knights Islands
Map Location of the Poor Knights Islands

About the Poor Knights

The Poor Knights are a collection of islands 50 km from the Whangarei coast, in Northland, New Zealand. These Islands are one of New Zealand's outstanding natural attractions. They are surrounded by a marine reserve that protects the islands, and surrounding waters with a number of regulations. This area is a world-renown scuba diving location praised by many including the French explorer, Jacques Cousteau.

Various types of charters carry passengers to the islands to enjoy swimming, snorkelling, diving and kayaking. The closest exit port is the Marina at Tutukaka. There are rules against landing on the islands or fishing within the reserve.

Like most New Zealanders, I know of the special nature of the Poor Knights and have had the islands on my bucket list for some time. So, I excitedly booked a day excursion onboard the cruise vessel, "Perfect Day", casting off from Tutukaka.

Book Your Perfect 'Poor Knights' Day

On Board the 'Perfect Day'

snorkeling Poor Knights
Janice preparing to swim with the fishes

'Perfect Day' provides a non-dive experience that caters for a range of ages and abilities. Onboard, expect babies in arms through to the elderly who have joined the cruise for sightseeing only. The crew skillfully assist their passengers to snorkel, swim, kayak and stand up paddleboard. A lot of equipment is provided including snorkelling gear, sight adjusted goggles, wet suits, kayaks, paddleboards, lunch and refreshments. What's more, passengers can rest assured that safety and compliance are taken care of.

We had a somewhat bumpy, 40 minute trip to the islands. The captain and crew are experts in supporting their passengers through the ocean's swells. We tied up in the calm waters of Maroro Bay.


Our Trip Highlights

The story of Buller's Shearwater

Sea bird ~ Buller's Shearwater ~ New Zealand
Buller's Shearwater in the Pacific Ocean via Wiki Commons

During the outward trip, the captain pointed out an area of boiling water, with hundreds of birds sitting on the water, circling above it and plummeting headfirst into the boiling ocean. These birds were the Buller's Shearwater feeding on a school of fish. The captain explained, that these birds have a migratory range throughout the pacific but have limited their breeding activity primarily to the Poor Knights Islands. Their nesting behaviour almost drove the species to extinction. The Shearwater's ground-based nesting burrows fell victim to introduced feral pigs. The number of birds dropped from the100 000s of breeding pairs to just 200 breeding pairs. Restoring numbers of Buller's Shearwater back to 100 000s of breeding pairs is one of New Zealand's conservation success stories. The pigs were removed in the 1930s and the breeding pair numbers remain in the 100 000s today.

Sea Caves

The Poor Nights Islands, are the remains of an ancient volcano, that is slowly being eroded away by the wave action of the sea. Over time caves and arches have formed at the waterline. These geological features provide a challenge and interest to the snorkelling and kayaking experience. I am cautious in the ocean waters. Derek on the other hand takes to the open water with confidence. He loved venturing into the sea caves.

Janice kayaking & Derek snorkelling in sea caves.

Even better, 'Perfect Day' goes on a neat sightseeing adventure around the islands. Riko Riko cave is touted as the largest sea cave in the world, and sailing into Riko Riko cave is part of the onboard 'Perfect Day' experience. Just Wow!

Riko Riko Cave, Poor Knights Islands, charter vessel
Riko Riko cave. Photo Credit to Derek

The Marine Environment

The waters surrounding the islands are deep, clear and teaming with marine life. Some of the species are found nowhere else in New Zealand but the Poor Knights Islands. Maroro Bay is known are the garden due to the kelp and sponges that line the rock walls and seafloor.

A pic from our trip

Photo credit above Perfect Day Facebook

I slid into the water and was immediately surrounded by schools of fish and the odd non-stinging jellyfish. I don't know all the different varieties but I was partially excited to see large Snappers gliding by. These are migratory fish, that are celebrated, as legendary eating and trophy fish in New Zealand. Below are two fine specimens of Australasian Snapper.

Australasian Snapper
Australasian Snapper common in the Poor Knights via wiki commons

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