Soon after a pod of friendly dolphins scuttle through the wake of our boat to say gidday and quickly disappear again, we are cruising through a huge natural archway of rock where the sun brings out the blue brilliance of the water and gannets dip in and out of the miniscule wind currents. The weather is outstanding.
The Poor Knights Islands 24km off the Tutukaka Coast is ranked as one of the top thirty dive sites in the world so it’s no surprise that most of the passengers on board are foreigners with extensive diving experience.
In 1981 the ocean surrounding the islands was established as New Zealand's second marine reserve. Extending for 800 metres offshore around the Poor Knights, the richness of the underwater life is breathtaking and totally undisturbed by fishing boats.
Caves, arches, tunnels and sheer underwater cliffs provide an extensive variety of habitats for exploration. Sponge gardens and gorgonian fields are inhabited by a myriad of fish, shellfish, urchins and anemones, with black coral found in deeper waters.
Because the islands lie in the path of the warm East Auckland Current, which swings down from the north of Australia bringing warmer water, many strange and subtropical underwater visitors come to the Poor Knights
We dive (snorkel) at two separate locations on the East side of the Poor Knights. There are supposedly around sixty other excellent spots brimming with marine life, kelp forests, and tumbling underwater staircases of rock.
As the water gets shallower and closer to the underwater caves and rocky formations the life begins coming at me from all angles. Big snapper, massive schools of blue maomao, gold ribbon grouper, moray eels. Other pink, brown, purple and orange fish I don't know the name of. All within an arms length, and all pretty relaxed to see me as long as I make no sudden movements.
Our day of diving/snorkeling has come to an end. It's a wonderland for someone who hasn't really snorkeled before, and I find the divers to be equally impressed by the Poor Knights and its delights, as we sit around chatting about the dives as they all eat their lunch.
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