Tutukaka & Poor Knights Islands

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Snorkelling with Perfect Day

© Luke Howe

To the visitor, Tutukaka is a bustling nautical town with great views, waterfront cafes, the freshest seafood, lots of yachties, and charter boats everywhere, but to the marine adventurer this port is a gateway to Poor Knights Islands and some of the best diving, snorkelling and fishing in the world.

Diving Poor Knights
Diving Poor Knights

Only half an hour north-east of Whangarei, Tutukaka is the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve. The Islands, 25km off shore, have been rated by the famous Jacques Cousteau as one of the top-ten dive sites in the world - the water is known for its clarity and an abundance of sea life. Sea currents and visibility up to 30 metres underwater allow the diver, (and kayaker or snorkeler) to see a highly-populated, rich and diverse tapestry of marine life.

Famous in their own right for an abundance of flora, fauna, bird life and reptilia that have evolved in glorious isolation for over two million years, the Poor Knights stand sentinel over a marine reserve of spectacular topography, extraordinary diversity and unique life forms. The islands are remnants of ancient volcanoes which erupted in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the remaining cliffs leap 100m sheer from the waves and plunge an equal depth below. Iconic amongst the unique flora and fauna that thrive here is the tuatara, the world’s only surviving dinosaur.

Experience the amazing acoustics of the world’s largest sea cave, Riko Riko, a mammoth watery cavern flamboyantly painted from top to toe with lichen and moss. A record claim lodged with the Guinness Book of Records. It is an amazing 7,900,000 cubic feet with over a hectare of sea surface area inside the cave itself.Over 125 species of fish share this environment with soft corals, encrusting sponges, vibrant anemones, ecklonia kelp forests, gorgonian fans and myriad other life forms.

Daisy Bay, Tutukaka Coast
Daisy Bay, Tutukaka Coast

A dive at the world-class Poor Knights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a microcosm of underwater diversity with precipitous walls of rock, dense kelp forests, sand gardens, giant sea caves and massive underwater caverns where fish find shelter in the rocks while giant black stingrays gather in archways to meet before they mate.

Not surprisingly, the islands have a rich cultural history and were home to a local Maori tribe (Ngati Wai). But since their bloody massacre in 1822 the islands have been labelled tapu (sacred), with no one allowed to set foot ashore thus becoming a very special Nature Reserve.