Marine sanctuary heaven
Poor Knights Islands is a group of islands that sits off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
Designated a marine reserve, it’s home to many creatures, large and small.
If you’re really lucky, you could encounter a whale shark – as they did the week before we arrived – but even if you’re less lucky, there’s plenty of rays, nudis, and schools of fish to keep the majority of divers well happy.
Over the 6 dives we did over two days, there was heaps of variety: in fish life, the corals and kelp, and not to mention the topography – the volcanic nature of the formations above water continue underneath, with lovely vertical walls, caves and interesting valleys and swimthroughs.
And speaking of topography – there are so many arches! Which in true New Zealand style, are aptly named: Eastern Arch, Middle Arch, North Arch….. The locals laughed at the fame of some NZ locations whose claim to fame is a single arch – spoiled by them here!
On this trip, we dived with Yukon Dive.
It was such a quintessential New Zealand experience from my perspective. Laid back semi-retired crew, who have dive the area so long, they even have sites named after them.
One such lady (incidentally, the only other woman on the boat), we were lucky enough to have as our dive guide. Mary has so much knowledge on the dive spots of Poor Knights, her name was even on the survey map (dated early 90’s) of a cave we explored. She was also impressive in her ability to single-handedly get kitted up in a drysuit in the time it takes most people to pull a wetsuit on.
So thanks to the whole Yukon team – both on the boat* and of course Jo for her organisation of us between 2016’s failed visit and 2017’s victorious one!
* P.S. You’ll never go hungry with Noel’s hard work in the kitchen
Really, in NZ, self-drive is the only way to get efficiently where you want to go. But it’s also a bit of a challenge (if you’re not used to country roads) – the roads are often quite bendy, and narrow, and subject to some questionable drivers sharing the lanes with you. For us, we did the trip there from Paihia, which only takes about 1.5hours, but from Auckland, it’s about a 3 hour drive (though not according to locals – “2.5 hours to the bridge”, or Google, to be honest. But who wants to crank it like that.)
It’s well worth taking your time anyway, the beaches dotted along the coast are beautiful – made it a bit of a shame to run the flying trip we did.
The winding country roads also fool you into thinking that the launch place is going to be a little shack, perhaps the classic tractor drop for the boat. But no, pulling into Tutukaka off the sometimes-single-lane road, you enter a marina that’s surprisingly large – Tutukaka is a gathering point for deep sea anglers, not to mention the largest dive operation in New Zealand, Dive! Tutukaka.
Dolphins!!!! You know how we love dolphins. Even though it feels like a little cheating on diving, as you have no need to a tank on your back to have fun with dolphins, they are the highlight of almost any trip!
A pod of at least 50 raced with our boat, giving themselves a good ol’ scratch on the front prongs of the bow.