Boats set out from tiny TUTUKAKA – set on a beautiful, deeply incised harbour 30km northeast of Whangarei – for one of the world’s premier dive locations, the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, 25km offshore.

Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve

The warm East Auckland current and the lack of run-off from the land combine to create visibility approaching 30m most of the year, though in spring (roughly Oct–Dec) plankton can reduce it to 10–15m. The clear waters are home to New Zealand’s most diverse and plentiful range of sea life, including a few subtropical species found nowhere else, as well as a striking underwater landscape of near-vertical rock faces and arches that drop almost 100m. One dive at the Poor Knights, the Blue Mao Mao Cave, was rated by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top ten dive sights in the world. The Poor Knights lie along the migratory routes of a number of whale species, so blue, humpback, Bryde’s, sei and minke whales, as well as dolphins, are not uncommon sights on the way to the islands. The waters north and south of Tutukaka are home to two navy wrecks. The survey ship HMNZS Tui was sunk in 1999 to form an artificial reef, and it was so popular with divers and marine life that the obsolete frigate Waikato followed two years later.

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