Shrouded in Maori legend the sacred shores of the Poor Knights Islands have long been uninhabited by anything other than New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. Long ago a great Maori chief placed a curse on the land forbidding anyone to set foot on its shores and to this day the hallowed ground remains under his spell.
Now a fiercely protected marine park the volcanic shores are the site of one of the world’s most pristine diving locations. Loved by diving pioneer Jaques Cousteau the islands are known for providing the opportunity to interact with marine life like nowhere else on earth.
Due to the strict fishing and recreational boating restrictions the waters surrounding the islands have remained a safe haven for an unimaginable wealth of species. From colorful nudibranchs to majestic rays there are heart stopping sights to tempt every diver into the depths of the inky blue.
The lack of human presence has enabled a unique relationship to form between the marine life and the divers who visit. Whereas in other parts of the world marine life are familiar with the destructive nature of our influence, at the Poor Knights the fish, turtles and even sharks and rays are unaware of the nature of the human existence. It is not uncommon for fish to swim right up to your mask or moray eels to watch in fascination as you hover and observe.
Not only is there a remarkable selection of life, the surrounding volcanic architecture offers an awe inspiring backdrop on which to scout out your favorite creatures. Arch ways and overhangs litter the dark cliffs that plunge down to the depths of the sea floor. Swim through s tunnels and bubble caves offer divers the chance to feel like adventurers traversing undiscovered landscapes, and the carcass of a giant sperm whale decorates the floor of a record breaking sea cave within the rock.
Sculpted during the last ice age the architectural beauty is one of the most alluring aspects of the Poor Knights and it is thanks to the big freeze that we have this primeval environment to explore.
If you’re interested in witnessing the Poor Knights Islands yourself we recommend taking the only live aboard charter registered to take divers out to the island for an extended period of time. While a day trip will allow you to dip your toes into the waters that surround the sacred shores, the experience will leave you hungry for more and I can guarantee you’ll be back out on the water the following day.
We spent three days and two nights diving at the Poor Knights in December and can’t wait to return. While the summer months provide excellent visibility the winter brings with it the nutrient rich waters full of algae bloom and along with it an even greater range of marine life.
Would you like to dip your head in the sacred waters of the Poor Knights? Or does the thought of seeing a sperm whale up close excite your scuba buzz? Share your comments with us below.
Bio: Freelance writer and blogger Charli is a digital nomad currently travelling the world with her other half Ben. A writer / photographer team they run nice adventure travel blog Wanderlusters. Whether backpacking through Central America or road tripping around Australia they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure. If you want to hear more about their insatiable wanderlust make sure you follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.