Reports on a Classic Destination:

Diving the

Poor Knights Island . . .

by Carl Roessler

Many of my friends know that I do cold-water diving only very reluctantly. Some photo subjects such as great white sharks or the wonders of the Galapagos have repeatedly drawn me back, but I’ve turned down dive trips to other places because the water temperatures were in the 60s.

Some years ago, I had a dive group scheduled to go with me for a cruise in Australia’s Coral Sea. Not long before departure, a U.S. Navy destroyer being berthed rammed into our live-aboard and damaged it. Ooops!

By pure coincidence, I had recently been contacted by a distant relative of my wife. He lived in Auckland and was eager to have us bring divers to dive the Poor Knights Islands off the northeastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

Six of my clients agreed to share the adventure, and off we flew to Auckland.

Many of you know that Peter Jackson is a New Zealander and that he took advantage of the country’s stunning beauty in the filming of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson principally filmed on the South Island, but the North Island is as beautiful in it’s own way.

Volcanic geysers, rolling farmland, caverns filled with bioluminescent glowworms, a glorious rocky coastline and a sea brimming with marine life added excitement to our diving.

Our host had moved his live-aboard North from Auckland to Tutukaka, from which an easy thirty-mile cruise places divers amid a spectacular series of high volcanic islands laved by an unusual tropical current.

So, even though the water is cold, everywhere one looks are brilliantly-colored tropical reef fish. The rocky substrate is covered everywhere by waist-high bull kelp. The kelp beds form a watery jungle through which slide lobsters, countless moray eels, nudibranchs, starfish and other marine species.

The rocky islands have many huge arches and one massive cavern into which we drove our live-aboard, anchored it and spent the night. A ‘first time ever’ for me!

Our dives were among the kelp beds and in a series of arches through which nutrient-laden currents flow. Hanging on for dear life in the currents, we would be surrounded by schools of dazzling Pink Mau-maus and other gaudy species, all busily feeding on the cornucopia of plankton and smaller species.

While the Poor Knights are not on the international dive travel radar yet, these magical islands will keep you plunging into the br-r-r-r-r cold water again and again!

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