The Poor Knights Island

The Poor Knights Island

Named one of the ‘Top Ten Dive Sites in the World’ by Jacques Cousteau, the Poor Knights Islands are the most popular diving area in New Zealand. A marine reserve, The Poor Knights support an abundance of marine life, with dive sites for all levels of experience. Here is a small selection of the many incredible sites at the Poor Knights:


The archway is a Mecca for stingrays during the mating season. Recently some divers have also encountered manta rays here. The walls of the archway are a riot of colour and great for photographers. The archway drops down to 40 metres, and drops away more deeply to the south west.


This cave is large enough for charter boats to cruise in and test out the acoustics. A good torch is needed when diving this cave to bring out the vibrant colours of the life on the walls.


The arch is home to a wide range of fish, and drops down to 44 metres.


Any attempt to go into the cave requires considerable penetration and should only be done by experienced divers. The entrances are at 18 metres, and the floor at 37 metres. The rims of the two entrances support a wide variety of invertebrates such as gorgonian fans, sea trees and other hydroids, soft corals and many bryozoans.


This is a good dive, but you need to watch out for boats passing through. One group of divers, who were on their first dive after completing their course, were lucky enough to have a pod of orca cruise through during their dive!


As its name implies, this arch is a blue maomao paradise with thousands of the fish suspended in the water here.


Unlike its name, Barren Arch is actually full of life. It was given this name in an attempt to discourage divers.


Dropping to 37 metres, the arch is a riot of colour and harbours a number of species.


NE side of Tawhiti Rahi. Depth: 0-40m+. An awesome dive down the vertical wall with myriads of gorgonians below the ecklonia forest. The wall continues down beyond safe dive depths. Look on the sand platform at 30m for lizardfish, porae and sponges. Bronze whaler sharks are a regular occurrence.


East side Tawhiti Rahi. Depth:5-40m. Best known for the Air Bubble Cave about 30m from the point on the south side. Inside are three separate air chambers big enough to surface in and breathe. Be cautious in case the air is stale. Usually demoiselles around the cave entrance and the occasional Spanish lobster hanging onto the cave roof. Drops very steeply off the point to very deep water.


Middle of landing bay, Tawhiti Rahi, 200m east of cliffs. Depth:5-35m. A really good pinnacle dive with plenty of fish that change from blue maomao to pink maomao and butterfly perch as you descend. A good place to see spotted moray eels. Look amongst the green-blue bryozoans for nudibranchs. At 30m its not unusual to have a long-finned boarfish swim with you.


400m out from Landing Bay Pinnacle. Depth: top at 30m. Experienced divers only. A shot line from the boat above the Pinnacle is the best way to find the top of the pinnacle which is very small. A few large crayfish and a large speckled moray eel that investigates visitors. Plenty of fish hang in the current over the edge. The bottom is around 100m. Several other deeper pinnacles in the bay as well.


In from Landing Bay Pinnacle. Depth: 24-35m. The cave has two entrances but there are some blind tunnels. Go through only with someone experienced. Look at the invertebrate life on the ceiling as you enter and exit. A few interesting pigfish, Sandager’s and other wrasses near the entrance. Often very big scorpionfish at the cave mouth.


West of south harbour. Depth:0-32m. Steep wall on the eastern side and broken reef on the west. See mosaic moray eels amongst the rocks and Palmer’s diademas at the base of the wall at 30m. Most of the colourful species of nudibranchs can be seen plus coral shrimps. If baitfish schools are swirling there are usually some kingfish hunting them. A lionfish was found there in 1990.

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