Converging warm water currents, a micro -climate and thousands of years of separation from the mainland have resulted in a unique biodiversity below and above the water line.
Below the water, and stretching out a nearly a kilometre all around, the Poor Knights Islands are total Marine Reserve. Above, the Islands themselves are a designated Nature Reserve.
The complex underwater landscape is a unique environment. Subtropical and temperate marine life coexist with extraordinary diversity, beauty and density. Over 125 species of fish share this environment with soft corals, encrusting sponges, vibrant anemones, ecklonia kelp forests, mating sting rays, gorgonian fans and myriad other life forms.
A dive at the Poor Knights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, very different to diving coral reefs or even the nearby New Zealand coast.
Above the tide line the Islands and the small stacks scattered around them are equally impressive, especially in the spring when they are tinged red by masses of flowering pohutukawa. Isolated from the mainland for many thousands of years, the Islands are the remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted in the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’. In places the remaining cliffs leap a shear 100m from the wave-tops and plunge an equal depths below. On the few ridges and valleys between these and lesser cliffs, a unique blend of plants, animals and insects have evolved and thrived, safe from mainland predators.
Iconic among them is the tuatara, recognised as the worlds’ only surviving dinosaur.