Photo Essay: Scuba diving the Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand

The recent earthquake in Japan has dominated the headlines for the past two weeks, but not too long ago New Zealand suffered its own devastating disaster.

A 6.3-magnitude quake struck Christchurch on February 22, killing over 100 people. To commemorate the one month anniversary of the tragedy, a group of New Zealand travel bloggers started the #Blog4NZ campaign to promote New Zealand tourism. Their goal is to ensure that visitors continue to visit this beautiful country.

We’re excited to participate in the campaign because we had a fantastic time visiting New Zealand. In 2008, we spent a month traveling across the North and South Islands in a Jucy Campervan. (To see what a campervan looks like, check out the Traveling Canucks’ post on New Zealand).

Wearing a wet suit to snorkel in Poor Knights Island, New Zealand.

We donned wet suits to snorkel and scuba dive in Poor Knights Island, New Zealand.

One of the highlights of our trip was a scuba diving excursion to the famed Poor Knights Islands in northern New Zealand. We beat the crowds by going off-season, and got to wear hardcore full-body wet suits. It was a memorable experience!

Poor Knights Island

Our visit was in July, right in the middle of the New Zealand winter, and waters were a chilly 55′ F. Despite this, we had a fantastic time and saw plenty of marine life while diving and snorkeling in the pristine waters.


Once we arrived near the dive site we were amazed by the rock formations above the water. In addition to the marine reserve, the Poor Knights Island chain itself is a protected and uninhabited nature preserve.


Because of the cold weather I had to wear a very thick (and very snug) wet suit to keep the cold water out. It was form fitting, to say the least!


The island chain consists of two main islands, with several smaller inlets between the two. They were formed by volcanic eruptions, making them very jagged and rocky.


One of the most magnificent places to dive there is underneath Blue Mao Mao Arch, which due to the protections it offers is home to huge schools of fish.


Leslie isn’t a scuba diver, but she donned a fashionable wet suit to snorkel at the surface.


The rocky volcanic islands are home to tons of sea lions. Although the beasts are large and slow, we didn’t manage to capture any on film!


Unlike other popular dive sites we’ve visited, Poor Knights Island was free of crowds. We were the only ones diving in the area that day.


Blue Mao Mao Arch was large enough that our entire boat was able to sail through it following our dive.


For more info

Check out the Poor Knights Island Wikipedia page for a brief description of the islands and their history.

There are several scuba diving operators in the area. We used Dive! Tutukaka and had a fantastic experience. They were very accommodating and we received great hands-on attention during our boat trip and dives.

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About Jake Semmel

I'm a blogger and round the world traveler. I'm always on the lookout for new places to scuba dive, hike and ski.