Map showing Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve

The Poor Knights Islands are a group of uninhabited islands off the east coast of the Northland Region of the North Island of New Zealand. They are located 50 kilometres to the northeast of Whangarei, and lie 22 kilometres offshore half way between Bream Head and Cape Brett.

The chain consists of two large islands (Aorangi and Tawhiti Rahi) with a group of smaller islets between the two, the largest of which is called Motu Kapiti. The name Tawhiti Rahi is also used as a name for the entire chain by Māori. The islands are the eroded remnants of a 4 million year old rhyolitic volcano. The total area of the chain is 24 km².

The islands are protected as a nature reserve and a permit is required to land or tie boats up. Permits are usually granted only for scientific research.

In 1981, the ocean surrounding the Poor Knights Islands was established as New Zealand's second marine reserve. The marine reserve extends for 800 metres offshore around the Poor Knights Islands. In a marine reserve it is prohibited to disturb marine life or remove rocks or shells. No commercial fishing is permitted within one nautical mile (1,852 metres) and long lining is the only commercial fishing permitted between one and three nautical miles.

Diving and snorkelling are one of the best ways to enjoy the underwater world of the Poor Knights. However kayaking lets you explore the caves and arches and the clear water allows everyone to observe the marine life.

Image: Two clown nudibranch, taken in the Poor Knights Islands of New Zealand by Jon Radoff.

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