Two of my offspring raved about their trips to the marine reserve off the Poor Knights islands. Expectations were high as we boarded the tour boat named Perfect Day.
Skipper Luke welcomed us aboard at the marina in Tutukaka, delivering the funniest safety briefing I have ever heard – so clever that I can still tell you exactly how the life-jacket goes on (both sides labelled “front”). It was somewhat less amusing when, within minutes, we were thumping through the four-five metre swell. Usually the first to become sea-sick, I did myself proud, eyes fixed on the horizon, gulping in the fresh air and moving with the boat’s rise-and-crash-rise-and-crash for the one hour “cruise”.
The crashing stopped when we pulled into a bay beside one of the islands of the Poor Knights group.
The descriptions I had heard of the super-clear water were not exaggerated. This image, taken from the top floor of Perfect Day when we anchored in the bay , shows kelp and the sea floor five to six metres below the surface.
The crew helped us into wetsuits and issued fins, masks and snorkels, so that we could jump in off the back of the boat and discover the secrets of the reserve for ourselves. Getting up close and personal with a school of electric blue fish and following a large snapper just below us was magic. Because no-one is allowed to catch fish in the reserve, the fish are plentiful and fairly tame.
Clever tourists successfully paddle-boarded around the bay (paddle boards also provided by Perfect Day). For me, a circuit in one of the tandem kayaks did the trick.
Suddenly, my perfect half-day was over. The rocking of the boat at anchor caught me off guard – and that’s where the series of paper bags came into the story. Iggy took over the photography for this blog post at this point, while I felt like I was going to die – then began to wish I would. Iggy labelled this flattering picture of me “Crook as a crab”.
Anchor up, the boat ventured in through quite a narrow opening to end up inside the nearby Rikoriko Cave, the world’s largest sea-cave. Through the railings, I managed a glimpse of its beautiful colours.
Commentary about the islands followed the visit to the sea-cave. When you see an image like this, you realise that for most of the passengers, it really was a perfect day.