Ashley & Jordi Dive the Poor Knights

Ashley & Jordi Dive the Poor Knights

We are Ashley & Jordi, Canadian & Dutch Tourism Management students in Amsterdam. As part of our studies we needed to complete a five month internship which we chose to do at First Light Travel in New Zealand. During our time there we were able to explore much of the beautiful country and one of our most unforgettable experiences was to dive the Knights Islands. A protected nature reserve with a rich Maori history, these uninhabited islands off the East coast of New Zealand’s North Island have now been labeled ‘tapu’ or sacred.

Learning to Dive Known for the clarity of the water & abundance of sea life, the area is the best dive site in the country and one of the top in the world. Just a few hours drive from Auckland, and with the possibility of kayaking, caving, snorkeling, swimming, surfing & more, it’s the perfect weekend getaway for everyone, including non-divers. When we arrived in New Zealand neither of us had our PADI licenses, so this was the first step. It was something we’d both been looking forward to for a long time and were excited to finally get certified. After a thrilling, exhausting, eye-opening week of studying at Global Dive (sister company of First Light Travel), fighting with wetsuits, floaty legs to finally seeing a sting ray in the ocean (only swallowing a couple mouthfuls of saltwater), we were ready to finally dive! Learning to dive in Northland New Zealand. Northland: One sunny weekend along with two other interns at First Light Travel, we rented a car after work on Friday and drove to our hostel in Whangarei, the northernmost city in New Zealand. The weather was beautiful for the time of year so on Saturday morning we went for a hike to Reed Kauri Park, named for the abundance of Kauri trees which are some of the oldest & largest in the world. Here we enjoyed the spectacular view from the forest canopy walkway. Walking to the great forests in the north island of New Zealand This brought us to picturesque Whangarei Falls, a 26 meter waterfall just a short walk from the town and where we were staying. Normally busy, because of the time of year we were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves which allowed for some great photo opportunities. On the way back we got a bit lost in the forest so we took the opportunity to explore. When we found the road again, we hiked through the stunning rural countryside back in the direction of our hostel, passing through fields, across farmland & over hills before finally returning. a perfect view of the main waterfalls in Northland We got back just in time to hop in the car and drive half an hour to Whangarei Heads Peninsula where we watched the spectacular sun set on the beach. With plentiful pristine beaches & stunning sunsets it’s a must do when in New Zealand. whangarei-heads-peninsula Ready to Dive the Poor Knights Islands! The next morning we got up with the sun to drive the short distance to Tutukaka harbour, the gateway to the Poor Knights, where we would board the boat. When we arrived, the friendly people at Yukon Dive greeted us and immediately began fitting everyone for gear – wetsuits, booties, goggles, hoods, flippers, tanks & weights. Everything went smoothly and we were on the water for the hour long boat trip out to the islands, before we knew it. The sun was shining, the water calm and the boat wasn’t too crowded, even with all the diving gear, making the cruise there (and back) very enjoyable. On the way out we chatted with some of our fellow divers and met Mary, a lovely retired woman who was going to be our guide. She obviously had extensive diving experience and was very knowledgeable, sharing lots of information with us about the area and explaining our dive plan – how many dives we would do, how deep, where we would go – an important part of any dive. When it was finally time to get in the water, we geared up and one by one jumped off the back of the boat. After a quick weight check, we were under. The winter often means better visibility when diving, the water was also beautifully calm & we were immediately greeted by a myriad of ocean life - sting rays, eels, an octopus & many different kinds of fish. marine life in the shallow waters of Northland The 50 minutes passed too quickly, distracted by the beautiful underwater world before us, and we had to surface before we knew it. Back on board for a break, there was the option to go kayaking but everyone chose to eat & warm up. After some well-needed food and coffee, while the boat motored to our second dive site, it was back into our gear and the water for the second dive of the day. When we arrived at the dive site there were other divers but by the time we were in the water we had the place to ourselves – another advantage to diving in the cooler winter water. The remains of a group of ancient volcanoes which erupted more than 10 million years ago, means that beneath the surface the islands have been hollowed and shaped by the ocean. These caves, tunnels & cliffs provide an extraordinary variety of habitats to explore and ocean life to see. This time we ventured into an underwater cave and were greeted by hundreds & hundreds of fish. Having little fear of humans they ignored our presence, giving us the opportunity to swim in & around them - a surreal & amazing experience. an amazing abundance of marine life seen diving in Northland From here we explored underwater cliffs & tunnels looking for other marine life but once again we had to surface again before we knew it. Although everyone was chilly from the cooler winter water nobody was ready for the day to be over. We climbed back aboard the boat and coasted into the largest sea cave in the world, Rikoriko. Here the captain took the time to demonstrate the amazing acoustics and share some history of the area with us. Translated as waning light in Maori, the cave is named for the patterns that the sunlight makes when reflected off the surface of the water upon the cave ceiling. From here we begin our trip back to land. Tired & awe-struck, everyone silently reflected on their experience, thankful for the amazing opportunity & the sun on our faces as we head back to reality. the view of the Poor Knights Islands as you leave by diving boat Goodbye Poor Knights, it was an unforgettable experience.


Stephanie Kellenberger
Stephanie Kellenberger
: 13 May 2016 (Last updated: 26 Jun 2017)

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