Penguins at Pōhatu. © Andrea Schaffer Creative Commons

Pōhatu Marine Reserve

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Many many of New Zealand’s most charismatic marine animals hang out at Pōhatu Marine Reserve on Banks Peninsula, which hosts both penguin and seal colonies.

The reserve can only be accessed by four-wheel-drive, but the road reveals a scenic view around every corner, before descending to the sheltered waters of Flea Bay. Kayakers and boaties can explore a more dramatic landscape of sheer cliffs and sea caves not visible from land.

Fur seals on Banks Peninsula

 Fur seal at Banks Peninsula. © Jocelyn Kinghorn Creative Commons  

Pōhatu’s rockpools contain dense communities of the smaller sea creatures, and beneath the wave, it has a wide range of water depths and seabed types. This combination of interesting topography and abundance, both above and below the waterline, make Pōhatu well worth a visit in spite of its remoteness.

About 2600 kororā (white-flippered penguins) and some yellow-eyed penguins breed at Pōhatu – the largest little blue penguin colony on the mainland. They can be seen clustered in the undergrowth of the surrounding hills, up to 700 metres from the shore. They also swim out in the bay in large coordinated groups.

A Little Blue Penguin at Pōhatu Marine Reserve

Penguin at Pōhatu. © Andrea Schaffer Creative Commons

There is a seal colony in the outer reserve, Hector’s dolphins often visit, and orca are a common sight, making the water really quite crowded on a good day.

The rocky shore platform around the edge of Flea Bay is abundant in small animals and plants. Visitors who enjoy rockpooling will see many kinds of crabs, shellfish, anemones and seaweed.

Albatrosses cruise these waters and are most likely to be seen from the headlands.

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