Getting Close to the Remote Kermadec Islands

23rd September 2014
kermadec islands marine reserve

Crown of thorns starfish and shark at the Kermadec Islands. Photo: Pete Mesley.

There is something beautifully mysterious about the Kermadec Islands. Made from a chain of 80 volcanoes, they look and sound as though they’re from another planet. With 745,000 hectares of area in total, they make up one of New Zealand’s largest marine reserves. If you want to visit the islands, you can. However, you will need to get permission from the Department of Conservation (DOC) first.

What Makes the Kermadec Marine Reserves so Special?

Not only does this marine reserve sit along a tectonic plate, it comes with a subtropical climate and around 1,500mm of rainfall per year. No matter what type of weather you are used to, those factors combined will make visiting Kermadec quite the treat.

After acclimatising to the weather at Kermadec, you have the chance to explore tropical marine and plant life. One of the plant species unique to this island is the Kermadec Pohutukawa, which is red, has a spikey appearance, and is a beautiful contrast to the surrounding green fauna.

Fans of turtles will enjoy their time on this island, as you can find them there in abundance. If you are traveling with a group that enjoys history, they might enjoy heading to Raoul Island, where a shipwreck from the years of European exploration remains.

What Can You do at Kermadec?

It takes around four to five days to journey to Kermadec, as it rests approximately 1000km off the nearest mainland point of New Zealand. After your journey, you won’t be disappointed with what the island has to offer.

Anybody who loves bird spotting will see plenty of feathered friends. Vibrant red-tailed tropic birds walk in close proximity to the fluffy little petrel chicks. In fact, you can see many birds there that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Naturally, this means the eco systems on some islands are incredibly sensitive. You therefore cannot sail directly to Raoul from Auckland. Instead, you have to visit either Tonga Island or the Fiji Islands, which prevents your boat from disrupting the wildlife.

Diving and snorkelling are two of the most popular activities amongst boaters who visit these islands. The waters there are crystal clear, and some of the fish live for up to 50 years. There are multiple urchins in the area, so do swim carefully and pack relevant medical supplies to prevent accidents becoming serious. Many of the taller cliff faces and boulders allow divers to plunge themselves into waters that reach depths of 30metres. As always, you need to make sure you don’t disturb marine life or corals while enjoying your water pursuits at Kermadec.

Preparing for a Stay at Kermadec

If you are going to spend four or five days traveling to the Kermadec islands, make sure you make the most of your stay. First, you need to apply to the DOC for permission. Once you have it, bear in mind that your boat will be your only source of accommodation, as camping is not permitted on the island. Many who stay there choose to move onto the Fiji Islands, before heading south again and stopping off at Raoul Island. Fishing is prohibited, and you cannot take any marine life from the sea floor. It is a criminal offense to take anything at all, even shells.

If you are prepared to adhere to the rules surrounding a trip to the Kermadec Marine Reserves, seize the opportunity to do so. Few islands are as beautiful, and many of the species you see there cannot be found elsewhere.

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