Visiting Northern Marine Reserves

16th December 2014

Depending on the northern Marine Reserve you head to, you may need to visit another marine reserve to take your boat there. While this may seem confusing, it is necessary to maintain the biodiversity of the island you are visiting. Knowing a little more about visiting islands north of New Zealand can help you develop an itinerary.

Restrictions on Visiting Northern Marine Reserves

No matter how careful you are with your boat, the Department of Conservation (DOC) may not hand over a landing permit for certain Marine Reserves. Take the Kermadec Group, for example. Many of them are so fragile, only researchers can land there. However, Raoul Island is a lot more robust, so the DOC may grant you permission to land there. However, you must still demonstrate that you have a genuine history in the island’s habitats and history.

The confusion doesn’t end there. Usually, you must travel to an island further north, then come back to the Kermadec Group. This is because the habitats there are so delicate, you may disturb them by dragging organisms from southern areas of New Zealand into sensitive areas.

Planning Your Itinerary

If you are not a researcher, and therefore cannot land anywhere except for Raoul Island, you need to venture further north to head to the Kermadec Group. You have two choices here: go to the Fiji Islands, or visit Tonga Island.

Tonga Island is also a New Zealand Marine Reserve, which means it is a fantastic destination for those who have a general interest in conservation. There, you can find the Abel Tasman National Park, which is excellent for those who want land adventures alongside their sea journeys.

The Tonga Island Marine Reserves are closer to Kermadec, but visiting Fiji may give you the chance to explore a slightly more tropical climate. In both instances, each destination is excellent for those who enjoy beaches, snorkelling, and exploring land alongside exploring the sea.

After spending a short while at the Tonga Islands or Fiji, you can visit Kermadec. However, do remember that you still need to seek DOC permission to do this. DOC permits generally don’t remain open for you to visit anytime you like, as it is better to space out visitors than to allow an uncontrolled influx. Therefore, you need to plan every aspect of your journey carefully and stick to your plans as best you can.

Choosing the Right Boat

While you can stay in the Tonga and Fiji areas, you cannot stay on Raoul Island. Therefore, you should make sure your boat features everything you need for a few overnight stays. Depending on where you travel from in New Zealand, your journey is at least 1000km long. Estimates for journey times vary depending on your boat and the time you set off, but they tend to take four to five days.

While the DOC does place a lot of restrictions on visiting the Kermadec Group, they do provide a boundary map with navigational instructions. In addition, you need to pay close attention to anchoring instructions. This includes guidance on exploring the wreck at Raoul Island, and not disturbing the sea fauna in the area. While this may all seem a little cumbersome, knowing these instructions inside-out can make visiting these islands easier. Knowledge is power, especially when you need to obtain permission from the DOC to visit somewhere.

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