Pohatu Marine Reserve

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Flea Bay is certainly off the beaten track. In fact, you'll need a 4WD vehicle to get here.

Pohatu Marine Reserve is centred on Flea Bay, on the south-east side of Banks Peninsula. To get there from land, take highway 75 to Akaroa, then follow the gravel Lighthouse Road up to the Flea Bay Road turnoff. The road down to the bay is steep and unsealed – a 4WD vehicle is recommended.

Pohatu pa or Flea Bay was the traditional home to Tutakakahikura and his people in pre-European times. The area was a rich source of food - fish, seabirds, shellfish and freshwater fish.

Low tide is the best time to visit. Mussels, limpets, chiton, sea tulips, whelks, crabs, catseyes, barnacles, periwinkles tubeworms and brown, red and green seaweed can be seen on the rocky shore platforms. Foot access over the boulders can be tricky, so take care.

The bay is home to two types of penguin - the hoiho (yellow eyed penguin) and korora (little blue penguin). You could also see fairy prions, spotted shags, terns and gulls. Observe the birds from a distance so that you don’t disturb them.

If you visit the reserve by boat, cruise slowly and be observant. Hector's dolphins are frequent summer visitors and fur seals haul out on the shore platforms. Boats should slow to less than 5 knots, and stay at least 50 metres away from seals and dolphins.

Although the water is cold, getting into it is one way to appreciate the reserve. With a wetsuit, mask and snorkel you can explore the rocks around the shore, while scuba gear will allow you to dive further out. A variety of fish such as triplefins, lumpfish, moki, butterfish, spotties, banded wrasse, blue cod, leather jackets, lobsters, paua and rockfish can be found.

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