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Thrown skyward in a violent eruption millions of years ago, the Poor Knights Islands stand as silent sentry to forgotten worlds, and sacred peoples.
The sheer cliff faces have been eroded by wind and wave action over thousands of years to form faces, nooks and crannies, and weird statues.
As we lay quietly at anchor I heard the laughter of long-gone children echo across the water, as they gathered kumara and fish to feed the tribe, and yesterday’s stories came alive.
The world’s largest sea cave dwarfed us as our boat sailed inside, and our calls echoed in the huge chamber. People have been forbidden to set foot on the Islands since a Maori massacre hundreds of years ago, this tribal tapu and Nature Reserve status protecting the pristine environment.
Due to its isolation from the mainland, the Poor Knights became an Island sanctuary with no introduced species; this Middle Earth in the Middle of the Ocean is a throw back to when invertebrates were King. Endemic species thrive here; tuatara – Earth’s only living dinosaur – share burrows with Buller’s shearwaters, giant weta are the size of mice, and the plant species are twice the size of their relations back on land.
The Buller’s shearwater are not the only birds to call these islands home. The bellbird song here is deafening in the early hours, and even as you are anchored in a boat below, their daytime song is loud and clear, something you no longer hear back in New Zealand. Spotless crake can be seen near the streams, and native cuckoo are here also.
The seabird life contributes greatly to the islands fertility with their droppings playing a role in the balance of life here. Fairy prions, rare ternlets, many species of petrel, and a gannet colony on the Pinnacle and Sugarloaf stacks to the south of the main islands. There are literally millions of birds.
The timelessness of the place placed its cloak over me, and the spirituality of the island touched me. I felt like a special visitor. Its memory will stay with me, shape me, and defined me a little bit more.
My imagination watched hairy-footed Hobbits leaping over rock bridges, and peering from behind outcrops that look like gargoyles; I am sure they were waving good-bye as we departed.
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