Te Tapuwae o Rongokako marine reserve is on the east coast of the North Island, approximately 16 kilometres north of Gisborne. It can be reached from State Highway 35, with public access at Pouawa.
The reserve is special because it contains eight marine habitat types - including inshore reef, rocky intertidal platforms and sediment flats.
Snorkellers can explore the rocks close to the shore. Down to about 10 metres in depth a variety of seaweeds can be found and kina, marine snails, sponges and other animals are common.
As you explore the crevices and overhangs you may see hundreds of tiny crayfish, depending on the time of year. Fish in shallower depths include spotties (paketi), banded wrasse (tangahangaha), red moki (nanua), hiwihiwi, butterfish (marari), marblefish (kehe) and parore.
At between 10 and 20 metres depth, there are extensive kelp forests which are home to many different fish species - scarlet wrasse (puuwaiwhakarua), scorpionfish, sweep (hui) and leatherjackets (kokiri). Sponges, hydroids, anemones, soft corals and sea squirts thrive on the rock faces and overhangs.
The reserve is home to many sea birds, including gannets, terns, penguins and gulls. Marine mammals also visit the reserve - New Zealand fur seals and several dolphin and whale species are all regularly observed in the area.
The beach and intertidal reefs are best explored at low tide. There are intertidal reef platforms around Pariokonohi Point near the southern boundary.
The legendary footprint of Rongokako (Te tapuwae o Rongokako), an ancestor of East Coast tradition, is embedded in one of the rocky structures of the marine reserve, close to shore. There are many stories about Rongokako. It is generally agreed that he was a man of immense athletic prowess and dexterity, a giant who could stride enormous distances.