The main underwater feature of Parininihi Marine Reserve is Pariokariwa Reef. This extends north from Pariokariwa Point towards the reserve’s seaward boundary, and is surrounded by fine sediment and mud.
Most of the reef lies in the south west of the reserve at between 5 to 23 m depth. Submerged parts of the reef rise up to 9 m from the seafloor, and form a network of small caves, over-hangs, canyons and pinnacles. These are encrusted with large bryozoan (Celleporaria agglutinans)colonies, and a diverse, colourful assemblage of sponges, as well as hydroids, anemones and soft corals.
At high tide the sea reaches the base of the spectacular, 245 m high cliffs (Whitecliffs /Parininihi) that stretch between Pariokariwa Point and Katikatiaka Pa. These cliffs form short headlands and small bays, with black sand beaches dotted with boulders at their base. Small reefs surrounded by gravel occur offshore. Sand flats are the dominant habitat type between depths of 20 to 30 m.
it is home to a variety of fish species, large rock lobster populations and a colourful tangle of rare and exotic sponges that spread across the reefs of the area.
History and culture
In pre-European times this area was known to Ngati Tama as a rich fishing ground, and several areas were excluded from the marine reserve to allow for customary as well as recreational fishing.