Papua New Guinea has long been a divine Ithaca for divers and snorkellers alike – standing as the ultimate underwater finale for those who have spent their lives logging dives into a scruffed-up notebook, or re-watching ocean documentaries to get their weekly fix. Located in the Indo-Pacific area, experts suggest that the oceans surrounding Papua New Guinea have up to twice as many marine species as the waters of the Red Sea and up to five times as many as the Caribbean. With a huge diversity of dive sites, including barrier reefs, coral walls and underwater wrecks from the second World War, we showcase this once-in-a-lifetime destination as our destination of the week:
Just offshore from the town of Madang is the volcanic seamount known as Planet Rock. With the seas surrounding the submarine mountain plummeting to a depth of over 600 metres, it can be both an intimidating and thrilling encounter with one of the more grand topographies of the Indo-Pacific. Riding the strong ocean currents that surge through Astrolabe Bay, schools of predatory, pelagic fish that feast on the marine biodiversity of the islands’ waters will come within a fins’ distance from divers. Inhabitants of this site include clown triggerfish, agate-eyed moray eels, blue fins trevally, silver tip sharks and on occasion hammerheads. A common sight is a seemingly never ending wall of silvery jacks.
Fin-kicking through this narrow passage, you can come up-close to some of the most majestic creatures of the sub-aqua world. Swim alongside eagle rays, mobula rays, big dogtooth tunas, barracudas, grey reef sharks and plenty of other fish. Divers can scale the site’s large wall – overgrown with many different types of corals – and they can carefully investigate the macro world of nudibranchs, scorpionfish and pygmy seahorses. Kavieng has it all, from action-packed displays from pelagics to bizarre macro behaviour.
Once the Japanese submarine safe-haven in World War II, Rabaul’s “Submarine Base” is a site cut in half by a 300 metre vertical wall which is circled by myriad schools of tropical fish, pelagics, sharks and dugongs. Offering both wall and drift diving, this site also allows divers to come up close to a fallen piece of military history. Biplane Peter. A Mitsubishi World War II Japanese spotter aircraft which stands in excellent condition upright, has become coveted by tropical marine life and visited by countless divers.
It is recorded that over half the world’s species of coral is on display in the waters of Kimbe Bay, and what a display – pristine and colourful corals provide a technicolour home for a variety of fish, crustacean and invertebrate life. Divers can explore the incredible reefs that host resident schools of barracuda, tuna and jacks and a range of shark species are regularly sighted. Take a short boat ride and you can dive down to the incredible Susan’s Reef – the perfect coral garden. A range of vibrant hard and soft corals have stood as the leading image for countless magazine cover shots, and provide a colourful contrast to the darker sunken remains of huge extinct volcanic caldera.
Many divers will never have seen a dive destination quite this varied; from diving the fjords to World War II wrecks, the Tufi offers constant visibility of 30 metres plus an eclectic mix of marine life. The House Reef sits in the 10 metre shallows and is home to gobies, mandarin fish, ghost pipefish, nudibranchs and other incredible creatures that give it it’s “Must-Dive” status. Ideal for the macro photographer, the site can also be the perfect breeding ground for wide-angle photography as gentle currents bring in schools of pelagics.
A short boat ride from the capital, divers can swim below with schooling golden sweetlips and batfish among plenty of colourful tropical fish and coral. At 12-30 metres this almost untouched bombora (offshore reef or rock) offers divers a smorgasbord of corals and fish life. On a clear day, the diving here can be world-class. Holding an abundance of reef fish, black coral trees, soft corals, gorgonian fans, and many more. Fancy going that extra nautical-mile? Located 90nm Southwest of Port Moresby in the Coral Sea is the spectacular Eastern Fields, a submerged atoll rising over 1200metres and covering over 1000 square kilometres.
Milne Bay, the place that put Papua New Guinea on the international scuba map, is visited by some of the most prolific species in the sea animal kingdom. Divers can spend a number of days exploring this destination whose inhabitants include octopods, lion fish, seahorses and a variety of macro life. The fantastic reefs, walls and coral gardens hold many wrecks from the past World Wars and can sometimes reveal rare marine life. This underwater sanctuary is the beating heart of Papua New Guinea’s dive tourism.