The coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to some of the world’s most spectacular diving. Dubbed as the ‘underwater photographer’s paradise’, many international award-winning photos have been taken in PNG waters. Located in the Indo-Pacific Area, experts say that the oceans surrounding PNG 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. Divers in these oceans enjoy a huge diversity of dive sites, including barrier reefs, coral walls (drop off), and coral gardens, patch reefs, fringing reefs, sea grass beds, coral atolls, and wreck dive sites. The wreck diving sites of PNG provide a collection of ships, aircraft and submarine wrecks from World War 2.
The average water temperature varies from 25 degrees Celsius along the edge of the Coral Sea to 29 degrees Celsius in the Bismarck Sea. One can dive in Papua New Guinea all year round, with the high season generally from May to November. Dive operators offer both land-based and live-aboard dive tours in Papua New Guinea. Land based tours normally consist of a day tour taking up to three dives, whilst live-aboard tours can take 7-10 days, with up to five dives a day. Most land-based operators offer resort-type dive courses and have fully equipped dive shops with diving and snorkelling equipment available for hire. For those bringing their own equipment, there are facilities available in the main cities to clean equipment. The majority of dive operators work on small to medium sized properties, with emphasis on personal attention in a relaxing environment. Dive sites in PNG are just a short distance from the resorts. The excellent quality of diving is synonymous with each operation, and the size of live-aboard dive boats falls between 45′ and 120′. Several operators now offer nitrox and rebreathers, and most boats have facilities for camera equipment changing.
Papua New Guinea also has its own hyperbaric recompression chamber. Located in Port Moresby, the DAN-sponsored facility is part of the US based Sub-aquatic Safety Service network and is supported by the dive operators through a small chamber levy. As the reef along the coasts of Papua New Guinea teems with life, it is extremely fragile. In recognition of the importance of preserving the marine ecosystem, members of the PNG Divers Association actively promote the use of moorings on regularly dived sites. The need to practice sensible diving and respect the underwater environment is always emphasized in PNG.
Albatross Passage: At an incoming tide this narrow passage shows a fabulous fish selection. Eagle Rays, Mobula Rays, big Dogtooth Tunas, Barracudas, plenty of Grey Reef Sharks and loads of other fish can be seen here on almost every dive. The wall itself is overgrown with big fan corals, black corals and sponges and this is the home for small creatures like Nudibranchs, Leaf Scorpionfish and Pygmy Seahorse.
Planet Channel is definitely one of the best dives in Kavieng: Pelagic fish action packed with Barracudas, Jacks, Eagle Rays and Sharks, soft corals, huge Gorgonian fans in every possible colour plus an amazing selection of small critters – it’s all here!
Used as a Japanese submarine haven in World War II, Submarine Base is a site with a vertical wall plunging 300 metres into waters abounding with myriad schools of tropical fish, pelagics, sharks and dugongs, nudibranches, shrimps, eels and many hued corals. Select from a variety of wall and drift dives. Bi Plane Peter is a Mitsubishi World War II Japanese spotter aircraft which stands upright in 27 metres of water and is in excellent condition. View colourful and beautiful corals with a wealth of marine life including moray eels, featherstars and puffer fish.
Over half the world’s species of coral can be found in Kimbe Bay. Pristine and colourful corals are home to a variety of fish, crustacean and invertebrate life. Many of the reefs have resident schools of barracuda, tuna and jacks. A range of shark species are regularly sighted, including hammerheads and silvertips, particularly on the offshore reefs. A short boat ride from shore is Susan’s Reef, the perfect coral garden. Prolific and vibrant hard and soft corals have provided the scene for countless magazine cover-shots. Fathers Reefs are a series of off shore reefs which are the sunken remains of a huge extinct volcanic caldera.
Three kilometres offshore from the town of Madang is the volcanic seamount known as Planet Rock. The seas around the mount plummet to a depth of over 2,000 feet, but the strong ocean currents that surge through Astrolabe Bay sweep around and across the apex of the mount at only 15 feet. These currents bring with them large schools of predatory, pelagic fish. Inhabitants of this site include Clown Triggerfish, Agate-eyed Moray Eels, Blue Fin Trevally and Jacks, Silver Tip sharks, and on occasion hammerheads and tiger sharks. Magic Passage is aptly named for its seething mass of schooling fish. Most common are the silvery jacks which form a wall around divers.
From diving the fjords to WW2 wrecks, the Tufi area offers a wide variety of diving experiences with constant visibility of 30 metres plus and water temperatures of 26°C to 29°C all year round. The House Reef (Tufi Wharf) sits in less than 10m of water and is home to gobies, mandarin fish, ghost pipefish, banded pipe fish, nudibranchs and other fascinating creatures making it a ‘must see’ for the macro photographer. Black Rocks are a series of circular reefs offering all levels of diving. Gentle currents bring in schools of pelagic, while the exposed rocks on the tops of the reefs offer great swimming and snorkelling between dives in a protected setting.
Milne Bay’s numerous superb dive sites include Lauadi, which offers incredible muck diving in sloping black volcanic sand with depths of 12-15 meters. Divers can spend a number of days exploring this site whose inhabitants include octopuses, including the mimic, Lion Fish, Sea Horses, colourful Frog Fishes, Blue Ribbon Eels, Ghost Pipe fish and a wide variety of nudibranchs. For the wide angle photographer there is a large variety of sea fans which grow to 10m below the surface under the jungle canopy. Wahoo Point is frequently visited by hammerheads, manta rays, mubula rays, minke whales and whale sharks. It is a small point with a shelf from 5-18 meters in depth and dropping with a sheer wall to over 60m.
Some of the best diving can be found minutes from the capital city. Susie’s Bommie is famous for its schooling golden sweetlips and batfish among a myriad of colourful tropical fish and coral. At 12-30m this pristine bommie situated on white sand offers divers a plethora of corals and fish life. The Pumpkin Patch is 6.5nm from shore and is home to abundant reef fish, black coral trees, soft corals, gorgonian fans, staghorn corals, plate corals. Best diving depth is 10-25m. Located 90nm south-west of Port Moresby in the Coral Sea is the spectacular Eastern Fields, a submerged atoll rising from over 1200m and covering some 400 square miles.
Language: Tok Pisin, English
Currency: Papua New Guinean Kina
Dive Season: All year round (optimal: mid-April to mid-June and mid-September to mid-December)
Air Temperature: 24°-29°C (75°-85°F)
Water Temperature: 23°-31°C (73°-88°F)
Visibility: 15 – 46 metres
Skill Level: Beginner – Professional