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Lissenung Island – Paradise Found

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Christopher travels to Lissenung Island in Papua New Guinea for a dream dive experience

Have you ever dreamt about staying on a remote tropical island, being lulled to sleep by the gentle lap of the waves on the white sand beach, the wind softly rustling the leaves of the palm trees, as images of the day’s diving among spectacular coral and schools of fish float through your mind?

Dream no more. Lissenung Island, twenty minutes by boat south of Kavieng harbour is that paradise island. Owned by Austrian ex-engineer Dietmar Amon and his wife Ange, its seven rooms are ideally located for diving both the South Pacific Ocean sites to the north and the Bismarck Sea sites to the south, and around the numerous small islands that cover the area. The usual routine sees the dive boat leave after breakfast and return for lunch. Afternoon dives leave around 3 PM, and dusk dives to look for the impossibly colourful mandarinfish can be organised.

The aptly nudibranch-shaped island is nestled half-way between the jaws of western New Ireland, and has coral reef around two-thirds of its small shore. I say aptly named as although New Ireland has a deserved reputation for big schools of pelagics, from bumphead parrotfish to silvertip sharks, Dietmar is an ardent fan of the oceans’ smaller, slower occupants.

Nudibranchs, a sort of brightly coloured sea slug of which there are over 800 species, and cowries, marine molluscs, are amongst his favourite finds. Although they might sound like the underwater equivalent of spotting stationary trains, Dietmar has fascinating tales about their underwater feats. Who would have thought that one of the deadliest creatures in the ocean is the geographicus cone shell, also known as the cigarette snail, as smoking one last one is about all a human has time to do after being bitten by one.

We arrived for lunch, and as we strode ashore and up the short beach to be greeted by our hosts, it was impossible not to break into a grin. The only shoes we’d be wearing for a week were fins as the path from the restaurant to our chalet was velvety soft sand.

Straight after lunch we sorted our kit out, boarded the twin-hulled dive boat, and headed back to Kavieng harbour for an afternoon muck dive on an upturned Pete WW2 Japanese float plane, and around the wharf, where a decent number of the marine world’s weird and wonderful inhabitants such as ghost pipefish, nudibranchs and shrimps, octopus, and pipefish dwell.

The harbour tends to be a bit murky given its sandy bottom and protected nature, but the dives sites on the reefs between the islands were much clearer. The changing tides produce some strong currents that flush clear waters from the deep sea over the abundant reefs and through tiny passages. It is during those currents that the pelagics pitch up; Grey, blacktip, and whitetip reef sharks, tunas, mackerels, schools of jacks and barracudas are frequent visitors to the numerous dive sites to the north and the south.

The following morning we headed south to Danny’s Bommy.  Starting at 7m, it is connected to the island via a saddle down at 15 metres, and on the outside it plummets straight down into the inky blue depths. We dropped in and headed down to 30 metres where a school of twenty-odd, large humphead parrotfish were cruising. They didn’t stop, and I think the coral must’ve been very pleased. These 40-kilo fish look like they could do some serious grazing with their beaks (really teeth fused together) and, unlike most other parrotfish, are partial to live coral as well as the algae that live on them. Coming back up I spied a white-bonnet anemonefish, the eighth of the nine species that live in PNG waters that I had seen. Now only the panda or saddleback anemone fish was missing. We ended the dive among the schools of fusiliers adorned the top of the coral-covered bommie, gazing into the blue.

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After relaxing in the sun on the boat (there is plenty of shade, but I get plenty of that back home) with some fresh fruit, we headed over to Kavin II and its long wall for a spot of pygmy sea horse hunting on gorgonian fans. Nozaki, the resident instructor, soon gave me the underwater “look here, small stuff” sign, and sure enough, right where she was pointing, was a miniscule centimetre-long, knobbly pink seahorse. Amazing.

I snapped a few shots off before thinking that I had to be able to find it for myself before I could use the picture, otherwise it would be like getting someone to hunt trophies for you. I turned my head away and looked back. Gone. I knew what it looked like, I knew where it was to within a square metre, but, try as I might, I could not find it. I searched, my face inches from the fan, for several minutes, until I started to go cross-eyed and lose the ability to focus. Nozaki came back, waved her hand in front of the fan gently, and found it in under ten seconds, and left me to continue my challenge.

I tried the hand wave, more a flexing of the fingers than a regal Queen Liz special, and lo and behold something tiny was swaying before my squinting eyes, its tail curled around apiece of fan. I was a pygmy seahorse hunter and raised my camera and snapped away under the watchful eyes of a longnose hawkfish, whose presence I’d totally overlooked. So engrossed was I in my quest for one of PNG’s dive grails, I’d almost missed this photographer’s chalice. As I’d been down there for so long, it had got used to my presence and pouted for me until dive computer told me that it was time to ascend to shallower depths.

Closer to the surface my camera found little respite as Ange pointed out a leaf of seagrass that had legs and a pair of eyes. A superbly camouflaged halemeda crab was lurking on the wall. About 20 metres further along one of his cousins, the slightly more conspicuous but equally small orang-utan crab was trying to hide in a crack. After seventy minutes we were unsurprisingly low on air, low on battery, and pretty famished.

After lunch at the resort, a battery change, and a decent snooze, just before dusk we headed north to a destination known only as Nozaki’s Secret. It is listed on the dive site map, but not shown. Why the secrecy? Mandarinfish. These impossibly brightly coloured creatures attain six centimetres in length, and are nocturnal. Not surprising given how well they stand out in daylight. Odd as this may seem, it is part of their defensive system. One of the few scaleless fish species, they are protected by a toxic mucous and their Chinese lord’s robe motif is a good example of aposematic coloration – where toxic creatures warn potential predators of their inedibility through the use of bright colours.

Five metres below the surface, Nozaki set up two underwater torches on sticks to illuminate a head of finger coral and we settled in to watch the show. The males put on dancing displays to attract one of the numerous females. When a female was suitably impressed she would rub up against the male’s pelvic fin, the pair would rise up 50 centimetres from the coral head for 10 to 15 seconds, release a mixture of eggs and sperm, and then shoot back to the protection of the coral. Trying to get the camera to focus in the low light during one of these brief forays into the open proved to be quite a challenge, and we spent a good half an hour watching a succession of males dance and the subsequent mating.

Over the next four days we dived the best reefs to the north and the south, and enjoyed them all. Matrix has fantastic hard corals in the shallows and huge fan corals from 20m downwards make beautiful scenery. Drifting along, on the current the reef was a riot of vivid colours as anthias and butterfly fish danced around the corals. This is probably the most beautiful drift dive around Kavieng.

Peter’s Patch, at the south eastern tip of a large reef system in the Steffen Strait, is great for batfish and pelagics, with tuna and barracuda a-plenty. On the other end of the reef system lies Helmut’s Reef, and here we found leaf fish and white-bonnet anemonefish, one of the rarer of the nine species of anemonefish found in PNG.

But the best site in the area, in my opinion, is the amazing Albatross Passage. On an incoming tide this narrow passage between two islands is like fish soup. As water comes in from the deep and gets closer to a shelf nine metres below the surface it speeds up and draws in a myriad of fish life from the food chain. Schools of sardine-sized fusiliers and snappers looking for lunch brought by the upwelling waters attract dogtooth tunas and barracudas, which in turn attract grey reef, blacktip, whitetip and sometimes silvertip sharks. Eagle and devil rays are sometimes seen here, and hooking onto the top of the reef and watching the action over the top of the wall is a spectacular experience.

The wall itself is covered with big fan corals, black corals, soft branching coral, and sponges and this is the home for small creatures like nudibranchs, leaf fish, and scorpionfish. At around 30 metres there is a sandy shelf that does a good job of reflecting the light, and even when the current is pumping at the top, the deeper sections of the wall and the shelf are calm. On a foray to find more pygmy seahorses and long-nosed hawkfish, a large cuttlefish gave us a display of its ability to change colours. We dived this site three times, and would gladly go there every day.

Afternoon dives on the house reef that goes two-thirds of the way around the island are free, and much of the best stuff is in three metres of water, making it ideal for snorkelling too. It doesn’t take too much luck to get a glimpse of juvenile blacktip reef sharks around the far side of the island, but here I was interested in something a little more elusive. I had photographed eight of PNG’s nine anemonefish species, but was missing one. The panda or saddleback anemonefish. Wading into the water, past the seahorse lolling around like a seemingly listless drunk, I followed Dietmar’s directions to the mooring buoy, turned right, and swam over the sandy bottom for all of 30 seconds. Lo and behold, in a small anemone was my prize. And they weren’t alone. A couple of transparent anemone shrimp were out too, and kindly posed for me.

Several times a year, Lissenung’s twin-engined 26-foot Ozycat heads northwards to New Hanover on expeditions to explore virgin reefs, a Japanese two-man submarine, and Chapman’s reef and its resident giant groupers, staying in guesthouses on different islands depending on the itinerary. For Ange and Dietmar, this tiny island has become home, but for us, this was paradise.

Papua New Guinea travel: PNG is three hour’s flight time north of Australia, six hours from Singapore, and has weekly and twice weekly direct flights from a range of destinations like Manila, Cebu, Bali, Sydney, Cairns, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Within PNG, the best way (and often only) way to get around is by air either with Air Niugini or Airlines of PNG. Lissenung Island’s closest airport is Kavieng, and has daily flights from Port Moresby. Returns are around $400 USD.

Best of PNG put together tailor-made dive trips that can also take in the best Sing-Sings (cultural festivals) on the PNG calendar, trekking up Mt Wilhelm or the Kokoda Trail, and Sepik River expeditions.  www.bestofpng.com

An experienced professional photojournalist, Christopher started taking underwater photos with a second-hand 2 megapixel Canon in 2005. Since then his work has been published across the globe in publications such as Scuba Diving, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, X-Ray, Diver Divestyle, FHM, and many more. He is the water correspondent for www.ecology.com. He has also shot pictures for brochures and promotional material for clients in the Red Sea, the Caribbean, Eastern and Southern Africa, Australasia, and the Galapagos and has had exhibitions of his work in the UK and France. Several times a year he leads photographic safaris to Africa, and runs underwater workshops in Zanzibar, Egypt, and Papua New Guinea. www.bartlettimages.com

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Join Pharaoh Dive Club for Red Sea Splash Family Summer Camp in August 2024

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family summer camp

3rd AUGUST 2024  – 1 or 2 WEEK PROGRAMMES

Daily water programme with Snorkelling & Scuba Diving.

Beginners or qualified, something for all.

Leave the kids with the Splash Team for days of Excitement, Fun & Adventure!

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BOOK NOW: INFO@PHARAOHDIVECLUB.COM / TEL: +44 7598 329059 or +20 100 6822000

There are various options for accommodation with options for 2, 3, 4 or 5 guests.

Eco Huts provide accommodation for families of up to 4. The best option to enhance the adventure and closest to camping with basic facilities. For August we will provide central air cooling for all the Eco Huts.

family summer camp

Deluxe Chalets are only suitable for 2 guests. Fully air conditioned rooms with private bathroom and other facilities.

family summer camp

Boutique Rooms are available for families of up to 5.
Individual bespoke rooms fully air conditioned with private bathroom and other facilities.

Eco Huts: £675 per adult / £425 per child / Under 8 FREE of charge
Deluxe Chalet: £830 per adult / £505 per child / Under 8 FREE of charge
Boutique Room: £925 per adult / £550 per child / Under 8 FREE of charge

BOOK NOW: INFO@PHARAOHDIVECLUB.COM / TEL: +44 7598 329059 or +20 100 6822000

This is a truly unique opportunity to have a Family Desert Adventure totally away from it all! You will be based at the remote Roots Red Sea on the coast of the Egyptian Eastern Desert, 140km south of Hurghada city.

family summer camp

Red Sea Splash main focus is Snorkelling & Scuba Diving but that’s not all, we provide a rounded week of activities in support.

Pool& Field Games – Arts & Crafts
Marine Biology Workshops
Cultural Activities – Orienteering Adventures

Roots Red Sea have established strong links with the local communities of Hamerwain  & El Quseir affording our guests to have a true taste of the local culture, SPLASH CAMP embraces this opportunity and bring in the local children to join in the fun with our adventure seekers.

family summer camp

During the day, families are welcome to take part in all activities together or the kids can be left with the SPLASH CAMP team while the parents enjoy the facilities or go diving themselves!

family summer camp

At the end of the day, its family time while the SPLASH CAMP team take a break. For those with the energy, there are family evening activities planned a few evenings.

Open Air Movie Night – Desert Star Gazing Walk & Talk
El Quseir Evening City Tour

The second week is very special, we head off on the Big Blue for a liveaboard safari around Fury Shoals.

family summer camp

BOOK NOW: INFO@PHARAOHDIVECLUB.COM / TEL: +44 7598 329059 or +20 100 6822000

U-8 Splash Club

Sadly we can’t offer Scuba Diving to the Splash Club but we can have lots of fun Snorkelling & Free Diving!

Splash Club includes:

Certified Snorkel Course – Marine ID Games – Intro to Free Diving
Arts & Craft Sessions – Adventure trails – Cultural Playtime – Pool Games

family summer camp

U-12 Explorer Club

In addition to an exciting snorkelling and Free Diving Programme in the Splash Club we can take you under the water on SCUBA to a whole new world of fun and wonder. If you are under 10 your first breath under water will be as a Bubblemaker and continue with daily Seal Team Missions. From 10 we will complete a Discover Scuba Diving experience in the amazing Red Sea. Alternatively we offer a full junior certification programme to become an international qualified Scuba Diver.

family summer camp

U-16 Adventurer Club

For qualified Scuba Divers regardless of age it’s the Adventurer Club and exploration of the local reefs and marine life. There will be 2 dives every day with the Open Ocean marine field station team who will introduce you to Red Sea marine life and workshops on marine research. Alternatively there are opportunities to continue your scuba diving certifications with our instructional team.

family summer camp

Parents are welcome to join the club activities and join the courses.

BOOK NOW: INFO@PHARAOHDIVECLUB.COM / TEL: +44 7598 329059 or +20 100 6822000

Big Blue might seem like the new kid on the block, but the team behind the highly acclaimed liveaboard is far from that. They have been running Red Sea safaris since the late 1980’s and were in fact part of the early pioneers who ventured out to the unknown on vessels that in today’s world, really shouldn’t have left the harbour! It’s that experience and the years of operating the award-winning Roots Red Sea resort which truly set Big Blue apart from the crowd!

family summer camp

Large lounge area, spacious sun deck and terrace deck.

family summer camp

Airy restaurant with five tables with up to six chairs per table, serving a varied and delicious menu with special dietary requirements catered for.

family summer camp

The spacious cabins have side by side beds and a large walk in wet bathroom.

family summer camp

Ample dive deck for divers & snorkelers.

family summer camp

Safety is everyone’s priority, whether you are relaxing on board, swimming, snorkelling  or diving.

On board Big Blue is fitted with smoke alarms, emergency lighting and a fire alarm system. The lower corridor has a full-size door fire exit at the bow and open stairs to the stern. There are evacuation plans in each room along with life jackets, glass breaker tool and a fire extinguisher.

BOOK NOW: INFO@PHARAOHDIVECLUB.COM / TEL: +44 7598 329059 or +20 100 6822000

Red Sea Splash at Fury Shoals is a very rare opportunity to get involved with marine biology expedition for children and adults. Open Ocean biologists are on board to provide fascinating and entertaining facts about the marine life you will see. The team will provide workshops on marine life identification and survey methods both of which, should you wish, you will have the chance to put into practice during your safari.

family summer camp

The week is open to snorkelers, scuba divers and non divers too!

Fury shoals is perfect for first time mariners as it offers plenty of protection from the weather.

We board at Port Ghaleb on Saturday evening and prepare to set sail early on Sunday morning.

family summer camp

Heading south, our first day will be diving the reefs of Abu Dabbab before sailing overnight to reach our ultimate destination the Fury Shoals.

Here we will spend four days swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving amazing reefs. This includes guaranteed DOLPHIN encounters at Sataya Reef!  After the last dive we haul anchor and head back to Abu Dabbab for our final two dives before disembarking our boat BIG BLUE.

family summer camp

Camp Extension Cost*
Adult £650 per adult
Under 16 £350 per child

BOOK NOW: INFO@PHARAOHDIVECLUB.COM / TEL: +44 7598 329059 or +20 100 6822000

FURTHER INFORMATION – INFO@PHARAOHDIVECLUB.COM

TEL: +44 7598 329059 or +20 100 6822000

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Meet Pure Dive Resort: Your Gateway to Unforgettable Diving in Bali, Indonesia

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bali

If you’re passionate about the underwater world, listen up! We’ve got an incredible opportunity for you to experience the vibrant reefs and majestic marine life of Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia.

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info@purediveresort.com / +62 811 3999852 / www.purediveresort.com

Pure Dive Resort isn’t just another dive centre; it’s a team of experts dedicated to providing world-class scuba diving and freediving adventures around Nusa Penida, Lembongan, Ceningan, and even Bali.

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info@purediveresort.com / +62 811 3999852 / www.purediveresort.com

Whether you’re a seasoned diver or completely new to the sport, Pure Dive Resort has something for you:

For certified Divers: Discover stunning dive sites, encounter manta rays, seasonal mola-mola (sunfish), and a dazzling array of marine life.

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For beginners: Embark on your scuba journey with beginner programs like Try Scuba and Basic Diver, Open Water and Advanced certifications.

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Freedivers: Explore the depths on a single breath with guided freediving experiences and courses.

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Exclusive Scubaverse Offer: Save on Your Next Adventure

As a valued Scubaverse follower, you get an exclusive 10% discount on any Dive & Stay or Learn & Stay package booked at Pure Dive Resort for 2024. Dive into the crystal-clear waters, explore breath-taking reefs, and create unforgettable memories in this diver’s paradise.

Visit https://www.purediveresort.com/package-offers/ to explore amazing packages and claim your discount with the code: SCUBAVERSE10

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info@purediveresort.com / +62 811 3999852 / www.purediveresort.com

Ready to make a splash?

See you in Nusa Penida!

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Experience the Red Sea in May with Bella Eriny Liveaboard! As the weather warms up, there’s no better time to dive into the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. Join us on Bella Eriny, your premier choice for Red Sea liveaboards, this May for an unforgettable underwater adventure. Explore vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs Enjoy comfortable accommodation in our spacious cabins Savor delicious meals prepared by our onboard chef Benefit from the expertise of our professional dive guides Visit our website for more information and to secure your spot: www.scubatravel.com/BellaEriny or call 01483 411590 More Less

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