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To the end of the world and return - PNG scuba adventure

If you are after no crowds, relaxed diving and unspoiled reefs, then maybe you should pack your dive gear and head on a journey to Papua New Guinea. From Pygmy Seahorse to Grey Reef Sharks everything is possible, as long you have enough air in your tank.

Situated just over 2800 km from Sydney, Australia away is the untouched country of Papua New Guinea. It seems to be at the end of the world, however, at least from Sydney there is quite a handy connection to the diving paradise of New Ireland. With Air Niugini it takes around 9 hours from Sydney to Kavieng airport, via Port Mosby, and another 30 min boat ride to Lissenung Island Resort. Because the flight leaves Sydney at 8.45 in the morning the guests arrive just in time for dinner. So you feel refreshed for the next morning where the diving starts and the fun begins. For international divers heading for PNG it is recommended to have a stopover in tropical Darwin rather than in Port Mosby because of the high crime rate.  Nevertheless the rest of the country is very safe and I experienced no problems whatsoever.  

Lissenung  Island Resort

Over the last 15 years, the resort has developed into an established scuba diving destination. The Resort is situated on a small Island with four Bungalows containing seven rooms which cater for 14 guests in total. The bungalows are far enough away from each other to have privacy but close enough to the common areas. There is a comfortable bed with fan and mosquito net, a desk and a wardrobe with enough power points, neat little balcony  and a small cake every night, nice one that. Overall it is simple, comfortable, and luxurious for such a remote place, even if the shower has only cold water.

The dive centre has computer and internet facilities free of charge and all essential diving equipment.  The meals are served in a large outdoor area with a bamboo roof and sand floor. There is also a small collection of books and magazines and fresh coffee/tea is available all day.  There is no TV or bar but drinks can be bought or BYO preferred night drink because alcohol is quite expensive in PNG. It’s all about diving, so do not expect a fancy night life.

The main attraction of PNG is the pristine reefs which are promising an unspoiled diving experience. World famous for a reason?  I was going to find out over the next few days. A few words firstly about the house reef. It's rather shallow with 4 to 8 meters but actually nice and as a photographer you might appreciate that you could go diving solo after permission from the friendly management. There is an abundance of gobies, shrimps, clown fish and reef fish. A cleaning station for juvenile batfish and a massive school of juvenile Big-eyed trevally are there to see. There is a small wreck and some sea grass with a family of coral shrimpfish. It is free of charge after two boat dives in the morning.

The double dive in the morning leaves after a breakfast. The signature dive would have to be Albatross passage and it rocks when there is a strong current. A lot of pelagic fish, all the usual reef fish and a Denise's pygmy seahorse at 34 m. It’s difficult deciding what lens to choose. So, best to do  two or three dives there for wide angle and macro shots. Generally, most dive sides have bit of a current running and visibility was around 30 meters on my stay. The dive guides try to find critters if you tell them what you want to see, on the other hand you also have the freedom to explore on your own. There is also a mandarin fish dive in the harbour and wreck dives on the menu. My favourite spot was Peter's Patch, a submerge reef. It starts at around eight meters and drops off into the blue. It is by far a most stunning reef with pelagic and macro alike. But be aware of the current. The resort operates three dive boats and most dive sites are within easy reach. The main diving vessel provides plenty of room for camera gear.

Kabaira Dive Rabaul Resort

On my return to Sydney I included a few days stay at the Kabaira Dive Rabaul Resort. That means however after a full days rest I had an early start ahead of me. Leaving the resort at 4.00 am, to catch the flight to Rabaul at 6.00 am. On arrival, Stephen the owner was waiting for me and after a 70 minute drive we arrived at Kabaira Dive Resort. The resort offers basic accommodation with shared amenities. If privacy is what you are looking for then private Villas are available. There is definitely a family like atmosphere to the buffet style dinner, as Stephens parents join and retell the fascinating history of PNG. I must say the food already made the stay worthwhile, with probably the best curry in the south pacific. There is a basic dive hut and two small boats with shade.

After a hearty breakfast, a couple of hours sleep and a tasty lunch I headed for two dives in the afternoon. Again the reefs are just so healthy. There was less current and not many pelagic however I was told there are usually somewhere around. I saw some sharks, barracudas and spanish mackerels. It is however the mixture of wide angle and macro subjects which makes the diving so diverse. There is an abundant house reef which is absolutely worthwhile to explore with your dive buddy.

The signature dive would have to be the George's wreck. Starting at ten meters and lying against a reef slope it heads all the way down to 55 meters. The colourful display of coral grow and the open cargo bays makes it a stunning wreck dive. It used to be a mine layer from WWII. There are also some tanks and aeroplanes to be discovered during diving however this I did not see in my short stay of only three days. A reason to go back, indeed. The water was 28 to 30 degrees and the visibility as good as in Kavieng.

The bottom line, PNG provides a diverse tropical diving experience with huge sponges, fans and healthy reefs. There is a good chance of pelagic fish encounter, however do not forget the macro lens. Both resorts have an easygoing atmosphere where the staff goes that extra mile to ensure that your diving holiday is exactly what you came for. What made the difference for me is that PNG still feels like and adventure and the last frontier without the usual crowds that often spoil your diving at other hotspots.

After a much too short time spent with some amazing dives I'm already on way back Down Under. If there is some time to kill in transit at Port Mosby Airport, first check in your luggage then the courtesy bus will take you to the Pool Side Bar at the Seaway Hotel only five minutes from the airport. More photos are available on my Facebook Page or simply drop me an email to
mattsdivephotos(at)yahoo.com.au.

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Land and Accommodation

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