Diving in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea lies wholly in the tropics just a few degrees south of the equator and 100 miles north of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula. Nearly 3 million people live in PNG which has a total land area of 178,213 square miles. Although a total of about 700 languages are spoken, English is widely taught and used.

The diving is flexible. You can dive with just your buddy as a twosome any time you wish. Some of the groups can make seven dives a day. Night dives are available each and every night. If you have the energy, you can even make a second night dive!

You will be surrounded by huge schools of barracuda, jack, tuna, tropical fish, turtles, and string rays. Manta sightings are part of every trip and of course, white tip and black tip sharks. You will also discover many different types of anemones, clownfish, hard and soft corals, colorful sea fans, giant clams, sponges, crinoids and nudibranchs. The Walindi area is the home for three different pods of bottlenose and spinner dolphins containing 20 to 30 individuals.

The water temperature year round is between 82 – 86 F. The average underwater visibility is 50 to 100 feet.

Why do I cringe when divers say they want to experience Papua New Guinea diving? It’s because, recently, space on these boats has become increasingly difficult to get. New Guinea’s exotic – and I do mean exotic – reefs are no longer Mother Nature’s “best kept secret.” This sumptuous marine environment has been discovered by very a few very lucky people! Are these magnificent reefs crowded? No, just the opposite. The area is so vast, I guarantee that you will not see another dive boat throughout your entire trip. If the opportunity presents itself for your next dive experience to be in Papua New Guinea, I seriously suggest you jump at the opportunity and get the trip under deposit now, before someone else grabs it. Most of us don’t have enough vacation time each year and, let’s face it – we work pretty damned hard. We’ve earned the very best.

One of the most unique treasures found in the New Guinea seas is the much-sought-after pygmy seahorse. The dive guides know on which dives these little jewels can be found, and they make sure that you know about them ahead of time so you can be prepared. We descend to about 72 feet and stop at a pink gorgonian sea fan about two feet in diameter. The search begins for the elusive pygmy seahorse. These tiny creatures spend their entire lives on this one sea fan. They are a mere quarter-inch from head to tail. I was told that nine of them make this particular sea fan their home. One would think finding only one out of nine would be easy, but they are the exact color and texture of the branchwork of the gorgonian sea fan. Using our “torches” (flashlights to us Westerners), the search is on. Five minutes go by; then, finally, a tiny twig moves. Focusing on it more closely, it transforms into the world’s tiniest seahorse. I now know how Alice felt for her first few minutes in Wonderland. Absolutely awestruck, I begin photographing this eighth wonder of the world. Then the guide points out another one not even five inches from the first. This one was a little bigger and covered with knobby pink bumps with red tips, all part of its fantastic camouflage.

Next, these divers tell me they are very serious underwater photographers. I cringe again. Why? Because I have to tell them how many roles of film they are going to have to lug halfway around the world. This number is about twice as high as they expect. Why? Because they are not going to be able to control themselves when they hit the extremely clear, warm waters teaming with the colorful, bizarre and “never before encountered” marine creatures found on every one of these dives. Some dives are so awesome that a diver/photographer will have to return to the dive deck halfway through the dive because he’s out of film… or to get a second camera… or to reload. One of the beauties of live-aboard diving is that any problems such as dead batteries, exposed film or a wrong lens can be remedied in minutes. The crew is so experienced that by the second day, they know which divers go with which cameras. All you have to do is surface at the dive platform and a waiting crew member will carefully place your camera in a fresh-water rinse tank, and get you your second camera. They are so efficient; you’re on your way again in 60 seconds.


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