Papua New Guinea (PNG) possesses some of the best dive spots in the world. About twice the amount of fish species as compared to the Red Sea, and roughly ten times as many species of corals are found here compared to the Caribbean. PNG has been rating constantly very highly with divers, as is shown by the many awards at international shows.
A very special characteristic for PNG's diving is the deep water which comes very close to the shore. Only a couple of feet away from the beaches are vertically dropping reef walls which reach down to 300 meters (1000 ft) or more. This can be found on most parts of the northern coastline and on the southern shores of New Ireland and New Hanover (Kavieng area) and in some areas of the Milne Bay. In the more sheltered bays delicate coral formations are spreading to enormous size, which cannot be found on barrier reefs. This is typical for Kimbe Bay in West New Britain.
Another distinguishing feature is the closeness of dive sites to the Islands. Short boat transfers and the additional benefit of the unique South Pacific atmosphere sets the diving in PNG ahead of other popular destinations in the South Pacific.
Hundreds of wrecks, many of them WWII wrecks, are scattered across the nation above and below the waterline. Boats, planes, barges and submarines, some of them still in excellent condition, have been transformed into living coral reefs. Kavieng, Loloata (Port Moresby) and Rabaul are good places to visit for wreck diving.
Although the standard of the majority of dive operations, led mainly by Australians, is very high, a separate diving insurance such as offered by DAN is a must, as PNG is very isolated. A modern decompression chamber is available in Port Moresby. Part of the maintenance is financed by each diver who pays a mandatory chamber contribution per dive day. Bring your certification card and logbook. If you have a DIN regulator bring your INT adapter.
Liveaboards offer guests the most intense diving experience as they offer up to four or five dives per day. Warm water and tropical climate make it very pleasant. The remaining time between dives is spent sunbathing, relaxing, and with shore excursions. The standard of diving cruises in Papua New Guinea is very high. Most boats are in business for a long time and their crews have an excellent knowledge of the dive sites. The diving experience of most guests is very high and for this reason the diving is very individual.
West New Britain
You should include this destination in your PNG trip, especially if you are into underwater photography. Kimbe Bay, Witu Islands and Fathers Reef are the most popular destinations. The area offers a lot of variety in diving.
Characteristics of the West New Britain area include the huge range of giant soft coral species, the abundance of barrel and elephant sponges and the prolific marine life. Coral can grow to enormous sizes in Kimbe Bay, as it is so well sheltered there. Sometimes plate corals just collapse under their own heavy weight, because they grow bigger here than normally. Whale, orca and dolphin encounters are not unusual in the area.
Kimbe Bay: Very sheltered and the diving is usually very calm and relaxing. There a lot of outstanding dive sites (more than 190 reefs). The reefs are rising from approx. 600 metres (1800 feet). All dives in this part of the world are exceptional. This is true not only for divers, but also for non-divers.
Witu Islands: A very pretty island group which offers a lot of variety in diving. The islands are of volcanic origin. Garove Island (about 60 km northwest of Kimbe Bay) was a large volcano in the past. The crater is now flooded with water (approx. 300 meters deep) and makes for some great diving around the island that was created within the volcano's caldera. The landscape is awesome! You are in for big fish like barracudas, trevally, large dogtooth tuna, Spanish mackerel and sharks.
Fathers Reef: are a chain of reefs out in the open ocean, northeast of Kimbe Bay. Silvertip, grey reef sharks and barracudas are some of the attractions here. The reef formation and invertebrate life here are fantastic. Diving is ideal for intermediate to advanced divers. As the reef tops are shallow, snorkelers will enjoy the reefs.
Rabaul and the South Coast of New Britain are a critter lover's heaven. White sand beaches and uninhabited tropical islands stretch along the Southern coastline of New Britain Island, with rainforest coming right down to the waters edge. The channels between the islands invite for drift diving, however the specialty of this region is the amazing variety of rarely seen and unusual critters.
Some of the liveaboard cruises start or end in Rabaul. Those cruises go along the northern coastline of New Britain and can include Duke of York Islands and Cape Gloucester.
Rabaul was one of the big battle zones in the South Pacific during WWII. A big number of ship wrecks are in the area. A large volcanic eruption in 1994 has covered a number of them in meters of ash. Diving in the harbour on some wrecks has resumed weather permitting. Some of the wrecks are very deep (only for very experienced diver), with some beyond sports diving limits. Reef diving around Rabaul is ideal for intermediate to advanced divers.
Kavieng has a huge variety of marine life. There are fantastic pristine coral gardens, sponges, many different species of nudibranchs and tropical fish. This is a great place for "macro" diving and to see big pelagics at some of the signature dive sites. When the currents are strong, Eagle Rays, Mobula Rays, big Dogtooth Tunas, Barracudas, plenty of Grey Reef Sharks and loads of other fish can be seen here. Divers should be more experienced in general and like to dive in currents in order to do and enjoy those exciting dives.
Apart from fantastic Reefs, walls and Coral Gardens, Milne Bay is well known for "muck diving". The so-called "muck diving" is done in areas with sand and rubble bottom, where you find all sorts of weird but wonderful creatures. We've encountered unusual critters like ghost pipefish, panda clownfish and mantis shrimps. The variety of marine life in Milne Bay is almost unbelievable. Not only are rare scorpion fish like the Rhinopia aphanes (or Merlot Scorpionfish) seen regularly here, but you also will find creatures that have not yet been recorded from other places of the world.
There are many other dive options for every taste. Milne Bay is home to seahorses, frogfish and rare species of garden eel, blue ribbon eels and many different species of clownfish. A great wreck dive is the Bomber "Black Jack", which is one of the best-preserved B17 planes in PNG waters. It is right at the bottom of a teeming reef wall, which makes the deco stops on the way up a real pleasure. This is a wreck for very experienced divers and is only available on special group charters.
Milne Bay Diving
Tufi is located in a very pretty area in PNG, with some of the most dramatic landscapes PNG has to offer. Deep fjords are the main feature of Tufi. They protect some fabulous labyrinths of fan and shelf coral and provide a natural “crèche” for all sorts of juvenile marine life. The resort wharf will never cease to amaze you. This area was a United States base for P.T. Boats during WWII. Here you can dive in and out of the remains of two P.T. boats - still sporting a deck gun and loaded torpedo tube. Tufi’s off shore reefs are hunting spots for a large variety of sharks and other pelagic fish.
It is often claimed that Port Moresby is the best capital city in the world for diving. In fact, after 3 years of living and diving in Port Moresby, we totally agree. You don't have to go far in PNG to get fantastic diving. Lush reefs and wrecks with rare species of fish are easily accessible from Port Moresby. There are about 30 charted dive sites.
It is not only those perfect natural features that make PNG the best place in the world for diving. A few liveaboards and a number of top dive resorts offer outstanding service to divers. Wherever you go in PNG, you will be one of few divers who explore the reefs. PNG is far away from any form of mass tourism.