Exceptional Diving on the Last FrontierThis is diving's last frontier, a wild land surrounded by a sea of possibilities. Papua New Guinea, aka PNG, is known as the birthplace of muck diving, and Milne Bay remains one of the premier locations on the planet to seek out cryptic critters. But there is much more to discover in the waters surrounding the world's second largest island. Kimbe Bay is home to half the world's species of coral, while Rabaul offers towering walls and electrifying drift dives. The fjords of Cape Nelson hold forgotten WWII wrecks, and one does not have to travel far from Port Moresby to discover a seascape of coral grottoes and bommies.
- Best for: Muck diving, pristine reefs, big animals, biodiversity
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: Tropical and moist, with minimal seasonal variation, and air temperatures from the high 70s to high 80s
About Diving in PNG
This is a destination that can please big animal enthusiasts, reef lovers and critter hunters alike. Thanks to a combination of isolation and favorable geography, PNG has some of the most prolific and pristine coral growth in the world. Steep slopes and walls begin literally feet from the shore and drop to depths of more than 1,000 feet. In areas sheltered from currents, coral formations grow to immense sizes. By contrast, the bottom of sheltered bays may be covered in volcanic silt that holds a wealth of unusual marine life. Offshore pinnacles, points and sea mounds are washed by converging currents that attract a full spectrum of sharks, rays and other pelagic fish. Depending on location, water temperatures can range from the high 70s near Port Moresby into the mid 80s in the Bismark Sea.
Diving in PNG Tips
PNG is a country linked by air rather than roads. After arriving in Port Moresby, most travelers will continue to their destination by domestic flights that may have tighter limits on baggage size and weights, including carry-ons. While planning your trip, research these allowances and pack accordingly.
Best Places to Dive in PNG
In Milne Bay, Dinah’s Beach is known as the world’s original muck-diving site. At Deacon’s Reef, coral pinnacles packed with reef fish and invertebrates rise from the deep water. Wahoo Point delivers big fish action that includes hammerheads, manta rays, dolphin and whale sharks, and orcas have been known to pay a visit. Cryptic creatures such as ghost pipefish share space with discarded bits of history below Tufi Wharf. Plankton-rich currents draw pelagic visitors to the steep drop at Mulloway Reef, while the twin seamounts of Susan's Reef delight underwater photographers with pink sea whips and swirling clouds of fish. Krakafat has one of the highest densities of fish and corals ever recorded, and Garove Olnad provides a unique chance to dive into the interior caldera of a massive sunken volcano.
What to Pack for Diving in PNG
A skin suit may suffice for sites of New Britain Island and the north shore of Papua, but southern sites may dictate at least a 3mm suit. A hood will ward off chills during extended and less-active muck dives. Include a muck stick for bays, and a surface marker buoy for sites with currents.
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Diving in PNG
The waters of Papua New Guinea have corals and fish in both abundance and variety. The shores of Papua, New Britain, and surrounding smaller islands together support the fourth largest coral reef ecosystem in the world, including more than 40 species and some of the world's highest densities of coral cover. The range of marine life is equally rich, with more than twice the biodiversity of the Red Sea, and more than five times that of the Caribbean. Most any coastal area in the country is ripe for underwater exploration, but diving activities center around a number of self-sufficient liveaboards and comfortable waterfront resorts on New Britain and the main island of Papua. Near the big island's eastern tip, Milne Bay is credited as the original muck diving site, where dark volcanic sands provide habitat for a range of enigmatic and unusual creatures. But there's much more to Milne than muck, including the large coral heads known as bommies that rise to within a few feet of the surface. These formations provide habitat for small reef dwellers such as seahorses, octopi, dwarf lionfish, and frogfish, and become gathering points for schools of trevally and sharks. Offshore sites are washed in currents that also attract hammerheads, manta rays and even the occasional whale shark or minke whale. Some 120 miles to the northwest, the coastline at Tufi takes on a very different character, with deep fjords surrounded by rainforest-clad hills. Calm, clear waters within the fjords allow sponges and certain varieties of coral to grow to immense sizes and support rich communities of macro life that include numerous species of goby and nudibranchs, mandarin fish, ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorses, and more. Outside the fjords, pinnacles rise from depths of a half-mile while signature wrecks in the area include the Dutch cargo ship S Jacob and an intact B17 bomber. On the north coast of New Britain Island , Kimbe Bay is the epitome of a coral garden. More than 400 species of hard corals thrive in the calm waters of the bay—representing more than half of all hard corals found worldwide. Soft corals, reef fish and invertebrates are found in equal abundance. Reef formations near the mouth of the bay drop into oceanic depths and add a range of larger fish. Kimbe is also the departure point for trips to offshore pinnacles that serve as magnets for pelagics, and cruises to Father's Reef and the submerged volcanic landscapes of the Witu Islands.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry Requirements: All U.S. citizens are required to present a valid passport which must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of entry into the country. Proof of onward or return ticket may be required and you must have at least 1 blank page in your passport for the entry stamp. Visas are required for entry for stays less than 60 days which are given upon arrival for tourist stays.
Exit Requirements: All persons leaving PNG, pay a Government Departure Tax which should be included in your airline ticket.
While there are no required vaccines for entry into Papua New Guinea, it is always recommended that you check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
Papua New Guinea is one of the most fascinating and primeval destinations on earth. It is a land of smoldering volcanoes, impenetrable forests, exotic wildlife and still more exotic cultures. With few roads, vast tracts of the interior highlands remained unknown to the outside world until the mid 20th century. This region is home to isolated tribal communities that speak more than 800 distinct languages. Village elders are one generation away from a stone-age heritage, and much of the nation still embraces broad elements of traditional lifestyles and dress. Elaborate rituals accompany marriages, deaths, rites of passage and ceremonial eats. Cultural gatherings such as sing sings are not performed for tourists but are an actual gathering of tribes to resolve conflicts and disputes through competitive song and dance rather than warfare. In addition to unique cultural interactions that can include stays in traditional villages, visitors can engage in a range of eco adventures, from birding excursions to mountain treks and river trips in dugout canoes.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in PNG is 240 volts, 50 Hz, similar to Australia, so an adapter will be needed for U.S. visitors. Some hotels have 110 adapters for hair dryers and shavers. The country code for PNG is 675. Check with your cell phone provider for international plans including data, text and voice. Some hotels offer WiFi, but internet service can be spotty.
In general, drinking the tap water is not recommended. It is best to drink bottled water throughout the country.
Language & Currency
English and Tok Pisin are the official languages, but most communication is via Tok Pisin. There are over 800 indigenous languages spoken among the various native tribes. The local currency is the Papua New Guinea Kina (PGK) but U.S. dollars are accepted in some places. Check the currency rate here. ATM cards can be used at banks. It is recommended to change some money in Port Moresby upon arrival if possible.
Papua New Guinea utilizes Papua New Guinea Time or PGT which is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+10 GMT). PNG does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Location, Size and Population
Papua New Guinea is a large island located in the southwestern Pacific and accounts for the eastern half of New Guinea and it’s numerous other offshore islands. The island is located 160 kilometers north of Australia. There are some 600 offshore islands off of Papua New Guinea. The size of Papua New Guinea is approximately 178,000 square miles (about the size of California) with the main island having the bulk of the surface area. The island of New Britain is approximately 14,000 square miles.
The population of Papua New Guinea is 7.77 Million (2016).