Papua New Guinea Diving
Papua New Guinea sits firmly at the top of many divers’ bucket lists due to the rich fauna, WWII wrecks and virgin coral reefs. Named by some as the wild west of diving - for its remoteness, rugged terrain and pristine sites, it is still a secret for the adventurous few.
Diving in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) occupies the eastern half of New Guinea, as well as over 600 smaller islands and atolls. Referred to by some as the “wild, wild west of diving”, this country is remote - off-the-beaten-track locations require small local planes and often lengthy travel times due to the lack of main roads.
The beauty of the lush rainforests above the water is echoed in the more than 52,000kmsq2 of unspoilt coral reefs below. Most dive centres are found around the coast of the main island, with some dive resorts on the east coast and New Britain. Though dive courses are offered by most, Papua New Guinea diving is better suited to divers with a few dives under their belt. One of the best ways to dive Papua New Guinea is on a liveaboard. You will get to explore further away from the islands, perhaps even on dive sites where no one has been before.
The peaceful remoteness of PNG is a key draw, seeing no other divers is a frequent occurrence. The original muck diving, WWII plane wrecks, coral atolls and marine life, including hammerheads and whale sharks, are just the icing on the cake.
Best time to dive
Diving in Papua New Guinea is possible year round - the seasons do not affect the diving a huge amount, with year round warm temperatures. The ocean temperatures remain between 26oC and 30oC, with the Bismarck Sea enjoying the warmest temperatures. Daytime temperatures stay in the high 20s year round with tropical humidity and storms.
The Bismarck Sea is best from May to November (though winds can be strong in August), while the South Pacific and Coral Seas are best from December to May - the Solomon Sea has favourable conditions year round. Visibility is normally 30m+ except on muck diving sites and coastal sites near the mangroves.
Types of diving
Papua New Guinea diving is a reward for the adventurous - it takes serious dedication to reach some of these locations! For this reason, small liveaboards are the most popular method of accessing dive sites - you will seldom even see another dive boat.
There is a massive variety of dive sites on offer and photographers will be agog at the landscapes on display. The reefs in Kimbe Bay are routinely listed as the most beautiful and pristine in the world. Alongside vibrant coral gardens lie plunging walls, swim throughs and caves. WWII fighter planes and ships scattered around the coastline provide for the wreck lovers. Milne Bay is well known as the original muck diving destination that put PNG on the diving map.
What to see
The diversity around Papua New Guinea is nearly unparalleled - its location in the centre of the coral triangle and the ring of fire means that it enjoys spectacular variety. Muck diving alone reveals a wealth of critters - the regular suspects like eels, cuttlefish, octopus and frogfish are just the beginning - pygmy seahorse, rare rhinopias, mating mandarinfish and nudibranch galore will delight lovers of the weird and wonderful.
Fish are drawn to the nutrient rich waters and you can see enormous schools of snapper, fusiliers and barracuda swirling like tornados in the blue while big game like tuna hunt. Black and white tip reefs, grey reefs and wobbegong sharks are frequent visitors. Hammerheads and whale sharks have been known around Milne Bay, which also has manta rays in September, while mobula and eagle rays are seen year round. Big marine life is common, with dolphins seen daily and visits from sperm, minke and pilot whales as well as occasional orca sightings.
Best places to dive
Kimbe Bay, New Britain
This marine protected reef is stunning and healthy. Big pelagics like sharks and barracuda swim alongside soft corals. Highlights include Susan’s Reef, Father’s Reef, an intact Japanese fighter plane and the volcanic Witu Islands.
One of the most diverse locations, this site has macro like pygmy seahorse and big fish like hammerheads and manta rays. There are stunning wrecks and dramatic drop offs too.
On the main island, this is the jumping off point for liveaboards and has its own excellent muck and reef diving too like Nateara Barrier Reef.
On the tip of New Ireland, this site is famous for schooling silvertip sharks, WWII wrecks and pelagic fish like dogtooth tuna. There are also freshwater caves near Kavieng town and exhilarating drift dives.