Papua New Guinea Scuba Diving. There is some amazing diving in PNG, but it really is a large and diverse country. It is also spread out over a big area – so where to even start? In reality it would take several trips to experience all the best places! So, if you are going there for the first time it is best to concentrate on one of the main scuba diving locations.
From an overall perspective it is best to think of Papua New Guinea scuba diving as four main areas. As shown on the map to the right.
First of all there is the main island of New Guinea. There is some very good diving on the south coast near the capital Port Moresby. While beautiful Tufi on the north-east coast has some exceptional sites. And then there is Madang up in the north-west.
Centered around Alotau on the eastern tip of New Guinea is Milne Bay. Plus the other islands that make up Milne Bay Province.
Going east into the island provinces of Papua New Guinea there is the large island of New Britain. There the diving on the north-east coast that is centered around Kimbe Bay and Rabaul. Plus there is remote south-east of the island.
Last, and by no means least… Papua New Guinea scuba diving has the excellent wrecks, reefs and pelagics around Kavieng at the north-west tip of the chain of islands that make up New Ireland Province.
The Main Locations – New Guinea
The main island of New Guinea has three significant scuba diving locations. All of which offer some great diversity of reefs, wrecks and critter diving. The following brief descriptions contain links to take you to the anchor page for each of those locations. Or you can go back to the Complete Guide to Diving Papua New Guinea and follow the links from there.
Contrary to what you might expect so close to a capital city… There is actually some great scuba diving around Port Moresby. In fact, in the right conditions, a couple of the sites are simply world-class!
Often overlooked by diving tourists passing through on their way to Milne Bay, New Britain or New Ireland. A stop-over in Port Moresby gives you the chance to sample the local diving at the sites around Bootless Bay and the offshore reefs.
For a the complete overview of diving in Port Moresby. Plus a candid and honest assessment of the dangers associated with going there (it has a bad reputation…). Together with things to do an where to stay, check out the Complete Guide to Diving Moresby.
Located in remote Oro Province and universally known as “Beautiful Tufi”. This area of Papua New Guinea is as scenic underwater as it is above. It is one of my favorite places in PNG.
Tufi literally has something for everyone. The incredible fiords are really quite unique and visually spectacular. Plus the local villages are very welcoming in an open and friendly manner. They offer some great experiences if you are interested in staying at a village guest house for a few days.
Isolated as it is by on the east coast by the Owen-Stanley mountain range. Tufi is only accessible by plane or ferry from Port Moresby.
Below water there is the critter diving right off the dive jetty in Tufi fiord. Then there are the excellent offshore reefs that are only visited by divers from the resort. I have literally spent weeks diving and exploring Tufi and it’s surroundings and never tire of it!
Check the Complete Guide to Diving Tufi – It will help you plan your trip to this very special, remote and incredibly beautiful part of Papua New Guinea.
Madang & Wewak
This is an area of PNG I have yet to explore. But I have heard a lot of good things about it and it is very much on my “to do” list.
For now, I can only point you in the direction of those who I know have dived the area. Such as Jan Messersmith who was a long-term resident of Madang. He ran an excellent blog on the area and life in general called Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.
Jan has now moved back to the USA, but his blog is still a great source of local information on Madang. Also, Golden Dawn bases itself in that general area from June through to September.
Finally, although I have never dived with them, Melanesian Tourist Services have extensive operations in the area. They offer diving as part of their overall portfolio through Nuigini Dive Adventures.
The Main Locations – Milne Bay Province
Milne Bay is what put Papua New Guinea scuba diving on the radar of travelling divers and underwater photographers worldwide. That was back in the late 1990’s and early noughties and mainly because of exploits of Bob and Dinah Halstead.
The Halsteads boat, the MV Telita, was the first liveaboard used for Papua New Guinea scuba diving. It was built locally and operated exclusively in Milne Bay.
These days Bob and Dinah have sold their business and moved on. But Bob still leads occasional charters on Golden Dawn, which now does Milne Bay in March, June and October.
MV Chertan concentrates solely on the Milne Bay area and is very much my liveaboard of choice there. Its owner and skipper Rob van der Loos probably knows Milne Bay better than anybody else!
Milne Bay has tremendous biodiversity with everything from the famous black sand critter site Dinah’s Beach at Lauadi. Which is located up on the north coast of the bay. To the incredible manta ray cleaning station Giants@Home down in the southern China Straits
It is also possible to dive the incredible B17 Black Jack aircraft wreck from Milne Bay. One of the “must-do’s” of Papua New Guinea scuba diving!
Check out the Complete Guide to Diving Milne Bay to help you plan your trip to where it all began for Papua New Guinea scuba diving.
The Main Locations – New Britain
The island of New Britain is the largest in Papua New Guinea. It is notable for its active volcanoes, superb reefs and high mountain ranges. Many so high that they separate and isolate the north of the island from the south. Scuba diving in New Britain revolves around three main locations: Kimbe Bay, Rabaul and the south-east coast of the island.
The Kimbe Bay area is to New Britain what the Milne Bay area is to the main island of New Guinea. Offering a similar diversity of great sites and superb marine life.
There are numerous excellent sites in Kimbe Bay itself. Then to the northwest are the remote Witu group of volcanic island. Plus the unique Garove Harbour, located inside the crater of an extinct and submerged volcano.
Then to the northeast, along the northern coast line of New Britain, are The Fathers. A series of off shore reefs which are the sunken remains of a huge extinct volcanic caldera.
Like Milne Bay, Kimbe Bay also a unique WWII aircraft wreck site… The beautifully preserved Mitsubishi Zero Wreck.
Check out the Complete Guide to Diving Kimbe Bay. It will help you plan your trip to this beautifully scenic and incredibly bio-diverse area of Papua New Guinea scuba diving!
Rabaul and the Duke of York Islands
Rabaul is located on the rim of a huge caldera that forms the superb natural anchorage that is Simpson Harbor.
Captured by the Japanese forces in January 1942 when they invaded Papua New Guinea. Rabaul was then turned it in to a major Japanese army and navy base.
By the end of WWII Simpson Harbor had become the last resting place of an estimated 54 Japanese ships. And, although only about 10 of them were actually accessible… Rabaul went on to become the wreck diving capital of Papua New Guinea scuba diving.
Until September 1994 that! When two of the six large volcanoes around the rim of the caldera erupted. Decimating the eastern part of Rabaul and covering many of the best wrecks with grey volcanic ash. 23 years have passed since then and time has proved to be a great healer. As many of the wrecks can now be dived again.
The wreck diving in and around Simpson Harbor, combined with the excellent Duke of York islands some 30km to the east, makes the Rabaul area prime diving real estate!
The South Coast
The south coast of the eastern half of New Britain is what you might call a remote location.
There is only one logging road over the mountainous hinterland from the north coast of the island. There are no airports – so the only way to access the south coast is by boat.
That mountain range that separates the north coast from the south creates the specific weather patterns of New Britain, whereby the south coast is opposite to the north. So when it’s the wet season in the north it’s the dry in the south…
You can use the following link to read more about about the remote south coast of New Britain. An area of Papua New Guinea that very few divers have experienced!
New Ireland Province lays at the far eastern end of the Bismarck Archipelago. The province is world-famous for its unique Malagan carvings and traditional culture.
Divers know the area for its WWII wrecks, large pelafics and the big currents that sweep through its northern islands.
While surfers travel to New Ireland between late October and April to enjoy the swells coming in from the north-west and north-east and the 4-6ft swell they produce.
The province consists of the large main island of New Ireland and numerous other smaller islands, the largest of which is New Hanover.
The diving is concentrated around Kavieng on the Pacific Ocean side of north New Ireland and is mainly wreck diving. While over on the Bismarck Sea side it is mainly reef diving. New Hanover offers more Japanese WWII wrecks plus some tremendous reefs, but the area is rarely dived so if you get the chance to go there – just do it!
Check out the Complete Guide to Diving New Ireland to help you plan your trip to this very pleasant, remote and quite special part of Papua New Guinea.