Flying in to Port Moresby’s Jackson International Airport, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of excitement as I looked down at one of my favourite dive destinations in the world, Papua New Guinea. We were going to be exploring the world renowned photographer’s paradise, the reefs of Kimbe Bay, from Walindi Plantation Resort, before jumping on the brand-new dive liveaboard, the MV Oceania. I had heard countless stories of Kimbe Bay boasting some of the most pristine reefs in the world, with massive schools of barracudas and a plethora of other marine life. I couldn’t wait to get started!
After the short flight from Port Moresby to Hoskins Airport and an hour-long drive along numerous little towns and countless palm tree plantations, we arrived at Walindi. Located on the shores of Kimbe Bay, Walindi is established as one of the premier dive resorts in the world. The resort offers 8 plantation house rooms in two separate blocks, with four rooms each. Each room has private facilities, and each block shares a large veranda area. There are also 12 Bungalows on offer which offer a slightly more spacious option for clients. Each of these rooms have a private balcony overlooking the beach area and are nestled away in the rainforest garden of the resort. Your stay also includes 3 amazing meals every day and daily laundry service.
We were up bright and early the following morning for a 3 dive day aboard one of Walindi’s day boats. After making sure all our equipment was on board (and most importantly, lunch!) we set off in to the glassy clear waters of Kimbe Bay. Bradford Shoals was our first dive of the day and was meant to be one of the premier dive sites in the bay. This sea mount rises up from the deep with the top being at 20 metres. The hype surrounding Bradford Shoals did not disappoint- as soon as started to descended we noticed a gigantic school of barracudas on top of the sea mount. Numerous schools of jacks, reef sharks and other reef fish are seen on this site along with some of the most amazing hard coral you’ll ever see. This was truly a photographer’s paradise with the iconic swirling barracudas being the highlight!
Most of the dive sites around Kimbe Bay are within an hour and a half boat ride from Walindi Plantation Resort. Some of the premier dive sites include Inglis Shoal, Katherine’s Reef, Susan’s Reef Otto’s Reef and Joelle’s Reef. The coral present throughout most of these sites was in spectacular condition, with each site providing divers with the opportunity to see some pelagic life along with some high-quality Macro opportunities as well. Another unique dive was the Japanese Zero Wreck that is located in just 17 metres of water. This wreck was discovered fairly recently in 2000 when a local fisherman who was searching for Sea Cucumbers came across it. After reporting it to Walindi, it was discovered that it was a fairly intact Japanese Zero from WW2! They deduced that the pilot may have run out of fuel and landed it near its final resting place. It’s now home to a number of anemones, coral trout and large numbers of nudibranchs and other little critters. The wreck is in fantastic condition and on a clear day, can provide for some amazing photography opportunities.
After spending 4 fantastic days diving from Walindi Plantation Resort, it was time to jump aboard the brand new MV Oceania. This 27-metre catamaran has undergone a massive re-fit and has been designed to ensure that the onboard guests are comfortable throughout their journey. This luxury liveaboard can accommodate 16 guests with the option of either a double or twin bed configuration. Every detail seems to have been taking in to account including extra-long mattresses (ideal for someone who is 190 cm!!) and universal power adaptors in each cabin with USB charger points. The dive deck is huge with each diver being assigned their individual storage lockers under their seats. Photographers can also rest easy knowing that there is a large dry camera table with towels handy to set up all your gear. Getting in and out of the water could not be easier with two large platforms on either side of the dive deck. The amazing dive crew are always on hand to help you gear up and help you in and out of the water. They even offer the ‘Finderella’ service by putting on your fins for you before you giant stride in to the water- truly VIP service.
The food on board the MV Oceania was absolutely magnificent with the amazing crew going out of their way to ensure that no diver goes hungry through their trip. In fact, a few of us had a bit of trouble getting in to our wetsuits on the last day! Each dive day allows for 3-day dives and a night dive every day with each dive allowing for a maximum dive time of 70 minutes. With the water being a balmy 28-29 degrees, this allowed for some of the most relaxing diving you will ever do. Nitrox is also available on board for an additional cost which allows divers to extend their bottom time and add that little extra bit of safety to your trip.
The obvious benefit of diving off a liveaboard is that you get to explore some of the reefs that are unable to be reached by day boats. We were lucky enough to steam to the Fathers reefs which is a series of offshore reefs that attract all sorts of amazing marine life. One of the first dives we did was on Norman’s Reef which was like swimming through an aquarium. There were fish absolutely everywhere you looked including one of the friendliest Hawksbill Turtles you’re likely to come across. Usual suspects such as schooling barracudas, jacks and reef sharks patrol the blue with cuttlefish, octopus and moral eels to be found on the reef. One of the unique dives that the MV Oceania offers is a blackwater dive as an option on a regular night dive. A blackwater dive is usually done over a deep drop off with suspended light to attract the weird and wonderful critters of the deep. Being the first such dive I’ve ever done, I excitedly descended in to the night keeping the suspended lights as a point of reference. Soon enough, juvenile squid, jelly fish and other amazing little creatures were spotted zooming in and out of our torch beams. This was a really unique experience and a must do for all photographers out there.
The MV Oceania offers a variety of different itineraries with their signature one encompassing Kimbe Bay, The Witu Islands and The Fathers Reefs. Other itineraries also include trips to Rabaul, and for 2020 they are even introducing charters to Milne Bay which is yet another magnificent part of PNG to explore. This is truly one of the best liveaboard experiences I’ve had and is one that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone keen to explore some of the best diving in the Pacific.