TAWALI – PAPUA NEW GUINEA
At the south eastern tip of the main island of Papua New Guinea lies the province of Milne Bay and what many consider to be some of the best all round scuba diving in Papua New Guinea. The diversity, abundance and quality of dive sites in the area is really quite amazing and encompasses everything from the famous muck diving sites at Lawadi and Observation point to the renowned Manta cleaning station “Giant at home” near Samarai Island.
I had visited Tawali Resort earlier in the year and when I heard that Warrick McDonald and Jane Bowman from Ocean Divers in East Bentleigh were taking a group back in late November it didn’t take long to convince some of my regular dive buddies to fill the trip.
It’s a full day to get to Tawali the journey includes an approximate 3 hr flight to Port Moresby from Brisbane and following a transfer to the domestic terminal (only 300 metres away) with an hour flight to Gurney, Milne Bays Airport. Next, an hour and a half on an air conditioned bus following the coast to a quaint little wharf where there is a 25 minute water transfer to one of the most amazing tropical resorts you will ever see. Built on a coral cliff with hundreds of metres of wooden boardwalk and affording spectacular views you will wonder how Tawali was constructed.
Your baggage and dive gear appears in your room in no time flat whilst you enjoy a welcoming drink in the resort restaurant.
The rooms are spacious, typically with 2 large double beds, timber floors, and air conditioning and well appointed bath rooms. Meals are plentiful and usually served buffet style in the restaurant and as with all the staff they cannot do enough for you. A small bar has plenty of icy cold beer, red and white wine and limited mixed drinks. Meals feature plenty of seafood, chicken, steaks, pasta and a highlight was wonderful fresh crayfish on our last night. Delicious soup usually preceded the meals and desert was changed every night.
Large blue dive bins are in every room and once the dive staff collect your gear you don’t see it again until it is returned washed and dried after your last dive. Most dive groups are adequately serviced by the Tawali Explorer which can comfortably dive 16 pax and 2 smaller boats which can handle 4 to 6 divers.
Dive sites are varied and are within a few metres or a 90 minute boat trip. From the best house reef I have ever dived to the fabulous Manta cleaning station Tawali is a great location and its position on the North coast provides shelter from the prevailing SE winds most of the year which allows access to all the dive sites year round with the possible exception of February when large seas can make it difficult to manage the boats. Best visibility is from June to August and remains excellent right through late October. Water temperature ranges from 30c in summer to 25c in winter. I enjoyed doing 3 dives on the Explorer and having lunch on the boat. Diving was easy and lunch on board was excellent. Nitrox was readily available and perfect for the conditions.
Close to the resort Barracuda Point has a reef shelving to 30 metres which plays host to a variety of schooling fish and can be frequented by Mantas, hammerheads and of course barracuda. Critters like hairy ghost fish and rhinopia can be found in the shallows. Be sure to keep an eye on the dive guides if you want some wonderful discoveries. Deacon’s reef was a favourite of mine and a spectacular wide angle opportunity for photographers. A 10 metre shelf is located under the jungle canopy close to shore and Gorgonians grow only feet away from the rainforest. It is a truly beautiful reef.
A real favourite is muck diving at Lawadi beach. This site is located in front of a 500 metre long pebble beach and shelves 15 to 20 degrees to 6 metres and then drops away abruptly at 45 to 50 degrees to very deep water. Wonderful critters can be found in as shallow as 1 metre. Expect octopus, cuttle fish, lion fish, a variety of ghost pipe fish, mimic octopus, frog fish, shrimps, sea horses and countless nudibranchs.
An absolute must tour is a visit to the skull caves. A 15 minute boat ride
followed by a 15 minute walk through the rain forest brings you to the first of 2 caves packed with snow white skulls which were collected from battles and head hunting days of the past. Village tours, canoe excursions and wildlife trips can be arranged and the resort has a beautiful swimming pool and drinks can be arranged. You must have a meal on upstairs outside deck, the views are amazing.
Stop Press: Watch out for news on a proposed direct flight from Brisbane to Gurney which would take hours off the journey.
Many thanks to my wonderful staff at Allways Dive Expeditions for putting this amazing trip together at short notice.
– Geoff Skinner, Allways Dive Expeditions.