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Dive Review of Mike Ball, Paradise Sport in
Papua New Guinea/Milne Bay

December, 2005, an Instant Reader Report by Martin Heyn, WA, USA
Report Number 2241
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Roatan/Utila, Indonesia, Provo, Caymans, Hawaii, Coz, Turks, Bonaire,
Thailand, PNW
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
80   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
60   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
They had dive guides on every dive that you could follow or you could dive
your own profile.  They also have a Solo Diver Program  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
See Trip Report
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
5 stars    
The danger of diving in Papua New Guinea is coming to expect the amazing on
every dive and around every bend of the reef.  

GETTING THERE: Frankly, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere getting to
Alatou is a long, boring and sweaty exercise in discomfort.  With camera
gear, we were well over the 77lbs/person limit for Air New Guinea, maybe by
luck we did not get fined on any of the domestic flights.  We did take two
carry-ons each, but the second has to be a laptop or camera bag.  We did
have a layover at the Coral Tree Inn in Cairns.  It is a simple and very
basic motel.  The room was clean, staff friendly but we would not stay
there again due to its very Spartan set-up.
The Paradise Sport is a very comfortable and well laid out boat for divers.
 We did step up to a Premium room and it was well worth it.  As usual you
move into your room, set up your tank, then upstairs for Champagne, crew
intros, procedures and dinner.  The Paradise Sport has plenty of room
inside and out for lounging and relaxing.  The boat was well maintained and
rooms cleaned daily.  Peter the chef did a great job! The quality and
variety of meals was excellent and we have never eaten so much lobster. 
Hot showers on the dive deck, with warm towels and attentive crew members
made 4-6 dives a day a pleasure.  The crew was so attentive if you got out
with your fins on, they would run down and take them off for you!  

The camera table was large, with air hoses for drying of gear.  Plenty of
storage under it for extra gear, though it is a narrow area.  Enough room
for a smaller Pelican carryon or camera backpack.  The table is probably
about 4ft up so if your short you may find you need something to stand on. 
There is a separate charging station with plenty of 110 outlets; I never
used the power converters we brought.  The crew is well versed in dealing
with cameras.  One note we only had about 5 photographers on the trip.  

Dive briefs are short and to the point.  Peter the Trip Director and the
entire Mike Ball crew, treat you like adults.    There are dive guides on
every dive or they will let you and your buddy alone to dive your own
profile.  The majority of dives are from the rear of the Paradise Sport
with maybe 6-7 from the zodiac tenders.  Once the dive deck is open, about
7am, you can get in as many dives as your computer allows.  Mike Ball does
have a solo diver program which I took advantage of. 

You would typically stay at a site for ½ day then the boat would
move on to the next site during lunch or before you woke the next day.  At
many sites they would put in several dive guides to help locate some of the
incredibly small and rare creatures.  Without the crew there is no way we
would have found many of them.  BOMMIE profiles would typically start at
70-80ft, enjoying the wall and looking into the blue for pelagics.  Then
you would work you way to the top 15-30ft of water to enjoy the bright and
colorful schools of fish and mix of hard/soft corals.  Sites are rich in a
diversity of angels, butterflies and more varieties of anthias then we knew
existed.  We were astounded by how pristine and healthy the corals were. 
There had been a fair amount of rain prior to our arrival.  Visibility was
well over 60-80ft but there was a fair amount of particles in the water. 
Milne Bay is not a big animal destination.  That said, we had a great dive
to the B17 Bomber in 150ft of water.  We did see huge bump head parrot
fish, massive Napoleon wrasses, and barracuda.  In addition we did have
fleeting encounters with 2 hammerhead sharks, devil rays, turtles, and from
the deck spotted pods of dolphins and pilot whales.  

Muck dives no deeper than 20ft and 90 minutes were common.  Like the
bommies, the range of creatures was incredible. Lionfish became
commonplace; nudibranch, pipefish, puffers and clown fish living in huge
anemones were everywhere.  We did find a few of the more rare leaf fish,
crocodile fish, etc, on our own.  BUT without the guides, (thanks, Pete
Chef and Sticky!) we would have missed the ornate pipefish frogfish,
pygmy seahorses and so many others.  Many of these creatures do not move
much, the guides place a 1-2ft stick in the sand to note a spot with a hard
to see critter.  There are quite a few stinging creatures, lionfish,
scorpion fish, demon stingers, blue ring octopus, etc  Life is so abundant
you have to be very careful if you put a finger down to steady yourself. 
LAND EXCURSIONS: There are several opportunities to go on land an visit
with the local people, observe tribal dances, see the amazing hot springs
and visit the Skull Caves.  Many of the indigenous people lead very simple
lives with no power, phones, etc, and living in simple lodgings made of
palms and bamboo.  Typically in the morning you would wake up to find 7-8
canoes behind the boat, as locals would trade fresh fruit and fish with the
boat for rice and other staples.

Great trip and we will dive with Mike Ball again, once the credit cards

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All Papua New Guinea Dive Reviews and Reports
Diving Guide to Papua New Guinea
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