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February 2024    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 50, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Walindi; M.V. Oceania; Papua New Guinea

by land and by sea

from the February, 2024 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

PNG is in the far reaches of the Indo-Pacific, difficult for Americans to reach because you first have to go to Australia, Hong Kong or Singapore to get there. However, it's a sparsely dived gem with great rewards for divers and underwater photographers willing to make the journey. I scheduled four days at Walindi Plantation Resort, then boarded the Oceania for an eight-day liveaboard diving cruise, and it was some of the fishiest diving I have ever done.

A Walindi Plantation cottageFor the first three days, I took day boats from Walindi into Kimbe Bay, more than 1100 square miles, with endless sites reachable by their 25-to-36-foot aluminum vessels with powerful outboards. When I first hit the water, I was struck by the warm water (85F), the mild current, and the 70-foot visibility. (Except for one shallow dive close to shore, we never had visibility less than 40-50 feet.) And then there's the fish. They're everywhere....

Much of PNG diving is on seamounts, where the tops may be as shallow as 30 feet, with the sides dropping sharply into deep water. Many attract schools with hundreds of fish, often barracuda, big eye jacks, and fusiliers. I was awed just hovering and watching schools move and change shapes, sometimes spiraling upward, other times making dense, lateral moves. If I moved slowly and carefully, breathing softly, I could get surprisingly close, and, at times, so close that the school engulfed me.

Walindi Plantation Resort has been PNG's go-to resort for 40 years. It's on New Britain Island, just south of the equator in the eastern half of the coral triangle, with enormous biodiversity that produces some incredible diving. It's on Kimbe Bay, where there's little development, so the sea doesn't suffer from dumping, sewage, or other human activity that defiles the ecosystem and kills coral and fish. Walindi is a basic yet comfortable retreat with rooms in the Plantation house and cottages with large, comfortable beds. With no room air-conditioning, I had to rely on the large ceiling fan for tolerable temperatures, but the high humidity made everything feel slightly clammy. My room had a large can of insect spray I was instructed to use only when I left the room, so I guess it might kill the insects and me if I breathed it at full strength (bring personal insect repellant). The only airconditioned space at Walindi is the library, next to the open-air lobby, the only place to connect to the Internet.

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