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Dive Review of Tawali in
Papua New Guinea/Milne Bay Province

Tawali, Aug, 2006,

by Lori Brown, Chris Green, WA, USA (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 22 reports). Report 2613.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving North Carolina, California, Washington, Bonaire, Cozumel, Fiji, Indonesia (Irian Jaya, Sulawesi), Jamaica
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy Seas choppy
Water Temp 77 to 80 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15 to 30 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No restrictions. Divers were encouraged to dive their own profile.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments There were charge stations in the library and tables for cameras on boats. They carried water on the boat to rinse cameras.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Tawali Resort is near the bottom tip of the North Coast of PNG near Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay. Alotau (Gurney Airfield) is an hour flight from Port Moresby. Then there is an hour long drive: the road starts out paved, then changes to well graded gravel, then to a rutted dirt road - with much swerving to avoid the numerous pigs. This is followed by a 10 minute boat ride to the resort.
The diving was superb. We went on their muck dives repeatedly (Micheles Beach and Lawadi). These muck dives rival some sites in Lembeh Straits. There were so many ornate ghost pipefish and robust ghost pipefish that after a while, we were just passing them by. Other critters we saw were nudibranchs galore, mushroom coral pipefish, cockatoo wasp fish, hairy arrow crabs, decorator crabs, crinoid crabs, orange mantis shrimp, octopus, tube anemones, tiny upside down jellyfish, small cuttle fish, and gobies/ blennies galore. There was an outrageous cleaning station at Micheles that was hopping with life: at least six different types of shrimps (hingebeak shrimps so numerous it looked like an infestation), a yellow-mouth moray eel, toby fish, conies, anemones percolating with clown fish, toby fish, and swarms of fish of all sizes, cleaning or getting cleaned. One spectacular purple anemone near a cleaning station had several porcelain crabs, some other tiny crabs, shrimp, and a boatload of anemone fish - easily over 100- clowns and damsel fish ranging from 0.2 to 2.5 inches. I started feeling like I had attention deficit disorder - as soon as Id focus on something, Id get distracted by something else: in one gorgonian clump, there were razor fish, ornate ghost pipe fish, a gorgonian shrimp, and a cowry. The dive guides, Fidelis and Junior, were both great at spotting critters.
We also dived the walls near the resort including sites such as Wahoo, Barracuda Point, and Sponge Heaven. Wahoo is a 3 minute boat ride from the resort and on several dives before, hammer heads had been sited. We spotted one gray reef shark in the distance but no hammerheads. My favorite nearby wall was Barracuda Point. This is an imposing wall with cascading plateaus of Montipora coral. There are deep caverns and swim-throughs. We spotted dozens of nudibranchs - some we had never seen before.
The bad news now, on some of the dives, the stinging medusa were so bad that we aborted the dives. Vinegar helps but I think some people react more strongly than others and my son had a strong reaction. He had quite a collection of itchy welts on his neck, face, and hands. Also, because of the high winds, the visibility was quite limited on all of the dives we did. On some dives, we were unable to see more than 15-20 feet. This was unfortunate because the coral structure is so imposing, I imagine it would be spectacular if the visibility had been better. The main problem was the southeasterly winds were brutal. As a result of the relentless wind, visibility was poor at the protected dive sites near the resort and still worse, we were unable to get out to any of the dive sites that were further out. This was a great disappointment. Though little consolation for us, Rob Van Der Loos, one of the owners, said that he has never seen winds like that in 30 years in that area. And, to his credit, he did everything he could to try to get us to the fringing reef sites.
On the last day, the winds died down enough that they were taking divers out to one of the nearer far sites. We couldnt go since we would fly the next day. Rob made it up to us by taking us on a really great dive - the nautilus dive. They set a baited trap out at 1000 feet the night before. Then they ferry the divers and the nautilus over to Wahoo Point. Divers and nautilus dive together. After the photographers have had their fun, the nautilus are carried to a deep spot and released. I have never seen a live nautilus before and saw three that day.
The resort is new and it is stunning. The rooms are large and clean. Each room has a deck with a view and there is even a rack to hang wet clothing. The shower water is heated by sun but there is a booster for overcast days. The entrance to the lodge area has four fabulous carved crocodiles and the decor in the rooms and the lodge are splendid and included some old diving helmets. The lodge includes a beautiful veranda overlooking the sea, a comfortable sitting area for reviewing books after the days dives, and a dining area. The meals were plentiful but very plain - usually plain roasted meats - mostly chicken and beef, potatoes and/or rice, and salad. There was one day on which they served Thai chicken which was quite good. Though my own taste runs to much spicier food, I cant complain too much since they were very gracious about accommodating my son who will only eat a few things including fried fish, hamburgers, and french fries. There is also a bar where beer, wine, mixed drinks, or soda may be purchased. The mixed drinks were marginal - on several nights, there was no ice (gin and tonic without ice just doesnt quite cut it). One of the owners, Ronda, told me that they are working on getting some blended drinks - a good idea because of the variety of fruit available. There are also plans for a conference center (and theater), swimming pool, and a recompression chamber.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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