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Dive Review of Tawali in
Papua New Guinea/Milne Bay

Tawali: "Wonderfully diverse diving at a comfortable and beautiful resort", Jun, 2019,

by KW, FL, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 11177.

Photos Submitted with this Report


Click on an image to see an enlarged version and captions

Lawadi Beach muck dive Deacon's Reef Towahi Tawali house reef Barracuda Point
Lawadi Beach muck dive Lawadi Beach muck dive Cobb's Cliff (East Cape) Tawali house reef Sponge Heaven
Tawali house reef Tawali house reef

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments After a couple of hours from Alotau by minivan and small boat, the approach to Tawali is stunning, the limestone cliffs on which the resort is located rising vertically from the emerald-green and turquoise reef flat and adjacent deep blue waters at the edge of the drop-off. The main resort building is on top of the cliff adjacent to the main dock, and the rooms are scattered around the edges of the small peninsula overlooking the sea. Our room (deluxe oceanfront bungalow) was large and very comfortable, with two double beds, mini-fridge and ice-box, kettle, air-conditioning, warm water showers, balcony, and plenty of space for camera gear. All the rooms are interconnected by wooden walkways and stairs, which lead to a wide beach, the dive shop, swimming pool and service dock, on the opposite side of the peninsula from the main dock. In between the two docks is the house reef, of which more later. We paid for room only, figuring we didn't need three full meals a day, and this was a good decision - evening meals in the restaurant were buffet style, plentiful and very tasty, while breakfast and lunch we ate in our room, consisting of bread, jam, fruit, instant noodles and tuna brought with us from Alotau, saving about 800 USD over our week-long stay.

Boat diving at Tawali is done in two main areas reef and muck dives along the coastline east and west of the resort, 5-25 mins by small speedboat, and more open reef dives out east of the East Cape, about 1 hr by larger boat from the resort. The sea was completely flat calm every day for the local dives, whereas around the East Cape it was rather rough and windy, and probably that way every day we were at Tawali. As a result, to dive the East Cape sites we took the much larger dive boat, which can probably accommodate 30 or so divers, and we rather suspect that it was only the presence of two other divers that day which enabled us to get to those sites, given the much greater expense. Otherwise, the resort was almost empty of guests during our stay, giving us greater flexibility in diving the local sites. The water temperature was a chilly 72-74 degrees Fahrenheit, we were often cold after 45 mins in full 3 mm wetsuit with hood and gloves, even with a lavacore. During the first few days the water around several reefs, including the house reef, had numerous stinging salps, and we appreciated being almost completely covered in the water, but these abruptly disappeared for our last few days.

The local sites were very diverse, ranging from the shallow, soft-coral festooned caverns and grottoes of Deacon's Reef, to the steeply descending ridge with huge, dark green fan corals and abundant fish of Wahoo Point, to the walls and caves of Sponge Heaven with its diverse and colorful sponge fauna. Hard corals were very rich, healthy and extensive, smaller fish life at least was abundant, and all sites had numerous nudibranchs and small crustaceans. We especially enjoyed the muck dives of Lawadi Beach and Michelle's Reef, where steep dark sand and gravel slopes were dotted with small coral bommies and waterlogged tree branches, each a small island of colorful, bizarre life. We saw several species of pipefish, gurnard, lionfish, frogfish, scorpionfish, cuttlefish, molluscs, anemones and attendant shrimp, nudibranchs, mantis shrimp, and clouds of small fish around each coral head. The two dives we did on rocky pinnacles off East Cape also provided healthy hard corals in the shallows and sea-fans and soft corals on the slopes and walls, great water clarity and fish life but we probably enjoyed just as much the local dives much closer to the resort. The Tawali house reef itself is a great dive, or dives, since the diveable area between the two docks consists of several hundred metres of sand, coral bommies, vertical walls, canyons, fissures and caves. Although both hard and soft corals were less abundant and healthy than at the other local sites reached by boat, dives were still very enjoyable and interesting alongside shoals of more usual fish, we saw pipehorse, stargazer, leaf lionfish, and, after ten minutes waiting at dusk at 5 m just off the main dock, the outrageously colorful mandarinfish. Night dives under the two docks resulted in octopus, numerous tiger cowries patrolling the pier columns, sleeping fish and cuttlefish. House reef dives during daylight were free after two boat dives however, we did a night dive on the house reef each day as a third dive (costing a reasonable $20 per person), and saved up our 'free' house reef dives until our last day, although it's worth confirming in advance with the management if you plan to do this.

With the two boat docks so far apart, figuring out plans for house reef dives or night dives required a bit of coordination with the resort management, but in general the staff were very helpful in having our equipment waiting for us at the right dock at the right time. Our first night dives were accompanied by a guide, but then we dived on our own with a guard on the dock watching our torchlight and helping us out of the water at the end of the dive. The calm water, bright lights and ladders of the boat docks made night diving very straightforward. We considered doing a night dive at one of the local boat-accessible sites, but decided against it given the $120 cost (per diver).

The resort also provides kayaks for exploring the reefs near the resort and the small island immediately to the west, although they requested that we did not go out of sight of the resort. Snorkelling along the edge of the drop-off was spectacular, and the resort also offers a variety of tours to visit cultural sites and see lekking Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise.

Overall, the diving at Tawali was outstanding for its diversity of sites, in terms of both the local sites reached by boat, as well as the house reef. We could easily have spent another week diving at the resort. I have to say that we did not discover until after our visit that Tawali's staff and guests have been the target of several armed robberies over the last few years, the most recent in late 2018, perhaps explaining the very few guests during our stay. It's not clear whether the local authorities have done anything to prevent this from happening again in future, and there is little more that the resort itself can do. As with everywhere else we went within coastal PNG, we found the local people to be wonderfully kind and welcoming.

Websites Tawali   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Florida, Belize, Panama (Coiba, Pearl Is), UK, Red Sea (Sharm), Myanmar, Sulawesi (Wakatobi), Philippines (Mindoro, Palawan), Solomons (Guadalcanal), New Zealand (Poor Knights), Papua New Guinea
Closest Airport Alotau Getting There Air Niugini from Port Moresby-Alotau, then 1 hr by car, 20 min by boat.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy Seas calm, choppy, no currents
Water Temp 72-74°F / 22-23°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15-30 M / 49-98 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Dive with a guide from boat, unguided shore dives (house reef). We dived < 70 ft by choice and dive times mostly limited by available air.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available?

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments Resort provided a bucket on request for soaking camera post-dive. Plenty of bench space and reasonable number of charging outlets in room.
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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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