More than 800 indigenous languages are spoken here among its more than 7 million people who mostly still live in their rural, tribal communities. Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world and one of the least explored. You can even visit a skull cave in some areas, where deceased former residents’ skulls are kept per ceremonial traditions!
PNG is home to the largest intact rainforest in the world outside of the Amazon. Scientists believe there could still be many undiscovered plant and animal species in its interior.
Papua New Guinea is the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and includes 600 smaller islands and atolls. It is just south of the equator and about 100 miles north of Australia.
PNG diving is as diverse as its indigenous people, with a lot of diving centered around islands in the Bismarck Sea and Milne Bay on the eastern end of the main island.
With 28,000 miles of reef systems, PNG offers some of the most exotic, uncrowded diving in the world. This area is home to more than 600 species of coral and 3,000 species of reef fish.
It’s impossible to cover even a fraction of the diving but here are a few highlights:
Not too far from the capital city, Porte Moresby, this area offers a number of spectacular dive sites with soft corals, schools of fish, reef sharks, lionfish, rare scorpionfish, big Napoleon wrasse and smaller creatures such as seahorse. Two outstanding sites are Suzie’s Boomie and the Pacific Gas Wreck. Visibility is best from mid-October to mid-December.
Milne Bay Province
Reportedly, this is where “muck diving” for underwater photographers first got its start. Off the eastern end of New Guinea Island, underwater photographers will go nuts over the incredible assortment of small sea creature such as seahorses, cuttlefish, ghost pipefish and an endless variety of nudibranchs. This area features outstanding hard coral and boomies. This is a great spot for night diving.
New Britain Island
Find exceptionally healthy, beautiful reefs in Kimbe Bay where you’re likely to see sharks and barracudas.
You can also find a fully intact Japanese Zero fighter airplane wreck. Garove Harbor is located in the crater of an extinct submerged volcano. The Fathers, offshore reefs that are the sunken remains of an extinct volcanic, are along the north coast.
Like so much of this south Pacific area, this island is known for WWII wrecks, large pelagic fish and strong currents. Most of the diving is around Kavieng on the Pacific side is wreck diving and stunning reefs.
We can’t mention the amazing opportunities to go back in time to see what the Pacific must have been like for centuries in this culturally and ecologically diverse place. Ritualistic cannibalism was practiced in this region for centuries. Some believe in the most remote areas, ritualistic practices may still take place on the island.
The accommodations options in Papua New Guinea may seem somewhat limited according to western standards, but include a variety of options.
For land-based activities, this is a hiking and eco-tourist’s dream come true with amazing hiking, stunning beaches, bird watching and dormant volcanoes to explore. You shouldn’t miss a visit to a traditional village to experience the lifestyle, culture and customs of the island natives.
A Word of Caution
Malaria can be a problem so make sure you’re prepared, check with the CDC about anti-malarial drugs and bring insect repellent.
Choose your trekking carefully with a guide who can speak the local language. Also be on the alert in Port Moresby – avoid walking around alone. Consider staying in nearby Loloata Resort, a safer, more desirable place.
International flights arrive at Jacksons International Airport (POM) near Port Moresby from several Asian and Australian hubs, which makes transfers to liveaboards easy.
Domestic flights also leave POM for other parts of the country. Some passenger boats are available for traveling between islands. Papua New Guinea only has one road, the Highlands Highway.
Taxis are available in Port Moresby and a few taxis can be found in the other cities. Most travel is done by Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs), which can be a minibus, pick-up truck, or virtually anything with a motor that runs.
In the rural areas, people gather at a location and wait for a PMV to come around as there is no set route or schedule. In the cities, the PMVs follow a more fixed route. Hitchhiking, although not recommended, is still a common way to get around, although you will be expected to pay the person picking you up.
When to Go: Temperatures range from 75-95°F in the coastal areas to 54-82°F in the highlands. You can dive year-round in PNG. The rainy season is from November to March so most prefer May to November.
Average Surface Water Temps: 79-88°F depending on where you go.
Average Visibility: 50’-150’