Contributed by DanielaB
How in god's name could "HE" have created such wonderful place and then kept
it hidden away from all us mortals for so long? The crystal clear water, schools
of big fish and warm tropical days all concealed from the world simply by a
12-hr flight back in time.
We stuffed the dive gear into the MV "Nirvana" and with 5 other guests set off
for the distant island. The nautical maps named the pinprick in the middle of
the Bismarck Sea "KarKar" and said it was 57 miles from Madang. To us divers
it was to be called merely DH (Divers Heaven).
journey took 3 hrs; plenty enough time to meet and get to know the people we
would be sharing the u/w world with. They were a mixed bunch, really from all
walks of life. "Bill", from Texas (retired), who 15 years ago, had started diving
to relieve the arthritis in his fingers; "Joe & Mara", (Kiwis), who had
just released their 5 kids from the apron strings, then finally the clowns of
the group, "Huey & Dewy". 2 German headstone-carvers who had made enough
to sustain 3 trips like this a year, moreover give their wives an open chequebook
in the worlds shopping capitals. We had won this trip in a photo competition
in Berlin. Two divers, who had only glimpsed a fish like apparition in the lakes
surrounding our city, even thought we had logged over 500 dives there.
About half way through the cruise the DM summoned us to the port side of the
boat. "Look there " he said pointing to a pod of 50 killer whales cruising past,
followed close behind by a smaller but no less spectacular group of spinner
dolphins. "They must have been herding up the baitfish, ever so prevalent in
these waters", he told us. In time the vessels radar picked up the blips of
the submerged reef system of "KarKar". Our excitement level naturally rose a
notch or two with anticipation of what was to follow.
"Kart", our local DM showed us the simple dive plan on the blackboard. With
each passing sentence from his lips the dribble was visibly running from our
mouths. He predicted a small current with over 30 meters. Vis; consequently we
would jump from a hot boat and be picked up approximately 3 kms away. Our experience
level was to determine our depth limit.
The kiwi's buddied up with Bill, who always carried two camera systems, (macro/wide
angle) whilst the deadly German duo were teamed up. Danny's and my plan was
to stick as close as possible to Kart, as he had intimate knowledge of all the
dive sites in and around this area. He
flaunted a beetle nut smile as his sign to jump, and then next second all that
was left, was a stream of exhaust bubbles and bubbling water. It took us 3 minutes
of frantic kicking to catch up to the kamikaze diver, who looked as if he was
trying to break the sound barrier with his finning.
When we finally caught up to him, at around 35 meters, we were able to at last
take in the scenery. There our eyes went into sensory overload. We had arrived
in Divers heaven! All around us the coral was pristine, probably never seen
by others, swarms of schooling fish everywhere, snappers, grunts, jacks, barracuda,
fusiliers, big eyes, sweetlips, grey reef sharks, Moorish idols and emperors
all standing to attention in that diminutive current. We leisurely drifted along
trying to take in this entire superb and extraordinary creature feature.
After about 25 min into the dive I noticed Danny wasn't beside me. I stopped
at a sandy patch, waiting for her to come into view. When she eventually came
around the corner of the bommie, I could see her physically shaking (the water
was a boiling 29°C), her image was completed by huge saucer like eyes. Through
very animated and agitated hand signals I eventually worked out that a 2.5m
Silvertip shark had cruised in and given Daniela some company for a short part
of her dive! Lucky bugger.
event sorted out, we decided to check our deco status. Sadly it urged us further
up the pinnacle to the shallower depths. There the current was considerably
less, giving us a chance to take in the smaller critters. Kart spotted a mimic
crab, Danny copulating nudibranches, and I saw my first pigmy seahorses hidden
amongst the gorgonians, (this took over 5 minutes of Kart pointing to the fan
before I could see the tiny creature). For over 70 minutes we had been under
the water and still we hadn't reached the corner. If the depths had shown the
"Beastly" things, then the shallows had its fair share of "Beauty". Nearly 90
minutes in this wonderland and still there was so much more to see. At 5 meters
we saw 2 octopuses coupling plus a fleet of bump-head parrotfish crunching their
way through the coral. Pretty cool. But all great things must come to an end
and after over 100 min underwater we had to rejoin the other guests on "Nirvana".
Our Atlantis-1 rebreathers had truly served us well. Not only were we able to
spend so long u/w, but we could really get close to the fish life.The noise
7 excited and aroused people can make on a dive boat is extremely loud. We were
all competing to proclaim the things that we had seen: swordfish, tunas, our
silvertip, 50 or so napoleons, mantas and even a hammerhead swimming in shallow
water. The Vis was outstanding, 40+ meters, the water so warm we dived in Lycra.
The action so full on and non-stop that words couldn't do the whole scene justice
and then to top it off, a lunch menu to die for.
During the surface interval, which was held on the boat moored at a secluded
lagoon, our nitrox tanks were exchanged and a sumptuous lunch buffet was rapidly
consumed. It still amazes me how the mind can justify eating far more than the
stomach can handle, by telling itself that the diving and snorkelling is a form
At last, after 1.5 hours. the nitrogen was low enough to allow us back into
that fabulous ocean. That 2nd dive was to be a little less adventurous than
the first, and with a different objective, a little trip back into history.
the 2nd world war, an American B-25 Mitchell bomber was shot down near Madang.
The skill of the pilot was enough to ditch the stricken bomber near PUK PUK
Island. His crew was discovered by the Japanese and either shot or given a slow
death in Changi. The pilot escaped via the locals help, returning to dive on
his wreck a few years ago. We all were lost in time as we geared up. We jumped
back into the Second World War and down the descent line to 15 meters we slowly
cruised; there slowly the wreck came into view. She was lying on her belly in
the sand, with 1 wing dipping down to 25 meters and the other up at 20. It was
in near perfect condition. 50 years of lying on the bottom had given her new
camouflage paint. We commence our exploration at the forward guns. The quad
50 cals were searching for an unseen enemy Zero, the bullets still in their
boxes. A pair of lionfish sat in the gunners' seat, waiting for the call to
go into action. Without delay we took turns to sit in the pilots' chair and
dreamt of flying in that liquid haze. After that, a swim along the outside to
the intact tail where you could still see the serial number. The soft and hard
coral had really taken hold over those 50 years and in some spots you had to
think what was what. Shifting to the portside guns, we saw a blennie, which
had made a barrel into its home. We tried forever to take a photo, but every
time he would duck back into his house as we were to squeeze the shutter. Who
said u/w photography was easy. After 35 min we had exposed all of our film,
sadly we left that living wreck and then cruised around the reef top, looking
for more macro subjects to end that magnificent dive.
on the boat there were a lot of reflective divers who were thinking about the
futility of war. The ride home was taken up with dive talk and a few tranquil
Carlsberg's. PNG and Madang consummated a perfect ending to a great day, by
giving us a great sunset as we entered the bay. Wearily but happily we unpacked
our gear and then off to Malolo Lodge for a shower and more drinks with our
new friends. The next day we'd be off to the headhunting village. Thankfully
not as the main course! The rest of our two weeks was spent diving the Bismark
sea, some notable dives were: Planet Rock, the Boston and probably the best
the Quarry. We also soaked up the history associated with Madang, including
investigating WWII wrecks scattered about the land and a half day trip to the
coconut research plantation that turned out educational and interesting.
Malolo Plantation lodge is situated 45 minutes from Madang airport along a
sealed road. Air Nuigini & Qantas fly from all Australian ports two times
The PADI Gold Palm resort dive centre is fully equipped with nitrox and rebreathers
(Atlantis) and oxygen for deco stops. You can rent all equipment, inc. computers
and E-6 processing is available. They teach PADI, IANTD and TDI courses as well
as run daily boat/shore dives. The 2 instructors speak 3 languages between them
and the DMs will teach you PIGIN if you want.
The lodge is set on an old coconut plantation with 12 double rooms. All are
air-conditioned and have breathtaking ocean views.
Malolo is part of Trans Nuigini Tours, run by Pam & Bob Bates, they have
3 other lodges in PNG as well as a liveaboard, which runs weekly, up and down
the Sepic River.
- PNG itself is a wonderful place, but you need malaria precautions and a
valid passport to enter. They will give you a 3 months stay on your visa.
- Bring plenty of film, as the photo opportunities are endless.
- There is EFTPOS available in Madang town. USD or Australian dollars is the
normal working currency.
- Electricity is 2prong - 220V.
- Average water temp 27° - 29°C. Vis is a whooping 25-40+ meters all
- The nearest chamber is Port Moresby (45 minutes air).
- Dive operators in Madang are Jais Aben
and Malolo Plantation.