More Fish Than Water

So here’s the thing about Milne Bay’s gigantic.

I’m not sure how much physical area the province comprises, but Milne Bay is a lot more than the bay itself. The province spans several major groups of islands with over 600 islands, encompassing a variety of distinct environments.

In a sense, saying that you’ve dived “Milne Bay” is meaningless. I’ve come to realise that you need to be more specific.

Toward the end of our month-long excursion, for instance, we visited several reefs around Nuakata Island. To say that on many of our aquatic forays, we saw more fish than water is but a slight exaggeration.

I took this photo at a place called Lynda’s Reef in the Nuakata area. One of the distinguishing features of the reef is an enormous formation of knobby coral. Above, around and beside this coral monument is a swarm comprising thousands (probably tens of thousands) of fish, the majority of which were beautiful little orange basslets (Pseudanthias squamipinnis). What a mind-boggling experience it was to hover among the frenzy of a myriad tangerine fish!

Swarm of Pseudanthias squamipinnis at Nuakata Island in Milne Bay province
Gazillions of fish in the waters around Nuakata Island in Milne Bay province

To the extent that most people have an impression of diving in Milne Bay, muck and critters are probably what come to mind. There is definitely terrific muck diving and critter life, but as I’ve discovered over the past month, Milne Bay province is enormous...and in many areas, the reefs are jam-packed with beautiful corals, fish and other marine life.

The reefs around Nuakata Island, for instance, were consistently fishy, teeming with not just basslets and other small piscines, but bigger stuff as well, like potato cods, trevallies, barracuda, fusiliers, Spanish mackerals, white tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, etc., and there was a lot of plush soft coral in a range of hues from lemon-meringue yellow to strawberry-sherbet red.

This beautiful specimen is from Surprise Reef at Nuakata Island, named by Bob after a large bull shark snuck up on him in the water (It’s really not that difficult to spot a mature bull shark, but Bob’s not always the most observant guy.):

Plush soft coral, Nuakata Island, Milne Bay
Plush soft corals characterise many of the reefs around Nuakata Island

The diving around Nuakata Island made such a strong impression that I’ve decided it’s a must-do destination on its own.

For those of you who’ve been to the Eastern Fields of PNG with me, I’d put the reefs in this area at an 8+ on a scale of 1-10 with Carl’s Ultimate dive site being a 10.

I’m already laying plans to come back for a week or two just at Nuakata.