Trip Announcement: PNG

Since putting up my video of the amazing diving in the Eastern Fields of Papua New Guinea last week, I've been planning a series of new adventures with Craig on Golden Dawn. It's taken a few emails and Skype conversations, but we've finally worked out the details.

I'm planning to visit Papua New Guinea twice in the coming months, first in June 2011 and second in January 2012.


Note: If you'd like advance notice of trips like this in the future, please sign up for my trip e-newsletter. I won't spam you!

June 2011 Itinerary: Port Moresby to Milne Bay to Walindi
Some time ago, I received a brief email from Craig that went something like this: "Tony, Wow! You gotta see this!" Nothing more. No response to my: "See what???!!!" email for a few days. (This is normal behaviour for Craig.)

As it turned out, he had just dived some reefs on the Papuan Barrier Reef, not too far from Port Moresby, but far enough that no one dives there, at least not on a regular basis.

Now...Craig gets easily excited at times (picture a little boy with knee-socks getting a colourful candy lollipop), so I usually have to calm him down and ask pointed questions to figure out what's what.

Fortunately, Bob Halstead was also on the boat at the time, so I was able to get independent confirmation for Craig's enthusiasm.

Craig had stumbled upon some amazing reefs.

Most of the time when people tell me they've come across "amazing" such and such, I'm sceptical. But if there's one thing Craig's unspoiled reefs. Bob is no slouch either.

Craig later elaborated, telling me that of the sites he's dived/ marked, one is a deep passage with a two-stepped wall that has a stunning vista comprising row after row of very large fans. He saw lots of large mobula and eagle rays, wobbegong sharks, silver tips and grey reefs.

Another location apparently has at least 20 bommies like Suzie's. If you haven't dived at Suzie's, here's a photo to give you an idea of what it's like:

lionfish at suzies bommie

So basically, it's a "Wow! You gotta see this!" kind of place.

[Update 19 June: Just received another update from Craig, who's out in this area right now: "Just wanted to let you know about a new discovery. We just finished a dive...and it's awesome!!! We had a large population of female grey reef sharks, 20 plus easily, a few species of grouper, including a giant grouper, 8 or 9 eagle rays flying in formation, mobula rays, many huge dogtooth tuna, some with mackeral and other species of jacks, rainbow runners galore, fusiliers and the list goes on...Truly spectacular!!!"]

We planned the June 2011 itinerary specifically so that we start in Port Moresby and explore the "Wow! You gotta see this!" reefs first. To date, Craig has dived the reefs twice, so there's still plenty to explore and no doubt new things to discover. If you're an adventurer at heart, this trip is for you!

Diving along the barrier reef will naturally takes us over to Milne Bay, which is, in my experience, some of the most amazing diving anywhere...critters like you wouldn't believe, as well as beautiful corals and big stuff too (there's a manta cleaning station). It's been a few years since I've been to the area, not because I haven't wanted to go, but because there aren't many dive operators there now.

Back in the day...there were several liveaboard boats and a couple of land-based operations, so Milne Bay was relatively easy to dive. These days...not so much. Quite a shame, as it's a world-class destination.

I filmed a documentary in Milne Bay several years ago with NHK of Japan, along with Dr Eugenie Clark, Bob Halstead and Rob Vanderloos. It was an absolutely amazing experience (to say the least!) with my only regret being that I wasn't able to spend more time in the area.

From Milne Bay, we'll head north to Kimbe Bay, ending up at Walindi Plantation Resort. Again, there are great reefs along the way that are almost never dived (see the common theme?), with lots of unspoiled marine habitat and no other people around...absolutely perfect for photography.

Of course, that's a lot of territory to cover, so we're dividing the trip into three sections:

1. Port Moresby to Milne Bay (31 May to 7 June)
2. Milne Bay (8 to 14 June)
3. Milne Bay to Walindi (16 to 26 June)

Here's a map to make it easier to get a handle on the geography (click the markers for more details):

View PNG June 2011 in a larger map

Essentially, this makes it possible to get on or off the boat for any of the segments, or hop on board for two or even all three segments of the trip. (The international airport is in Port Moresby. Alotau airport is at Milne Bay. Hoskins airport is at Walindi. Good planning, no?)

As a bonus(?), Bob Halstead will be joining us for the trips. Bob is one of the pioneers of diving in PNG, and in particular, he knows Milne Bay like no one else. Bob is articulate, well-spoken, knowledgeable, and perpetually struggling for a half-decent comeback when I insult him. He's quite a fish expert, and even has a couple of fish named after him (small, nondescript ones of course). Even more amazing, he still uses a film camera. Well, he knows how to push the shutter release in any case.

All kidding aside, Bob is a treasure trove of information and experience, particularly with regard to the areas we'll be visiting. I have the greatest respect for him, and it will be a pleasure and an honour to have him with us.

Pricing for the trips is as follows:
1. Port Moresby - Milne Bay (31 May to 7 June)
Cabin 1 US$2800/ person
Cabin 2 US$2625/ person
Cabin 3 US$2450/ person
Cabin 4 US$2800/ person
Cabin 5 US$2800/ person

2. Milne Bay (8 to 14 June)
Cabin 1 US$2400/ person
Cabin 2 US$2250/ person
Cabin 3 US$2100/ person
Cabin 4 US$2400/ person
Cabin 5 US$2400/ person

3. Milne Bay to Walindi (16 to 26 June)
Cabin 1 US$4000/ person
Cabin 2 US$3750/ person
Cabin 3 US$3500/ person
Cabin 4 US$4000/ person
Cabin 5 US$4000/ person

Click here to see the cabin layout on the Golden Dawn.

Please get in touch via my contact form if you're interested.

purple queen anthias

January 2012 Itinerary: Eastern Fields
I probably don't need to write too much about the Eastern Fields, as I can let Craig do the talking in the video I posted.

What I can add is that the Eastern Fields atoll system, like the areas I described above, is not over-dived, is not over-fished, and is not sitting next to areas suffering from over-development.

In case you haven't noticed, I like travelling to unspoiled places. I don't mean "unspoiled" in the over-Photoshopped-vacation-brochure sense. I mean truly in, "almost no one has ever been there" and "you definitely won't see anyone else underwater there" unspoiled.

school of barracuda

The plan for January 2012 is to do two trips. On the first trip, we'll visit several of the best sites around the Eastern Fields. Depending on how the weather and water look, we may dash over to another reef system called the Ashmore's. The exact itinerary will be a judgement call based on prevailing conditions.

The second trip will concentrate on my personal favourite dive site in the area, Carl's Ultimate...a site named after my friend and mentor Carl Roessler.

It's a small bommie in the middle of a channel that gets swept by nutrient-filled currents. To say the marine life is "amazing" is like saying the Great Barrier Reef is "big". It's a major understatement.

Devoting most of an 8-day trip to a single dive site would normally be madness, but believe me, once you see this site, you'll want to stay.

carls ultimate

I'm co-organising the Eastern Fields trips with Eric Cheng and Wetpixel again, so there will no doubt be lots of photographers on board!

Prices and dates are as follows:

1. 10-20 January 2012, Eastern Fields
Cabin 1 US$4320/ person
Cabin 2 US$4050/ person
Cabin 3 US$3780/ person
Cabin 4 US$4320/ person
Cabin 5 US$4320/ person

2. 22-30 January 2012, Carl's Ultimate
Cabin 1 US$3456/ person
Cabin 2 US$3240/ person
Cabin 3 US$3024/ person
Cabin 4 US$3456/ person
Cabin 5 US$3456/ person

Click here to email Dan Baldocchi, who is handling the bookings for these trips.

An overview of trip logistics from our previous excursion can be found here, and here is a trip report that Eric posted after our trip.

My trips videos from last year's excursion are here and here.

Trips aboard Golden Dawn are always an adventure, with lots to see, terrific food, wonderful conversation and unforgettable experiences.

All of these trips will be dedicated to photography.

The waters of Papua New Guinea are teeming with marine life, and you can't get to many of the places we'll be visiting except on a liveaboard. Even better, at any given time, we will probably be the only people in the water!

If we find some place or thing that everyone wants to spend time on, we'll adjust accordingly. Similarly, if we see that conditions aren't right, we'll move on and look for a more suitable location.

In other words, we'll have a plan, but we'll go with the flow to maximise fun, safety and photographic opportunities.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I look forward to sharing an adventure with you!

lizardfish face