Milne Bay is at the far eastern of New Guinea's mainland. It is created by a split in the Stanley Range of forest covered mountains, which behind the bay is the area's capital, Alotau and a long and wide valley beyond. There is some wonderful forest on these two steep mountain ridges which are home to Papua New Guinea's national bird, the Raggiana Bird of Paradise. The coast has some simply stunning fringing coral reefs, perfect for both snorkelling and easy scuba diving. Coral cover can be excellent, with little sign of coral bleaching due to a great circulation of water into and out of the huge Pacific Ocean.
These coral reefs are part of the Coral Triangle where our planet's reefs and reef fishes reach their highest diversity. The colour presented by a combination of hard corals, soft corals, sea fans, sponges and vast schools of antheas and other reef fish is fantastic. White tip reef sharks are frequently see, as are huge bumphead parrot fish, enormous schools of fish where the reef channels and the odd hammerhead shark to delight divers. Above and below water, dolphins are a common sight in certain locations and there has been one very reliable manta ray cleaning station discovered in the south eastern D'Entrecasteaux Islands.
Milne Bay is just the tip of the coral iceberg. Some of our planet's least disturbed and most diverse coral reefs spread into the Solomon Sea to the larger D'Entrecasteaux Islands of Normanby, Fergusson and Goodenough, as well as a dozens of tiny tropical gems, isolated reefs and fringing reefs of the Triobands. The northern coast too has some stunning reefs which include dramatic tropical fjords of Tufi.
This part of New Guinea is steeped in World War II history. It was here in August 1942 that the Japanese forces experienced their first defeat, which was at the hands of the Australian military following a two week battle.
Photographs kindly provided by Ralph Pannell