New Ireland in Papua New Guinea forms the eastern limit of the Bismarck Sea. Our focus here is an archipelago of islands to the south of Kavieng, which are encircled by a barrier reef. Tribal seafaring communities live in idyllic havens between mangroves and coastal rainforest. There are corals reefs and sand flats throughout the vast protected waters within the barrier reef. These waters are perfect for snorkelling and wading on sand flats where you can watch crabs and coral sea snakes whose jaws are far too small to bite you.
Some of the most variable and exciting diving can be found on walls outside the barrier reef and in channels where the open sea washes in and out with forceful currents. At low tide the inside can be quite green, but as the tide comes in, visibility increases significantly and the water turns to a much bluer shade. Pelagic fish can often be seen in large schools, including barracuda, large tuna, food in these currents and sharks can often be seen. The outer walls have some excellent coral and macro life, such as Pygmy Seahorses. Don't expect full coral cover on the outside of the barrier reef, because waves seasonally pound against them. What you can found outside the barrier, however, is larger marine life such as pods of Pilot Whales.
The diving at New Britain's Kimbe Bay can provide more classically clear blue water diving than this part of New Ireland, but the diving here can be incredibly variable, both through tidal changes each day and unusual sites such as the wreck of a Japanese 'Pete' float reconnaissance plane located in shallow water close to Nusa Island. This coastal area is also wonderful for its tropical island scenes and remote communities.
Outside of the diving and snorkelling season, this area is excellent for coral reef surfing. This is a version of surfing suitable for advanced surfers only, since falls onto coral reef can cause serious injury, not to mention damage to the reef itself.
Photographs kindly provided by Ralph Pannell, Peter Lange and Nuzia Rizo
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