Papua New Guinea: A Scuba Divers Adventure
|M.V. FeBrina Liveaboard Diving |
The M.V. FeBrina dives many of the same sites in Kimbe Bay as the Walindi Operation,. In fact the ship leaves from Walindi's dock, so you can plan to combine diving at Walindi with a week aboard the FeBrina liveaboard with your host, the infamously charming and entertaining Alan Raabe.
In addition, FeBrina visits many of the sites beyond the range of the day boats on a regular basis, including the Witu Islands. The ship also visits Father's Reefs, Rabaul, Duke of York Islands, and Kavieng on special occassions. For a list of itineraries, see the FeBrina Schedule.
For divers who enjoy the abilty to make four or more dives per day, the FeBrina offers an excellent choice, especially for photographers endeavoring to capture the maximum number of images underwater. Unlike diving at Walindi, you'll rarely have an opportunity to visit the best sites more than once.
The Bali / Witu Group of Islands
Around this offshore group of islands you will experience some magnificent diving. The islands and reef are of volcanic origin and rise from very deep water. Garove harbour is actually a submerged volcanic crater. Nutrient rich currents frequently waft across most reefs and as a result there is a profusion of life. Schools of pelagic fishes abound and on the reefs you will find a great diversity of fishes and invertebrates. To date most of these reefs remain largely unsurveyed and it is possible to discover new and exciting things on nearly every dive.
This exposed reef rises to within 48 feet of the surface and is often swept by a slight current. Schools of Fusiliers (Caesionidae), Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) and Surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) are abundant along the reef face. Closer to the reef large schools of Anthias feed on plankton brought to them by the current. The Deep Water Anthias (Pseudanthias smithvaniz) , normally found below 30 metres can be found here in less than 50 feet of water.
The Sixbanded rockcod (Cephalopholis sexmaculata) is particularly abundant on this reef and (Scarus tricolor) which is uncommon within the bay is also commonly seen here. The reef is covered with a wide variety of soft corals such as black corals, gorgonians and Sarcophyton species. There are also numerous corallimorpharians which can give a nasty sting if you brush against them.
Lama Shoals (Crack-A-Fat Reef)
The cover photo for the Cousteau Society 50th anniversary calendar was taken at Lama Shoals. From this one picture alone you can see that the reef ecosystem here is very rich and that you can expect as "action" dive.
At Lama Shoals you are likely to be surrounded by Barracuda (Sphyraena quenie), Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) and Rainbow Runner (Elagatis bipinnulata). Large Dogtooth Tuna (Gymnosarda unicolor) and Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson) cruise along the reef face, occasionally scattering the large schools of smaller fish in a fireworks like explosion of silver, as they dart through chasing dinner.
The consistent current over this site attracts fish to the reef and brings food to many of the reef inhabitants. Attached to the reef matrix are current lovers such as gorgonian fans, black corals of all colors, soft corals and hydroids.
The bay in front of Dicky Doyles place is a treasure house of interesting fishes and invertebrates. The sand and rubble bottom slopes slowly into deep water and here you can find sand-divers (Thichonotus setiger), Panther Flounder (Bothus pantherinus), Razorfish or Indianfish (Xyrichtys pavo), many species of gobies, Panda Anemonefish (Amphiprion polymnus) amongst sand anemones, sea pens, various shells, nudibranchs and the Tailed Sea Slug (Chelidonura).
You won't see masses of pelagic fishes here, but it is often the shallow sandy or muddy bays that hold some of the most interesting and bizarre animals. The best way to dive this area is to have one dive during the afternoon and another as a night dive. This way you can become familiar with the site and see both the diurnal and nocturnal creatures that inhabit the sand and rubble.
This reef rises out of deep water, directly offshore from Lama Plantation. The reef is easily circumnavigated on a dive and the shallow reef top is an ideal place to finish the dive whilst doing a safety stop. Despite its relatively small size, this reef has an extraordinary diversity of marine life. On the reef wall you will see black coral trees, sea fans and large barrel sponges (Xestospongia spp.). Crinoids are abundant and are often found on sea fans and sponges where they gain maximum exposure to currents for feeding. Many of the barrel sponges are also covered in white worm like creatures which are actually sea cucumbers from the genus Synaptula. Ascidians are diverse and abundant at Lama 1. Some of the interesting types include the large golden and blue Polycarpa aurata, transparent species from the genus Rhopalaea, and colonial types (Clavelina spp.) where the colony forms a rounded head on top of a single stem.
Lama Shoal (Crack-A-Fat Reef)
The reef at Lama Shoal comes to within 50 feet of the surface and then drops rapidly into deep water on all sides. Currents commonly sweep through this area and as a result there is a rich assortment of marine life on this reef. Large sponges, sea fans, black corals, crinoids and various types of soft corals are abundant along the reef wall. Schools of pelagic fishes mass around Lama Shoal, especially when a current is running. Large schools of Big Eye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) and Barracuda (Sphyraena genie) are usually seen, along with Rainbow Runners (Elagatis bipinnulata) and Dogtooth Tuna (Gymnosardia unicolor). Grey Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchose) are often seen cruising along the drop-off.
At the reef edge, schools of planktivorous fishes feed as the current sweeps food across the reef top. The most commonly seen plankton feeding fishes are large schools of fusiliets (Caesio and Pterocaesio spp.) and Unicornfishes, such as Vlaming's Unicornfish (Naso vlamingi) and the Sleek Unicornfish (Naso hexacanthus). Closer to the reef, smaller planktivorus fishes form dense schools. Pyramid Butterflyfish (Hemitaurichthys polylepis) are found in isolated schools, whilst Fairy Basslets extend along the entire reef front. Several particularly interesting species of Basslet to watch out for are the Princess Anthias (Pseudanthias smithvanizi) and Bartlett's Anthias (Pseudanthias barlettorum). The Princess Anthias is usually found along drop-offs in deep water, but at Lama Shoal it can be found on the reef top. There is a good photograph of this species in the FeBrina lounge area. Bartlett's Anthias (Pseudanthias barlettorum), which appears to be uncommon in Papua New Guinea can be distinguished from other Anthias by the thin yellow bar extending from the bar to the mid-line in males. Pinjalo are another group of fish that are typically found along deep water drop-offs and deep pinnacles and can be seen at Lama Shoal. These deep-red fish, with large eyes, form slow moving schools around the top of the reef edge.
This reef is a crescent shape, with a deep reef wall on the oceanside and a sloping reef-sand-rubble slope on the shore side. When a current is running along the ocean side this dive is best done as drift dive. Start from one end and drift along the reef all. You will find barrel sponges (Xestospongia spp. and Petrosia sp.), black corals, soft corals and sea fans. The southern point is particularly attractive with extensive hard and soft coral development. The reef top is in only a few metres of water and it is worth exploring along the back reef and reef top at the end of the dive About half way along the back reef, in three metres of water, there is a large anemone with a single large Orange-fin Anemonefish (Amphiprion chrysopterus) and a single large White Bonnet Anemonefish (Amphiprion leucokranos). It is unusual to see two species of anemonefish cohabiting a single anemone and it has bee suggested that Amphiprion leucokranos may in fact be a hybrid between Amphiprion chryscopterus and another species such as Amphiprion sandaracinos. The Spine-Cheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus) can also be found in anemone among the back reef. This anemonefish is very fussy about which type of anemone it lives in and is usually only found in the Bulb-Tentacle Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor).
At the entrance to the crater of the ancient volcano that formed Garove Island is a small outcrop of rock, which has a very different structure to the nearby coral reefs. The sides of Do-Do Rock slope steeply into deep water. The first five metres below the surface is smooth rock, covered in algae and the small green centered ascidian, Didemnun molle.
In the shallow waters you will see schools of Sergeant Majors (Abudefduf vaigiensis) which feed on plankton, and grazing herbivorous fishes such as Drummers (Kyphosus spp.). Surgeonfishes (Acanthurus spp.) and Parrotfishes (Scarus spp.). The Scalefin Anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) is abundant around Do-Do Rock and other interesting fish that are commonly seen include, the Royal Dottyback and the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus). In the top few metres, where surge is often experienced, species such as the Surge Demoiselle (Chrysiptera leucoporna), the Surge Wrasse (Thalassoma purpureum), Five stripe Wrasse (Thalassoma quinquevittatum) and the Surge Dottyback can be found.
At about ten metres depth coral and sponge growth increases dramatically. Long parallel fissures run through the rock and there are several rubble areas between ten and twelve metres depth, where sheets of rock have fallen from above. Interesting invertebrates that may be seen here include, the Blue Seastar (Linckia laevigata), Cushion Stars (Culcita novaguineae), transparent Ascideans (Phopalaea sp.) and various nudibranchs. Coils of eggs from the giant Spanish Dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus?) have been found here. This nudibranch can grow to at least 16 inches and is worth looking for in the undercuts around Do-Do Rock.
Widu Reef (Dicky's Long One)
The southern end of Widu Reef forms a narrow point from which either side of the reef can be dived. The point has extensive growth of the lovely fern-like hydroids (Aglaeophenia cupressina), but be careful, they have a strong sting. Hydroids dominate the northern side of the reef, but on the southern side hard and soft coral growth is much more extensive. Soft coral, gorgonian fans and barrel sponges are scattered along the the reef wall and many different species of anemones and anemonefishes can be found. At about 280 feet there is a complex of undercuts, small caves and tubes. On the reef top a variety of interesting fish species can be seen such as the Teardrop Butterflyfish (Chaetodon unimaculatus), the Longnose Butterflyfish (Forcipiger longirostris) and the Diamon Wrasse (Anampses caeruleopunctatus).
The Strudels and Narage Island
This remote complex of reefs remains largely unexplored and most of the reefs are uncharted. Few divers have visited this area and most reefs remain undived. Because of their remote and exposed location, the Strudels can only be visited during calm weather. When the opportunity exhausts, however, it is well worth the effort. The visibility is usually superb and pelagic fishes are abundant. Grey Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchose), Silvertips Sharks (Carcharhinus albimarginatus), Dog-Tooth Tuna (Gymnosardia unicolor), Rainbow Runner (Elagatis bipinnulata) and Barracuda (Sphyaena genie) will be seen on most dives. The fishes assemblages on these reefs are distinctly oceanic in composition and a number of species that are rare closer inshore are very abundant here. The vivid blue Palette Surgeonfishes (Paracanthurus hepatus) is one of these fishes. It is rarely seen in Kimbe Bay or around the Witu Island but is abundant at the Strudels.
Nearby Narage Island is an ancient volcano, now shrouded in forest. Near the shore there is a pool of boiling water, providing evidence of the islands recent volcanic history. The island can be visited to inspect this thermal activity. Narage Island is also the ideal place for a night dive. The extensive fringing reef slopes gently to about 10 metres and then more steeply into deep water. Basket Stars (Astroboa granulatus) emerge from the reef at night and can be seen with their arms extended to feed. Other interesting animals that have been seen here on night dives include sleeping Whitetip Sharks, Flashlight Fish, Cuttlefish, Crayfish and many types of shrimps.