Papua New Guinea: A Scuba Divers Adventure
|Diving Walindi Plantation Resort |
Service is paramount at Max Benjamin'sWalindi Plantation Resort -- from the dive staff who load, unload and rinse your gear to the housekeeping staff to attend to your every need, you'll find yourself pampered with genuine island hospitality from the minute you arrive until it's time to depart.
The coral reefs around Walindi are extraordinarily rich. Over 400 species of reef building corals have been recorded in Kimbe Bay. This is more than half the total number of known coral species in the world. Over 900 species of fish have been recorded and this number will continue to grow as more research is done.
Walindi Diving has approximately 25 dive sites which are visited regularly from our shore-based dive boats. The nearest dive site is a short 5 minute boat ride and the furthest is only 75 minutes from the jetty.
These dive site descriptions are intended to give you some idea of what you are likely to find on the reefs around Walindi. A number of the more interesting fishes that have been observed at each site are listed, but of course they may not be seen on every dive. We can guarantee, however, that you will see vastly more than can ever be described in the brief overviews given here. Take your time and dive carefully. In this way you will be better able to appreciate what is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
Hanging Gardens - 5 minute boat ride from the jetty.
This vertical wall at hanging gardens has many ledges and overhangs and several large caverns. Hanging from the wall are masses of rope sponge (Gelliodes sp.) which give the site its name. These sponges reach at least 3 meters in length and many have crinoids clinging to them. At about 90 feet the wall meets a sand and rubble slope. On this slope you can find many gobies, including a small undescribed Cryptocentrus that has a pair of yellow lines running the full length of its body. In the undercut near the mooring, between 25 and 35 feet it is possible to find (Signigobius biocellatus) and Randals Shrimp Goby (Amblyeleotris randali).
At depths over 65 feet on Hanging Gardens and other reefs close to Walindi it is possible to find Cirrhilabrus walindii. This lovely small wrasse was first discovered on the reefs around Walindi. The female has a large black spot high on the caudal base. The male has a pair of black semicircular marks on the lower fins.
Along the wall and in the undercuts and caverns there are many small fishes and prolific communities of invertebrates. Take your time and look closely. Hanging Gardens is also an excellent location for night diving, when many of the nocturnal creatures come out of hiding amongst the caves and crevices.
At the back of the reef there is a large lagoon type area with sand and coral patches in shallow water. Mandarin Fish (Synchiropus splendens) are common amongst Porites cylindrica and coral rubble in the lagoon area. They occur on many of the reefs around Walindi but are notoriously difficult to find. If you spend enough time looking, especially late in the afternoon, you may get lucky.
Numundo Reef (Bob's Knob) - 10 minute boat ride from the jetty.
This reef is protected from the larger ocean swells and as a result many of the more delicate corals thrive here. The diversity of corals on this reef is outstanding. In fact, this reef has one of the richest assemblages of hard corals in the bay. On the reef top, staghorn corals (Acropora species) are dense and vigorous. Cardinalfishes (Apogonidae), Squirrelfishes (Holocentridae) and Damselfishes (Pomacentridae) are abundant amongst the staghorn.
On the reef slope there are a number of coral pillars. Around these pillars you can find Lionfish (Pterois antennata and Pterois volitans) and the Double-Striped Dottyback (Pseudochromis bitaeniatus).
In deeper water near rubble patches it is possible to find small aggregations of the lovely Filamentous Wrasse (Paracheilinus filamentosus). The males have filamentous dorsal rays.
Look carefully at the coral rubble in the shallow water near the island as one piece may turn out to be the Spiny Devilfish (Inimicus didactylus). This Scorpionfish walks over rubble areas with modified pectoral fin rays. It is an ambush predator, often burying itself in the sand and is so well camouflaged that it is hard to find even when you know where it is.
Schumann Island - 30 minute boat ride from the jetty.
This popular lunch spot offers interesting diving and snorkeling. The shallow sandy bottom and coral outcrop habitats contain a multitude of fish species, many of which are rarely observed on the regular dive sites. It is often areas such as this, where some people don't bother to dive because it is "too shallow" or "too close to shore" or "not enough coral" where some of the most interesting and unusual creatures are found.
In the middle of the lagoon there are several small coral outcrops which hold an incredible diversity of life for their small size. A survey was conducted on the smallest coral head and over 40 species of corals and 65 species of fish were observed. This is quite remarkable for an area of only a few square meters.
Between the coral outcrops and the channel you can find the Panda Anemonefish (Amphiprion polymnus) amongst anemones on the open sand. These anemonefish will defend their territory against all corners and have been known to bite divers. Porcelain Crabs are sometimes seen around the edges of the anemones. Please don't touch the anemones as they are likely to retract quickly into the sand, leaving their symbionts temporarily stranded and exposed to predation.
On the sand it is also possible to find fishes such as Sand Divers (Trichonotus elegans) and the Curious Worm Fish (Gunnelichthys curiosus). Both types of fish will dart into the sand when approached but with a little care and patience it is possible to get quite close.
On the reef there are large numbers of Banded Pipefish (Corythoichthys intestinalis). You may find some with a long ventral projection which makes them look like they have swallowed something rather uncomfortable. These are males and the funny shape is the brood pouch where eggs are fertilized and incubated. On the reef tops there are many interesting species of Damselfishes (Pomacertridae) and Blennies (Blennidae).
Next time you have the opportunity to dive an area such as Schumann Island, think of it as a golden opportunity to find some of the interesting creatures that are not seen on the outer reefs. In some of the most bizarre and interesting finds come from places the average diver would never consider trying. Take your time and look carefully!
Restorf Island - 30 minute boat ride from the jetty.
The waters around Restorf Island hold an incredible diversity of marine life. It would be possible to spend a week diving here and still find new things in the various habitat types around the island. Depth is from the surface, down to 100 feet, and this site is excellent for snorkeling.
On the main reef there is a profusion of coral growth, especially gorgonian fax an black corals, with anemones occupied by Clown Anemonefish near the boat mooring. There is a great variety of reef fishes along the full length of the main reef. At the end of the reef, Gray Reef Sharks are often seen.
To the west side of Restorf, the reef slopes downward in a patchwork of loosely connected coral bommies, many serving as anchors for gorgonian fans, sea whips, barrel sponges, and elephant ear sponges. Among these live many species of smaller reef fish such as hawkfish, gobies and colorful anthias and numerous invertebrates including nudibranchs, shrimp, feather duster worms and an occasional octopus.
On the sandy flats between the island and the reef are large colonies of garden eels, at least four species of shrimp gobies, burrowing gobies, sand anemones, occasional flatheads and flounders. Watch out for the Titan Triggerfish over the sandy areas. Usually easy to spot, these fish excavate large depressions in the sand and rubble in which to lay their eggs. Observe from a distance, but don't get too close as the females have been known to bite divers when they are guarding eggs in the nest.
Susan's Reef - 30 minute boat ride from the jetty.
Dense stands of Red Sea Whips (Ellisella sp.) give Susan's Reef a unique aesthetic quality that sets it apart from other Walindi reefs. Susan's is a submerged ridge, connected to a much larger reef by a saddle, which creates a channel between the reefs. A stunning collection of corals is particularly rich at the southern end of the reef where it connects to the saddle. This area is crammed with hard and soft corals and a wide range of other phyla. The more obvious invertebrates include sponges, ascidians, bryozoans and a variety of annelid worms such as fan worms and Christmas tree worms. Particularly spectacular large gorgonian fans, red sea whips and elephant ear sponges, everything adorned with colorful crinoids, delight all who dive here.
Seemingly oblivious to the surrounding splendor, a multitude of fish life go about their business. In the channel between the reef, a photogenic pair of Longfin Bannerfish (Heniochus acuminatus) will often be seen posing beside one of the many gorgonians on the reef wall or on the sandy floor. A school of Razorfish (Aeoliscus strigatus) live in the red sea whips at 60 feet near the southern corner of the reef. These fish swim head down in a bobbing manner, making them difficult to see amongst the sea whips. When danger approaches they turn their narrow body sideways making them even harder to see.
The larger of the two dark red sea fans at the southern end of the saddle is a particularly good place to observe Long Nose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). There are a variety of Butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae) and Angelfish (Pomacanthidae) commonly seen around the reef and the Pixie Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco) is particularly abundant here.
Joy's Reef - 30 minute boat ride from the jetty.
The sheer wall on the inner side of this reef is crammed with a mix of sessile and mobile invertebrates. This is a favorite place for nudibranch hunting. If you have plenty of bottom time, the sand along the base of the wall is a particularly productive location for finding unusual nudibranchs. The sand is in 80 to 110 feet deep so make sure you have enough time to safely explore the area. Also on the sand but out from the wall there are an interesting series of coral outcrops.
The Long Nosed Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus) is regularly observed on the walls near the reef top and in the central lagoon there are many large banded pipefish (Corythoichthys intestinalis).
Lumu Reef - 35 minute boat ride from the jetty.
The dive site at Lumu consists of a long, relatively shallow ridge extending north of the main reef. The walls on either side of the ridge are very steep to vertical. They are adorned with sponges and black corals. Along the walls, divers will encounter schools of fusiliers (Caesio sp.) and trevally (Caranx sp.) feeding in the currents. Gray Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) are also commonly sighted as they cruise the walls.
On top of the ridge is a rich hard coral garden with a small stand of red sea whips (Ellisella sp.) close to the main reef.
Donna's Reef - 25 minute boat ride from the jetty.
The most beautiful parts of this reef occur in less than 60 feet. In 5 to 25 feet of water between the two bommies there is a magnificent formation of Acropora plate corals. They produce a layered pattern down the reef face. Use good buoyancy control and be extra careful as an entire plate formation can be destroyed by one wayward fin kick. On the southern end of the bommies in 16 to 18 feet there are a number of damselfishes (Pomaceritridae) that "farm" algae and have a distinct territory that they will defend.
On the northeastern end of the bommies it is usually possible to find Lionfish (Pterois volitans). The Squarespot Anthias (Pseudanthias pleurotaenia) can be found under the mooring at around 60 feet. Dive shallow and enjoy the corals on this dive.
Christine's Reef - 25 minute boat ride from the jetty.
Christine's Reef is actually a collection of reefs joined by underwater ridges to form a large horseshoe shape complex. A photographer's paradise, Christine's features a beautiful collection of extremely large barrel sponges, many different gorgonian fan corals and red whip gorgonians, along with staghorn and plate corals in the shallower areas. As will all Walindi reefs, reef associated fishes are abundant and diverse. Commonly seen are Butterflyfishes, Angelfishes, Snapper and Surgeonfishes. A number of more cryptic fishes have also been seen at Christine's. They include Spiny Devilfish (Inimicus didactylus), Harlequin Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus), and Crocodile Flathead (Cymbacephalus beauforti). To find these types of fish you need to look carefully and to have a bit of luck as well. On the sand you will probably also find a bizarre sea cucumber (Thelenota rubolineata). This "horny" sea cucumber has a maze of red lines that make it rather attractive than most of its relatives.
In the undercuts around the reefs large puffer fish such as the Map Puffer and the Starry Puffer are regularly seen. The smaller Blackspotted Puffer, which is one of the most common pufferfish in this area can be seen in a variety of colors from grayish to brown and yellow. The best diving on Christine's is from surface to 60 feet.
North Emma Reef - 50 minute boat ride from the jetty.
The main feature of this dive is the deep bommie attached to the main reef by an even deeper saddle. The bommie at 120 feet is covered in a vast array of different soft corals. Gorgonian sea fans white feeding polyps contrast with their red skeletal structures. Beneath the sea fans is an under story of leather coral, and a few colonies of burning bush soft coral.
Due to the depth, only a short visit to the bommie is possible. Returning to the main reef, a shallow circumnavigation is a pleasant way to complete the dive and provide an extended safety stop.
If only all safety stops could be this interesting. Many species of anemonefish reside in their respective anemones at North Emma, occurring at almost regular intervals along the almost sheer east wall. These include the White-bonnet Anemonefish (which is restricted to the NE region of Papua New Guinea and the Solomons), the Orange Anemonefish, the Pin Anemonefish and the Black Anemonefish in clumps of Porites coral.
North Emma has a rich growth of Acropora corals, and a wide variety of coral associated fishes can be seen, such as Butterflyfishes, Angelfishes, Damselfishes and a host of others. Unicornfishes, Trevalies and Fusiliers are abundant along the walls.
Turtles are often seen, and with care can be approached quite closely.
Vanessa's Reef - 30 minute boat ride from the jetty.
Vanessa's is primarily dived to see the forest of large gorgonian fan corals (Subergorgia mollis) that run continuously along a current swept ridge at 80 to 110 feet. Many of the fans are will over 7 feet across and are truly magnificent to swim past, and for photographer's make picturesque backdrops for diver shots.
Lamarck's Angelfish can be found near the gorgonians. This unusual Angelfish can be distinguished by elongated caudal fins lobes, black stripes on the body and males have a yellow dot behind the head. The fans are also a good place to look for hawkfish, commensal shrimp and other macro subjects.
Not only are there gorgonians to see here, the rest of the reef is very interesting, with patches of sea whips, a sponge garden and Tubastrea coral. When a current is running you may see schooling barracuda and Gray Reef Whalers patrolling the drop off.