Season: Year-round diving
Water Temperature: 28-30°C/82-86°F
Diving: wrecks, sharks, walls, coral gardens, critter diving, boat diving
Can be combined with New Britan and Milne Bay
New Ireland is a long narrow tropical island that forms part of the Bismarck Archipelago. Situated to the north of the island of New Guinea, it divides the Pacific Ocean from the Bismarck Sea. Off its northwestern tip is the island of New Hanover, whose people were once known for their strange ‘cargo-cult’ beliefs. The inhabitants came to suppose that with only the correct worship, or magic, ships and planes loaded with goods would arrive for their use! Arching towards the south east, New Ireland points towards the larger island of New Britain and far off Bougainville Island, where political problems mean it is unlikely that visitors will be welcome for some time.
KAVIENG & NEW HANOVER
Situated beside a wonderful natural harbour at the tip of the island of New Ireland is the small provincial town of Kavieng, capital of New Ireland Province. Between Kavieng and New Hanover is a truly amazing series of islands, straits and passages that create some really exciting diving: Steffen Strait, Northeast Pass, Planet Channel, Albatross Passage and Byron Strait. Currents can be strong here at times, but as the tide comes in, so too, come the fish to feed and the soft corals bloom in the rich waters. The tidal currents that sweep backwards and forwards between the myriad of tiny islands bring nutrients to tempt the larger fish from their open ocean homes. Although many dive guides emphasize the superb pelagic encounters to be found in the waters off Kavieng, there are also many beautiful and colourful smaller fish and invertebrates. Lagoons and mangroves around the islands form nurseries for many species of fish while sandy shelves, too shallow for large fish to hunt, provide some fascinating dive sites.
Nusa Blowholes near Nusa Island is formed from an eroded limestone costal reef, with blowholes that send fountains of water several metres into the air each time a wave hits the shore. In spite of the surge that is characteristic of this dive site it is one well worth visiting with a long ‘wish-list’ of creatures to seek, perhaps ranging from the amazing mantis shrimp to a resting Tawny Nurse Shark beneath a rock. Several species of nudibranchs can be found here, many of them very brightly coloured: some green and orange, others in shades of blue and white. Search carefully and you may find the amazing decorator crab, beautifully adorned with small pieces of sponge or seaweed.
Situated in one of the channels between New Ireland and Binnegem Island, Albatross Pass, in Albatross Channel can be subject to strong currents, but on an incoming tide this can be an exhilarating and rewarding dive. The sandy reef top is home to a colony of garden eels, but appears mostly barren due to the wave and current action on its surface. If the current runs too strongly it is worth dropping down the anchor line, hand over hand, until the current becomes weak at about 30 metres. Here, large black coral ‘bushes’, gorgonians and soft corals decorate the walls and overhangs, and swim-throughs create interesting diving. Grey Reef Sharks are often found here and from time to time are joined by Manta Rays. Barracuda patrol in large schools and beautiful black, silver and gold Teira Batfish seem to enjoy the diver’s presence.
Just a short boat ride from the harbour at Kavieng lies the wreck of the Der Yang, a Taiwanese fishing boat which was seized by the local fishery department on suspicion of ‘illegal activities’. The local authorities later used the Der Yang as a decoy to approach other suspicious vessels, thus luring them into their ‘trap’. It did not take too long for the fishermen to realize what was going on, so in 1988 the Der Yang was scuttled and now lies on its side on the seabed at 30 metres. The propeller is still in place and is now encrusted with sponges and corals. It is well worth exploring the area around the wreck as there is excellent fish life here. The sea bed around the wreck has a good population of gorgonians and sea whips. A school of barracuda patrol above the wreck when the current is running. Elegant Schooling Bannerfish, with their distinctive black and white bands and trailing dorsal fins, form large aggregations, making delightful shapes as the school moves around the wreck. Photographers have a wide choice of subjects and will find much potential, whatever lens is used. With a 15 mm lens, it is possible to photograph the entire wreck and achieve some interesting seascapes, or to capture the schools of barracuda or bannerfish. Due to the prolific fish life the site is also good for fish portrait photography and there are also many subjects for those that wish to concentrate on some very close-up images.
Lissenung Island itself offers some great shore diving and photographic opportunities. At least six species of anemonefish can be found on the ‘house reef’, as well as many other reef fish including the strange Bigmouth Mackerel (schools of which open their mouths in unison to trawl for food), hawkfish, delightful little Black-tailed Dascyllus and shrimp gobies. Juvenile Black-tip Reef Sharks hunt the border between the sand flat and the reef. At night there are iridescent squid, octopus and numerous shrimps and crabs.
COMBINATIONS: Why not extend your visit to Papua New Guinea and visit New Britain? Walindi Plantation Resort offers a superb range of shore-based diving with marvellous ‘macro life’ as well as good numbers of big fish. Alternatively, why not take a cruise on FeBrina or Star Dancer, or a liveaboard cruise out of Milne Bay? Talk to us about the possibilities.
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