Melanesian Magic: The Outer Limits

Season: Year-round diving

Visibility: 15-40m/50-130ft

Water Temperature: 28-30°C/82-86°F

A white-tip reef shark scatters the Batfish. (Lissenung Island).

Diving: wrecks, sharks, walls, coral gardens, critter diving, boat diving

Snorkeling opportunities

Can be combined with New Britain 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 north-western 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.



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 and Albatross Passage. 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 Passage, 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 Eagle or Mobula 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 seabed 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. Over 350 different species of fish can be found on the Lissenung Island House Reef.


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 Oceania, or a liveaboard cruise out of Milne Bay? Talk to us about the possibilities.

Schooling Oriental Sweetlips (Lissenung Island)


Lissenung Island (Lissenung Island)

Chevron Barracuda (Lissenung Island)

Barrel sponges and diver (Lissenung Island)

The Batfish swim amok (Lissenung Island)

World War Two wreck and diver (Lissenung Island)

Unknown wreck and diver (Lissenung Island)

Spotted Eagle Rays (Lissenung Island)

World War Two wreck and diver (Lissenung Island)

Longnosed Hawkfish (Lissenung Island)

Sabretooth blenny (Lissenung Island)

SIlvertip Shark (Lissenung Island)

Squarespot anthia (Lissenung Island)

Twinspot Goby (Lissenung Island)

Lissenung's beach (Lissenung Island)

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