We recently took a group of 14 fun-loving guests on a small group safari to Papua New guinea. We had a fantastic trip!
We met in Manila, with most guests arriving a day in advance. We relaxed at the hotel most the day and then we went down to the promenade for an early dinner with sunset view before heading to the airport to meet the last arriving guests and board a late night flight to Port Moresby for the real adventure to begin.
Due to some last-minute flight schedule changes by the airline, we spent a full day in Port Moresby at a hotel that boasted 3 restaurants, a tenpin bowling alley and a huge nightclub in it! We spent the day relaxing and eating, and then met up for a men vs women tenpin bowling tournament. Needless to say the men crushed the women, although we had some pretty sharp bowlers on our team.
After a delicious dinner and early morning flight to Tufi, on a 24 seater plane, we had arrived! The airstrip is an unpaved short landing strip on the edge of the island. We were greeted by the resort managers, Brian and Roya, who piled us and all our luggage into their range rovers and drove us the 5 minutes to the resort.
Here we received a welcome drink and breakfast, before unpacking and heading off for our first two dives. Our rooms were spacious and air-conditioned with beautiful sea views and hammocks on the private balconies!
The diving in Tufi consists of two distinct areas- the fjords and the outer reefs. Tufi has this unique topography characterised by volcanic fjords (geologists call them rias as fjords have glacial origins, while rias have volcanic). There “fjords” have been formed by volcanic eruptions and the resulting lava flow having created long narrow outcrops/ a jiggered shore. Here the water is extremely calm with little movement, and hard coral reefs have formed beautiful scenery and a safe home for many nudis and critters.
The outer reefs, which take about 25-60 minutes to reach on the speed boats, are seamounts and reefs stretching up from the deep. These are characterised by colourful corals and fans, schools of fish, grey, white-tip, black-tip and silver-tip sharks, and a passing turtle or two. With visibility reaching over 35m on some dives, and some fairly strong currents, we saw stunning vistas teaming with trevally, barracuda and snapper. The first two days were also characterised by choppy surface conditions, and a couple of us were (somewhat embarrassingly) ill. Thankfully the following days were clear and pancake-flat.
The dive guides have years of experience diving in the region and a wonderful understanding of the tides and currents, which is priceless. They were also able, in some cases, to find even the tiniest, most well camouflaged marine life to show us. Matt, a Brit who currently managers the dive operation, was great fun to dive with and very obliging, always smiling and ready to share a beer with after a day in the water. To complete our last days diving, we had a BBQ at the dive shop with the fantastic crew which was excellent fun.
The following day was set aside for off-gassing. We went on a tour to see a local village and learn about the local culture and customs. We were greeted by villagers in traditional war gear, faces painted black, lips bright red, stampeding us to sus us out. It was both fascinating and slightly terrifying at the same time. After we were accepted as friends coming in peace, we were shown how and what the locals farm, how they use bamboo tools for traditional face-tattooing, how they weave roofs for their homes and how they make twine from palm leaves and then tie them into traditional bags.
It was with a heavy heart that our time in Tufi ended. The airline has a check in office at the resort, and once all bags were weighed and tagged, we were off to manila and onto Walindi, in New Britain province.
The drive to the resort is about an hour from the airport, along a pot-hole riddled road through palm oil plantations.
As an aside, the plantations here are some of the most environmentally-aware and ethically run in the world. The plantations use natural composting and pest control techniques. They do not burn the trees after harvesting but leave them to biodegrade and nourish the land. The trees are planted at relatively large intervals allowing grass to grow creating feeding grounds for local cattle.
Anyway, we were greeted at the resort with cold towels and shown to our lovely rooms. The resort is set in a mature and impeccably kept garden. The rooms are scattered throughout the vast beachfront property, resulting in magnificent walks to and from the dining area and bar.
The diving at Walindi was a mixture of walls, pinnacles and sloping reefs. We were lucky and saw sharks on several of the dives. Unfortunately, there was some out-of-season rain which lowered visability on some of the shallower sites. The deeper pinnacles we spectacular though, with beautiful corals, schools of jacks, barracuda and snappers. We saw huge schools of spinner dolphins from the boat, and some of the group clung to specially designed nets that hung from the boat while the dolphins played around them.
On the last day here we went to a naturally hot river flowing in the jungle. It was wonderful. Many of us painted our faces with traditional Papua New Guinea mud designs.
Our final day in Papua New Guinea was spent in Port Moresby where we went to the local Nature Park, and saw wallebys, cassaworys, giant Victoria Crowned pigeons, and other cool animals and plants. We met for a tenpin bowling rematch before dinner that evening, where, although the women lost again, did so much for gracefully and with much higher scores! After dinner, we went to The Gold Club, the in house night club which was packed with weekend revelers.
Unfortunately, our two weeks flew by and before we knew it we were back in Manila bidding farewell to our friends and heading home.