By Samantha P-R
Over New Years 2011/2012 a group of Abyss divers headed over to Tufi, PNG for 9 days of awesome diving and a whole heap of amazing culture!!
A big coffee was needed for an early morning start (4:30am!!) to get myself to Sydney airport in time to catch my domestic flight to Brisbane. Most of us met up at Sydney airport but by the time we were ready to hop on our flight to Port Moresby the group was well acquainted, wide awake and eager to begin our adventure!! The flight to Port Moresby was a comfortable one, with no diving on the first day there was plenty of time on the plane to sample some of Virgin’s in flight bar menu. A few of us had left our VISAS that we needed to get into the country to organise when we got to the airport and as we has little time between connecting flights, we were a little apprehensive that we would make it on time. To everyone’s surprise however, the staff at Port Moresby airport were very helpful and organised and managed to get us through quickly with no fuss at all (we even had our own private guide through the airport!).
Once we boarded our domestic flight, got the safety briefing which included a warning about “smoking and chewing beetle nut” being prohibited on the aircraft we were off and on the last leg of our journey to Tufi Dive Resort!
The scenery flying into Tufi was absolutely breathtaking, with the views over the fjords being something I don’t think any of us are likely to forget! After much speculation on the plane about what the runway would be made out of (the general consensus seemed to be grass!) we were all pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be bitumen.
When we got off the plane we were met by the manager of Tufi Dive Resort, Wayne, who organised a few of us into the truck to head to the resort but a lot opted to walk, being our first few minutes in tropical paradise! It wasn’t a long walk to the resort, about 5 minutes, and we got to see a little bit of the surrounding village and meet some friendly local kids. It really is exactly how it looks in the photos!
Upon arrival at the resort we had quite a welcoming party, it wasn’t just the staff that came out to greet us with cool towels and drinks, but we also got to say ‘hi’ to some of the local wildlife.
We got a quick introduction to the resort, staff, facilities, etc, then we were instructed to be in the common area in an hours time for a dive brief. Most of us couldn’t wait to get in the water so we decided to make use of our hour by going for a snorkel down at the house reef which was well known for it’s fantastic muck diving. We weren’t disappointed and as soon as we stuck our faces in we were greeted with an array of pipefish, harlequin fish and even a few lion fish and that was just from the surface!! After our snorkel we headed up ‘the big hill’ for our dive briefing which I have to say was one of the most well organised and thorough one that I have ever experienced in a remote dive destination, so big thumbs up for that!
After a great 3 course dinner (which got us excited about all the awesome food we had to look forward to for the rest of our stay) it was time for an early night for an early start to go diving the next day!!
The next day was an early rise for a quick breakfast, put our gear out the front of our rooms to be taken down to the dive shop and then a quick lazy stroll down the road to get ready for the dives.
As soon as you walk out the gate of the resort, you are met with a heap of locals selling some souveneirs, so it’s a great place to do some shopping. They don’t really barter and they don’t give change but nothing is particularly expensive. They sell stuff from 5 kena bracelets to some more expensive things like Nautilus shells (which apparently wash up on the local beaches). They also normally have some beetle nut for those adventurous types who see all the orange teeth and want to try a bit for themselves!
When we arrived down at the dive shop, all our gear had been set up for us (and correctly which was a bonus!!). All that was left for us to do was to double check we had everything, and relax on the dock for 15 minutes while we waited to head off. We had a fairly big group (15 people) so we assumed we would be split up over two boats, but we were wrong!! The boat was very comfortable, easily seating 15 of us on padded bench seats. The boat was divided into seats in the front half and dive gear in the back half so it is perfect for transporting larger groups of divers. The only downside to the big boat is it’s SLOW, which wouldn’t really matter except the seas were a little rough on the first day and a 40 minute ride out to the first dive site made a few people a little sea sick. Once in the water however, all was forgotten!
It was a little chillier than I expected it to be (about 27 degrees, boo hoo) but once we descended down a few metres we went through a thermocline and ended up in 30 degrees!
The diving was amazing!! The water was warm, clear, full of fish and I have to say the reefs in Tufi are unlike any I have ever seen. I can’t even describe just how colourful they are, you won’t understand, you just have to see it for yourself! After an hour and 8 minutes underwater, we surfaced, reeling about the dive and excited for our next one. Our surface interval was done at the next dive site, during which the dive guides provided us with some cakes, biscuits, fresh local fruit, water, tea, coffee, etc.
The second dive was at Stewarts reef and similar to the first, colourful fish, coral, a few reef sharks and a turtle! After the dive we headed back to the resort for lunch and to organise our third dive of the day at the local house reef, for some muck diving!
I think everyone was a little sceptical about the muck diving (except me and Duncan!) but I also know everyone was very pleasantly surprised after the dive! The site itself is directly off the dive shop wharf and most is done between about 2 – 12m, although depths in the fjord directly out from the wharf can reach in excess of 50m! We had a dive guide to take us around the site but the navigation was so simple most chose to dive in their buddy pairs.
For those of you who aren’t sure what muck diving is check out our info page on it here. Much to Duncan’s annoyance our team spotted a mandarin fish about 5 minutes into the dive (he had to wait until his last dive to see one haha). We also saw a huge number of other critters too including something I had been wanting to see for AGES, two Ornate Ghost Pipefish. Everyone came out raving about the dive, even Bec who had managed to get her finger skewered by the nastiest looking sea urchins I had ever seen. Everyone was keen to share their photos and video from the days diving so we decided it was beer/dinner o’clock!!
After an awesome dinner, a few drinks and some table tennis (in which I would like to add I slaughtered Duncan!! :P), it was time for bed with a nice easy morning planned.
The next day we planned to head out to some of the more outer reefs which is where the locals say they quite often see Hammerheads cruising around the giant reef walls. The boat ride was, for lack of a better word, looooooong. After more than an hour cruising the seas we were finally ready to dive Mulloway reef and all I can say is it was worth it. I would happily have spent 10 hours on a boat to dive there. The reef was hands down the most spectacular reef I have ever dived on! Lots of sharks, vivid colours and too many species of bright coloured fish to count! After the dive we moved 5 minutes over to our second dive site (Veals reef) where we spent our surface interval eating cakes and plenty of local fruit and snorkelling.
Our second dive at Veals reef was equally as impressive, everyone agreeing that the boat ride out was worth it and we would definitely be heading back before we went home!! Another long boat ride back and it was time for a late (3pm) lunch and straight down for our afternoon wharf dive which uncovered more unusual creatures.
Night time brought another huge dinner (I could have definitely got used to three courses a night!!) and lots of chats about all the other destinations on our wish lists for diving. I guess the problem with being addicted to diving is that you seem to add places to your bucket list faster than you can tick them off!! We were also very excited to hear plans for how we were going to be spending New Years Day. We all hit the sack excited about diving and new years eve tomorrow.
Overnight we had a HUGE storm. No place puts on a rain and thunderstorm quite like the tropics! When we woke in the morning it hadn’t eased so our departure for the days diving was a little delayed as we lazed around the dive shop waiting for the rain to calm down. When we finally realise it wasn’t going to we wetsuited up and hopped on the boat and headed out to one of the nearby fjords for our first dive of the day. The dive was very similar to the wharf except a little clearer, deeper and more coral, less garbage! It was a good little dive site and by the time we were out, so was the sun (kind of) and we were ok to head out to some of the more outer reefs after our snacks.
Our second dive of the day was at Bev’s Reef which was equally as stunning as all the dives preceding it. After our second boat dive we headed back for lunch and a wharf dive, then it was time for our New Years Eve celebration, island style!!
Having spent my last NYE in Truk Lagoon I was starting to become accustomed to the tropical island celebrations. They are always slightly different though. The year before we had all chipped in for a pig (like Babe – “la la la”) which the restaurant had cooked on the spit for us, which was amazing. This year we got a very decadent buffet, full of everything you could imagine wanting to eat at a New Years feast, including some of the best, freshest seafood.. YUM!
After dinner the fun started and thankfully there was no diving the next day, cause the celebrations continued well into the night/morning with plenty of drinking, dancing, laughing, beer pong and even some traditional local singing and dancing which Kerryn was happy to join in with her musical talents!