Diving Walindi Plantation Resort, Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. This boutique resort features high on lists of the world’s best dive resorts.
The resort boasts a waterfront location on Kimbe Bay, a biodiversity hot-spot, and the experience here combines extraordinary diving with friendly customer service, great food and accommodation. An unpretentious resort built under a mature rainforest canopy, birds, frogs and the gentle lapping of bay waters provide a natural sound track to accompany your stay.
A key difference to diving Walindi – and indeed diving at all PNG dive resorts – is the absence of other divers on the sites. Welcome to crowd-free diving. The resort only runs three small dive boats to the 20+ dive site locations. Over a week we barely saw another boat in the bay! There’s an extra sense of adventure and pleasure being the only divers to explore any site on any day.
As well as many coral reef sites, Kimbe Bay has a number of deep water sea mounts that are teeming with life. Some sites are just over an hour away but the trip is broken up looking for dolphins and the occasionally sighted orca or false killer whale pod. Two to three dives, warm waters (28-31 degrees) and an island lunch stop make every day a memorable day out.
Here are a few of my favourite dives from my stay…
My expectations are high as the dive brief explains Joelle is a sea mount crowded with big fish. Just 2m down and the guide makes the barracuda signal on his arm. A large school circles the sea mount. As I reach the reef top I hear myself say ‘WOW! This is why I’m in PNG”.
The healthiest hard corals I’ve seen cascade down the tiered slope from 16m. Thousands of colourful anthias, damsels and fusiliers dart about picking tidbits out of the gentle current.
Rope sponges hang like vines along the walls that drop vertically into the abyss.
A school of pingalo (bigeye) come straight at me. My camera strobes go off and reveal their vibrant crimson red colour. A grey reef shark approaches my buddy from behind. I point it out and the shark turns away as they make eye contact.
Nitrox restricts our depth to 32m, but it’s a small concession for a 65 mins dive. Close to the mooring line, Clarke’s and pink anemone fish playfully look at us as we ascend. A group batfish keep us company on the safety stop. Back on deck, the noisy chatter of excited divers fills the air. What a dive!
As we gear up I‘ve got the opening line from an old song in my head. ‘Christine you’re the sweetest girl I’ve ever known…’ The dive brief says to expect macro critters. I swap the wide-angle for macro gear and hit the best bunch of red whip gorgonians and sponges at 10m I’ve seen in Kimbe Bay. Damn it!
Christine is a submerged saddle between a number of detached smaller reefs. My guide turns to rubble at the top of the saddle around 15m. He taps and I swim over. On the rim of a tube worm’s tube there’s a ‘sexy’ shrimp. I’m excited. I manoeuvre in to get a closer look and a photo. Barely settled there’s another tap. Reluctantly I move and am instantly rewarded. A whole family of sexy shrimp are jiving along with a ‘disco’ shrimp that has better moves than Travolta.
Diving Walindi, the taps continue. A brilliantly camouflaged crocodile fish is revealed among the rubble, nudibranchs are pointed out, and a reef octopus. Among the delicate arms of a yellow crinoid a juvenile midnight snapper seeks refuge. The black and white markings in stark contrast to the colourful host.
Low on air we finally edge up the reef towards the surface. We pass the red whip gorgonians again. I make a mental note to bring the wide-angle if we get here again. At the safety stop I’m enjoying the antics of the Spine-cheek Anemonefish backed by the lyrics of that song in my head. ‘Christine, you’re the sweetest girl I’ve ever known’.
Resting upright at 16m is the intact wreck of a Japanese WWII fighter plane. Easily accessible to divers of all levels, it was discovered only a decade or so ago. This is a fascinating, historic dive and adds to the variety to the many sites accessible from Walindi Resort.
The pilot ejected prior before the plane skimmed the surface and sunk. The propeller is still attached and an engraved machine gun barrel, shiny from divers touches is still visible on one wing. Corals encrust the body of the plane and the open cockpit has become a cosy home for a two coral grouper and a host of small fish.