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Old 15-04-2003, 12:04 AM
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Madang Dive Sites

1. Magic Passage :

Location: Between Krangket & Lepa Islands, Madang Habour
Access: 10 minutes by boat from Madang Resort Hotel
Conditions: Usually calm. Requires incoming current for best visibility and action.
Typical Visibility: 30m (100ft)
Minimum Depth: 5m (16ft)
Maximum Depth: 40m (130ft) plus

Descend into the current down the side of the passage, past excellent growths of hard and soft coral. The passage’s bottom, at about 35m (115ft), has a couple of coral bommies covered with superb white sea fans, black coral sea whips and colourful soft corals.

Surrounded by shy garden eels, groups of painted Sweetlips sit facing the incoming tide. From the middle of the passage you can see both walls, with stands of Green Coral Tree and giant barrel sponges. Schools of Barracuda and Trevally have been seen in this area including sharks and purple stone fish.


2. Barracuda Point :

Location: Eastern side of Pig Island.
Access: 10min by boat from Madang Resort Hotel
Conditions: Not comfortable in strong south-east winds. Can be current running over site. Can be done as a drift dive, depending on current.
Typical visibility: 40m (130ft)
Minimum visibility: 5m (16ft)
Maximum depth: 40m (130ft) plus

The point of the reef gradually drops off into the depths of the Bismark Sea. The current often flowing over the point attracts schools of the fish including barracuda, trevally, sea perch and fusiliers. Big Coral Cod and sweetlips are common. Large sharks are regular visitors, particularly Hammerhead, Grey Reef and Silvertip.

Although the main attraction is the fish-life, the corals are well formed, with a mixture of hard and soft corals and gorgonians. The reef drop off steepens away from the point until nearly vertical. There is perfect snorkelling from the beach of nearby Pig Island.


3. The Waterhole :

Location: On coast about 5km (3miles) west of Cape Croissilles
Access: You can drive right up to this site (about 1hr from Madang on North Coast Road).
Conditions: May be dived in all conditions.
Typical visibility: 40m (130ft)
Minimum depth: as shallow as you like
Maximum depth: 40m (130ft) plus

A small lagoon with a white sand beach is completely protected from the open sea by a sharp rocky shore, which often has surf breaking against it. After a beach entry into the lagoon, you descend and swim towards a large tunnel at 6m (20ft) which leads through the rock to the open ocean. Looking up, you see the surf smashing against the rocks, but are deep enough to have no difficulty moving through the surf zone into a beautiful coral garden, then down a steeply sloping drop off.

You must be able to find the tunnel again if you’re to make a safe exit, so take care navigating once through the tunnel. On calm days divers with local knowledge can enter the water at a blowhole about 600m (660yd) east. Here the wall is vertical and very dramatic. Swimming along the wall, you eventually end up at

The Waterhole and can exit through the tunnel. Ideally the current should help you drift along the wall, but it is hard to predict and can often be running the opposite way – since the only easy exit is through The Waterhole, this is a problem! Big fish and turtles are often encountered, and the wall is alive with soft corals, sponges and sea whips. The lagoon makes pleasant, easy snorkelling – ideal for novices. On calm days good skin divers can dive through the tunnel.


4. Boston :

Location: About 4km (21/2) miles south of Cape Croissilles.
Access: Usually from shore (50min drive on North Coast Road from Madang).
Conditions: For experienced current-divers only, but well worth the effect. Very difficult in Southeast season. Strong currents flow over site. Diving from boat straightforward, but take great care if diving from shore, which consists of sharp rocks. If any waves breaking on shore this entry not recommended.
Typical visibility: 40m(130ft)
Minimum depth: 22m (70ft)
Maximum depth: 45m (150ft)

You can drive a car right to the entry point off the North Coast Road. Enter by jumping from the rocks. Descend immediately down the steep slope, then let yourself be pushed north by the prevailing current. At about 30m (100ft) you come to the stern of the wreck, which intact and upright – is a beautiful sight, being covered with soft corals and fish.

A gash in the hull at the port stern shows where the propeller reportedly slice the hull after becoming tangled in mine-sweeping cables. A school of barracuda hovers above the wreck, and large pelagics, sweetlips, trevally and cod are resident.

After drifting over the wreck, make a direct ascet across the current and then, when back in shallow water, return south to the exit point: the current in the shallows is much reduced, so you can return without much effort. (Return at depth is very difficult, and could easily result in your running around out of air before reaching the exit.)


5. The Quarry :

Location: About 4km (21/2 miles) south of Cape Croissilles.
Access: Usually from shore (about 50min drive from Madang on North Coast Road).
Conditons: Difficult in strong southeast winds with surf breaking on shore. Can be strong currents.
Typical visibility: 40m (130ft)
Minimum depth: As shallow as you like
Maximum depth: 40m (130ft) plus

Among the best of all shore dives. You can dive right to the site and gear up on the beach next to the entry. This can be tricky if there are any waves. Almost immediately there is a steep drop off, and you should swim slightly northwards to a descending ridge covered with sea fans, sea whips and soft corals.

Schools of batfish and trevally will come to greet you, and pelagics, turtles and sharks are frequently met. A large Tiger Shark has often been seen, but has never bothered divers. The soft corals are spectacular and colourful. Take care with the current, particularly over the ridge, but otherwise this dive is straightforward.

6. Wongat Island Henry Leith :

Location: Off white sand beach west of Wongat Island.
Access: 5min by boat from Jais Aben Resort. Wreck easily located by swimming directly down sand slope at northern end of Wongat Island beach.
Conditions: Sheltered in all weather. A great wreck dive for beginners.
Typical visibility: 20m (65ft)
Minimum depth: 10m (33ft)
Maximum depth: 20m (65ft)

The boat was purchased by K1 by Kevin Baldwin and sunk by Kevin and myself to make an interesting dive near picturesque Wongat Island. The wreck is upright and has a slight current flowing over it; within months it was covered with soft corals. Lionfish are common on the wreck, as are many other fish and invertebrates.
In shallow water around Wongat Island there is excellent, safe snorkelling.


7. Mitchell B25 Aircraft :

Location: On reef 200m (220yd) southwest of Wongat Island.
Access: By boat – 15min from Madang Resort Hotel
Conditions: Usually calm. An easy dive.
Typical visibility: 15m (50ft)
Minimum depth: 12m (40ft)
Maximum depth: 22m (70ft)

The aircraft was ditched after losing its port engine, but otherwise intact. It lies upright on a reef-slope, with its port wingtip up the slope. The wreck is covered with a rich growth of soft corals and sponges. It was discovered by David Pennefather, and I was fortunate to be able to dive it that same day and photograph it -–within a few days vandals had removed the side swivel-guns and other artefacts, even though they were worthless away from the wreck.

(This act prompted the Government into legally protecting all World War II relics.) Some of the guns and other artefacts are still there, and you can see the cockpit controls, especially if you have a torch. The tail area, with its twin fins and machine-gun, is particularly photogenic. Complete the dive ascending the nearby reef, whose top, in 5m (16ft), has anemones and their fish. This is an excellent night-dive. Although the wreck is just too deep for snorkelling, the reef next to it offers plenty to see. Competent skin divers can reach the wreck.


8. Rasch Passage :

Location: First passage north of Pig Island.
Access: 10min by boat from the Madang Resort Hotel.
Conditions: Exposed to south-east winds. Often current in passage. Can be done either by anchoring at front (eastern end) of pass and diving drop off, or by drifting through pass. Should only be done with an incoming current, when visibility is at best and big schools of fish gather at mouth of passage.
Typical visibility: 40m (130ft)
Minimum depth: 5m (16ft)
Maximum depth: 40m (130ft) plus

Good hard- and soft-coral growths line the passage, and black corals grow down the slopes. There is a resident school of barracuda. Sharks are sometimes seen. You can snorkel along the shallow edge of the passage.

9. Coral Queen :

Location: In lagoon behind barrier reef north of Pig Island.
Access: 15 min by boat from Madang Resort Hotel.
Conditions: Sheltered all year. Dark night required.
Typical visibility: 25m (80ft) – but variable
Minimum depth: 15m (50ft)
Maximum depth: 30m (100ft)

The wreck is upright, with its deck a 24m (75ft), and has been taken over by a huge colony of flashlight fish, making this one of PNG’s most spectacular night-dives. The fish are most abundant on very dark nights with little moon. The flashlight fish are so numerous that, once on the wreck, you can continue your dive without a torch. A unique, diving experience.


10. Planet Rock :

Location: 4 n. miles (7.4km) south of Madang Harbour entrance.
Access: 20min by boat from Madang Harbour.
Conditions: Requires calm seas. Usually current running.
Typical visibility: 40m (130ft) – sometimes reduced on surface
Minimum depth: 4m (13ft)
Maximum depth: 20m (130ft) plus

This seamount rises from 600m (2000ft) to a small patch reeftop you can easily swim around in a few minutes. There is usually a current over the reef, so you can simply move to the side of the reef receiving the current and watch all the fish milling around. Big schools of barracuda and trevally mingle with sea perch and fusiliers.

Hammerheads are fairly common, and Dogtooth Tuna hunt among the baitfish. Evening dives here can be exciting as the predators feed. There are some good coral formations on the reeftop. Sometimes the surface water looks dirty because of river runoff, but there is always clearer water below.

11. Crown Island – South Reef :

Location: South side of Crown Island
Access: Anchor on reeftop in 5m (16ft)
Conditions: Calm seas required. Usually current. Not a dive for the inexperienced, because of current and fearless behaviour of predators.
Typical visibility: 50m (165ft)
Minimum depth: 5m (16ft)
Maximum depth: 50m (165ft) plus

One of several sausage-shaped reefs next to the dropoff fringing Crown Island. Anchor at the end of the reef facing into the current. The front slope of the reef gradually drops to deep water, with no wall. Down the slope are many sea whips and fans, barrel sponges and black corals. Schooling reef fish buzz everywhere, chased by Dogtooth Tuna, Spanish Mackerel and Giant Trevally. Sharks are common, and Hammerheads are sometimes seen. The action is quite exceptional.


12. Bagabag Island :

Location: 32 n. miles (60km) northeast of Madang.
Access: 4hr cruise from Madang.
Conditions: Calm weather advised for crossing to Bagabag; shelter available after arrival. Some currents on outer reefs.
Typical visibility: 40m (130ft) plus
Minimum depth: As shallow as you like
Maximum depth: 50m (165ft) plus

The inner fringing reefs have steep drop offs to the lagoon floor at 40m (130ft). The highly sculptured walls have caverns and crevices and are rich in surface marine life, with healthy populations of invertebrates like nudibranchs and flatworms. The usual reef fish are found, though not in great numbers. The outer barrier reefs and passes have some of the dynamic pelagic diving in the Madang area.

Sharks are frequent, as are Dogtooth Tuna, Spanish Mackerel, barracuda, Bigeye Trevally and others. Soft corals and sea fans decorate the walls and great clouds of fish feed in the currents. Very little diving has been done here, as is obvious from the reefs’ pristine quality.

There is excellent, easy snorkelling in the shallows of the fringing reefs. Only experienced snorkellers should try the outer barrier.
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