Occupying the eastern half of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island after Greenland, Papua New Guinea sits high atop almost every diver’s bucket list. But in a land that spans 178,000 square miles (461,000 square kilometers), you’ve got to know where to go — and when — to get the most bang for your diving buck. With no highways spanning the entirety of the country’s rugged terrain, dive resorts in PNG give new meaning to the word “remote,” reachable only by small plane in many cases. So once you’re there, you’re there. But if it’s the right time of year, you’ll be happily stranded among some of the world’s best dive sites. Here’s our guide to the dive seasons in Papua New Guinea, focusing on the main areas.
A wide peninsula juts out of Papua New Guinea’s southeastern corner, pointing like a finger to Milne Bay, home of Tawali Dive Resort. To get there, one must fly from the capital city of Port Moresby to Alotau. From there it’s a 90-minute bus ride through the countryside to small dock, where a boat awaits to make the final 20-minute journey to the resort. Divers know Milne Bay best for muck diving, but there are manta-cleaning stations and WWII wrecks nearby as well. Sitting on the north coast at the tip of the peninsula, Tawali is mostly sheltered from prevailing southeast winds. So even if the winds are blowing, visitors can still dive the protected northern sites.
If the air is calm, divers have access to a plethora of sites south and southeast of the resort. Nonetheless, the very best time to visit this area of PNG is from October through March, when visibility is the best and the skies are relatively calm. Strong winds in February make getting to most dive sites a challenge.
In Oro Province, which makes up most of the peninsula’s northern shore, Tufi Resort perches atop a spectacular green fjord with sweeping views of the water below. Just as with other PNG resorts, Tufi is quite remote. You’ll arrive via small plane from Port Moresby, which lands on a nearby runway, paved by Tufi’s owners to make the resort more accessible. It’s a short walk or quick car ride to the resort from there. Although there is diving in the fjords, Tufi’s real draw is the spectacular offshore reefs, five to 10 nautical miles offshore, so remote that many remain unexplored. On good-weather days it takes from 15 minutes to over an hour to reach some sites, and steady onshore winds for part of the year make them nearly inaccessible. The very best time of the year to visit is during wet season, from November through March.
Walindi Plantation Resort sits on the shores of Kimbe Bay on New Britain, a PNG satellite island just north of the mainland. To get here, you’ll fly from Port Moresby to Hoskins Airport, also called Kimbe Airport. From there it’s a 50-minute drive to the resort. Divers know Kimbe Bay best for spectacularly healthy coral gardens and walls. Guests can also reach even further-flung destinations onboard the resort’s liveaboard dive boats, the MV FeBrina and MV Oceania, which offer 8- through 10-night itineraries. The best time of year to visit Walindi is April through June and August through December.
Rabaul, also on New Britain at its northern tip, is best known for fantastic WWII wreck diving. Most sites are relatively near shore, with the furthest being about an hour’s boat ride away. Aside from the wrecks, there’s also a healthy shallow-water reef and wall dives, offering the chance to see passing pelagics. The best time of the year to visit Rabaul is April through early January when the visibility is best and wind direction cooperates with dive boats. There are two resorts offering diving in Rabaul, Rapopo Plantation Resort and Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort.
Tiny Lissenung Island is home to a private resort right off the west coast of New Ireland Island, itself just north of New Britain Island. Visitors fly from Port Moresby to Kavieng, then it’s a 5-minute ride to the shore and a 20-minute boat ride to the resort, which sits just two degrees south of the equator, making for pretty consistent weather year-round. The island is only 1300 by 262 feet (400 by 80 m) and the resort sleeps a maximum of 16 guests, so you’re guaranteed seclusion. There are 36 mapped sites nearby, most well-known for pristine coral, sharks, turtles and macro life. Lissenung is best from late March through early January. Mid-January to mid-March is wet season, and although you can still visit, windy and wet weather is common.