Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Port Moresby PNG Information
I first travelled to Port Moresby in early 1995 and again in late 1996 and late 2001. On these trips I only spent a short time in Port Moresby, the main aim of both trips other places in Papua New Guinea. On the first trip we spent about half a day in and around the city so gained a bit of appreciation of the place. After the first trip I wrote an article that was published in DIVE Log and I was taken to task about this article by dive travel companies and a number of people who lived in Port Moresby, including a member of my dive club. They claimed that it did not represent a real picture of life in that city. However, after reviewing the article, looking at my video of the city and the June 2001 riots and killings in Port Moresby, I did not think that what I wrote was unfair.
|A photo of part of Port Moresby|
This shows the yacht club marina and upper harbour
In late November 2003 I again travelled to Port Moresby, this time the aim was to spend about 10 days there, diving the wrecks and reefs of the city and surrounds. I have since been there again in 2008.
What has changed since my first trip? Well, the first thing that you notice is that there is a totally new airport building that is very nice and much better than the old one. In 1995 the visa fee for entry to PNG was 10 kina. In 2003 it is 100 kina (still 100 kina in 2007). Note that this is an increase from 25 kina that applied as recently as early November 2003 and there was no notice given whatsoever on Government or other web sites that it had increased so dramatically. That been said, 100 kina is only A$40 (A$50 in 2008)so it is not as bad as it may seem, but still a steep increase. You have to pay in kina but luckily they may let you slip through immigration to the bank to change some money (I had got what I thought was enough in Brisbane to cover this but...).
Before going further I should point out that on this trip I was travelling with a friend from my dive Club and we had used Qantas Frequent Flyer Points to get from Brisbane to Port Moresby and back. We got these pretty easily. I had tried to get return flights from Sydney but I could not get a return flight unless I selected a real strange day of travel (and therefore a longer stay). From Sydney we got cheap flights with Virgin Blue. Because we were organising our own travel, we had to make a long interval on the way back as if we were late and missed our connecting flight, we would have had trouble as Virgin would have been unlikely to be accommodating.
Anyway, as the flights to and from Port Moresby are very expensive (when I looked the cheapest return flights from Sydney were $1300 and some over $2000), it is very economical to use frequent flyer points. For the same number of points to get to and from NZ or Perth (flights which currently can b e purchased for as little as $350 return), you can get from Sydney or Brisbane to and from Port Moresby. Qantas does not actually fly to PNG, they code share with Air Niugini. The plane was a Boeing 767 leased from Air New Zealand (now they have a shit heap 767 leased from Icelandair as well as the 787). On our flights, the plane was about half full, what you would expect given the flight prices (why do they not offer cheaper flights and fill the plane - this is what Air Vanuatu does). Since then Airlines PNG) has come into being and also offers regular services from Cairns (using a Dash 8) and Brisbane (using a 737) and this competition has resulted in discounted airfares. They will also be offering flights in conjucntion with (and run by) Pacific Blue from early 2009.
On this trip we were staying with Mark Palmer, a member of our dive Club who was at the time the President of the Port Moresby Sub Aqua Club. He had arranged diving for us with the Club (of which we were at the time both members) and the Dive Centre (more about them later). To be a member of POMSAC, you first must be a member of the Royal Papua Yacht Club (RPYC). However, you may dive with POMSAC as a visitor on up to three occasions.
|A photo of the Port Moresby Yacht Club|
Mark collected us at the airport and took us to his place. More changes. There is a new "freeway" which runs from the airport to the CBD via a huge cutting in the hill to the east of the harbour. What has not changed is the fact that the level of security has not diminished one iota. There are still two metre fences with razor wire along the top around every single property and security guards everywhere. There still seems to be a general level of unrest.
However, despite me saying this, we never encountered any problems, but then we never walked further than 50 metres (except as below) from our car to a shop and even then, it was mostly inside a security controlled compound.
If you are travelling by yourself, you could pick up accommodation in a number of hotels in Port Moresby. A possible hotel is the Ela Beach Hotel. It is not even a 3 Star place but seems okay and there are advantages, see later. However, for diving purposes, it does not matter which hotel you choose.
As I mentioned, we were diving with the Port Moresby Sub Aqua Club (POMSAC) for most of our dives as there is no dive charter operation running out of Port Moresby Harbour itself and many of the sites we wanted to dive are only accessibly from the harbour. POMSAC will take the public diving, so even if you are only able to dive a day or two. Contact the RPYC, attention POMSAC for diving information. POMSAC runs its boat out of the Royal Papua Yacht Club. We joined POMSAC to get cheaper dives since we were going to be diving with them for at least five days (the dive fee is K40 for members, K50 for visitors with gear hire extra). There are dozens of dives out of Port Moresby Harbour, see below for a list of the ones I did.
The Dive Centre is the local dive shop. It is owned and run by John Miller, who is a long time resident of Port Moresby. When I was there the shop was located in the Ela Beach Hotel but it is now located at Airways Hotel, overlooking Jacksons Airport. This is probably the best place to stay now. It used to have a very well stocked shop and runs all manner of courses and I assume that it is still the same. They have a dive boat, the Solatai. This is the boat built by Bob Halstead in 1979. It is slow, but very comfortable and has its own compressors and air banks. The boat runs from Bootless Bay which is south-east of Port Moresby and is where Loloata Island Resort is located. The boat takes about an hour to run out to the barrier reef where most diving is conducted. You can get picked up from anywhere in Port Moresby by mini-bus and delivered to Bootless Bay.
Costs for diving were 80 kina for one dive, 135 kina for two dives and 190 kina for three dives. In 2007 current prices were: K100 for one dive; K160 for two dives; and K225 for three dives with gear hire extra. Transfers from Port Moresby are K25 return. Note that at December 2003 100 kina equalled A$40 and at November 2006 A$45. Therefore, two dives and transport cost us 155 kina (A$62) and now costs K185, A$84. Still a bargain! This includes tanks, weights, tea/coffee when boarding the boat, between dive tea/coffee and snacks. The boat is crewed by two locals who are excellent. They will guide you on a dive but do not interfere with want you want to do. The Dive Centre will run with as little as two divers.
|A photograph of a very rare Australian Wirraway|
There are dozens of dives to do out of Bootless Bay, see below for a list of the ones I did.
You can contact The Dive Centre by email - note remove one @ or see their web site
Other things to do? Well, you can go to the Art Markets which are on once a month on Saturday, perhaps the last Saturday in the month. These are at Ela Beach at the independent school. There is also the War Museum but this is not very good and is now closed. We went and had to talk our way in even though it was supposed to be open. It has a couple of interesting aircraft, including a Ford Tri-motor, Lockheed P-38 Lightning and a very rare Australian Wirraway. You may wish to visit Bomana War Cemetery which contains the graves of over 2,000 Commonwealth WWII servicemen and is about 20 minutes drive from town.
A tour of the city is also interesting, there are some World War II fortifications to see as well as views of the city and harbour.
Places to eat and drink? Well, as you will not be walking anywhere, it will be limited to where you are staying and to locations where you can get a lift or taxi. I must say that I did not see many taxis and although they do run at night, they are not recommended by locals. The Royal Papua Yacht Club is the best place to eat and drink. It is located on the harbour and has its own marina. The bar and restaurant overlooks the marina and gives great views, day and night. The food is quite good, there is an a la carte restaurant as well as bistro. Meals cost as little as A$15 for a steak. Beers are 4.50 kina a handle (middy) which equals A$2.00 or so. Worth visiting a lot, especially for lunch after a dive with POMSAC.
All I can say that I really enjoyed my dive trip to Port Moresby and the diving was as good as anywhere in the world. Well worth doing.
Port Moresby Dives (includes *Bootless Bay)
Port Moresby Wrecks
Port Moresby Reefs