The North Coast of New Guinea
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Life is good.
Well, mostly. Nature occasionally shows her difficult side, and you hope that it isn't during your exotic dive cruise.
I recently got to consider all this during a recent trip to one of my very favorite places Papua New Guinea.
Brilliant color suffuses the reefs of Papua New Guinea!
Many reefs are patrolled by squadrons of curious barracudas. . .It all began with a conversation I had with my friend Craig DeWit. Craig, skipper of the wonderfully comfortable Golden Dawn, has spent years diving all around this most special of diving meccas. He has even led me to that Valhalla of marine life now known as "Carl's Ultimate Reef."
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An encounter with a cuttlefish who stays with you can make any dive day memorable!
A huge green sea turtle hosts a brilliant yellow remora symbiotic!
In fact, it was a chance remark by Craig that he had a new area for me with similarly-impressive animals which brought me back to Madang on the northern coast of New Guinea.
Funny things that happened on the reef!
Craig DeWit invites a cleaner shrimp to "GO TO IT"!
What do you do with your video camera after your housing floods?I had last been in Madang in the good old days–1978, on my very first adventure with the legendary Bob and Dinah Halstead. My most vivid recollection of the place was that the massive trees throughout the city were festooned with giant bats–that's right, huge bats with four-foot wingspans. At dusk, they rise by the thousands to speckle the early-evening sky. Their characteristic wings beat in a way unique among all flying creatures, a signature that has been drenched with sinister shading since the days of Bram Stoker’s "Dracula" first appeared in print and on screen. One NEVER mistakes a bat–but that's another story…
Loaded aboard Golden Dawn, we cruised to our first dive site. Long Island is a distinctive triple volcano, one of whose calderas is a half-kilometer deep! The island is surrounded by fringing and barrier reefs normally swept by nourishing currents.
As most divers know, things have not been "normal" for more than two years on the world's coral reefs. The same forces which spawned huge hurricane sin the Atlantic have bleached widespread reef systems in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Other effects have included torrential rains when there shouldn't be rains, as well as disruption of normal current flows.
In our case, it was the currents. Where there should have been steady currents to deliver sharks to known dive sites, we would jump in and find swimming-pool-still water. On every dive, you could swim anywhere and never find any moving water. At the deep pinnacles off Long Island, at the corner off Crown Island and even at fabled Island, without currents we couldn't even buy sharks without going quite deep. As everyone knows, Ill do anything to get sharks, but even I draw the line somewhere.
A radiata lionfish poses serenely.
A spotfin lionfish prowls the deck of a sunken wreck.What really annoys me is that a mere week after I arrived home from the cruise, Craig sent me a cheerful message that the currents were back, and there were sharks everywhere!!!I take that personally!!!!
Needless to say, in the absence of sharks, other marine creatures took their opportunity to star in our pictures. Clownfish, huge turtles, batfish, schooling jacks and rainbow runners, barracuda, cleaner shrimp, spotfin lionfish and cuttlefish dazzled us with their antics and elegance. We searched for leaf scorpionfish, mantis shrimp, holothurians,stonefish, nudibranchs and more, scouring the reefs like an invading army. Back on the superbly-equipped and comfortable Golden Dawn we ate like swarming locusts, recounted extravagant tales from our dives and enjoyed the companionship of kindred spirits.
I later talked with both Craig De Wit and Bob Halstead about what we had seen, and both scratched their heads about the totally uncharacteristic behavior of the currents. Perhaps a moon phase in conjunction with the La Nina forces just happened to coincide with my arrival.
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A Percula clownfish nestles in it's host anemone.
A Premnas clownfish glowers at me.
A Tomato clownfish worries about the huge camera being so near.In the end, we realized that Nature's confusion actually had a beneficial effect–rather than frantically staging shark feedings, we opened our eyes to creatures and behavior we might normally have missed. Golden Dawn's ambitious program of exploring Papua New Guinea's finest dive sites had paid off in a totally unexpected way!
Any of you who are interested in your own world-class adventure in this last stronghold of the unspoiled and pristine dive site should contact me and let me tell you the many powerful alternatives PNG offers the really avid diver/photographer.
Life is, indeed, good…
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