Diving Port Moresby – although overshadowed and usually overlooked by divers passing through on their way to Milne Bay, New Britain or New Ireland and, contrary to what you might expect so close to a capital city, there really is some very good diving in the Moresby area.
The best dive sites are concentrated along the offshore and sunken barrier reefs – some of which can be stunning in the right conditions.
The diving does have a distinctly “local” flavor, as there is a strong following from the expats based in the capital and recreational scuba diving began back in 1962 when the Port Moresby Underwater Club (PMUC) was formed.
PMUC was eventually replaced by the Port Moresby Sub-Aqua Club (POMSAC) in 1975, which is still going strong as part of the Royal Papua Yacht Club and together with the Dive Center, run by long time PNG resident John Miller, services the local diving community.
Loloata Resort in nearby Bootless Bay enjoyed a strong reputation for many years with the international diving community as a great place to see and photograph the quite rare and very beautiful Rhinopias, but unfortunately it seems that the resort has been sold and the new owners may not offer scuba diving.
The Rhinopias aphane – or Merlet’s scorpion fish to give it it’s common name – was first discovered in New Caledonia in 1973, and the second find was made by Dinah Halstead in 1980 on the offshore Sunken Barrier Reef some 5 nautical miles from Port Moresby.
Commercial recreational scuba diving began in 1977 when Bob & Dinah Halstead launched Tropical Diving Adventures based from Bootless Bay using the 8.5m boat the MV Solatai.
Bob & Dinah are synonymous with scuba diving in PNG, mainly because of their exploits in Milne Bay aboard their boat the MV Telita, but before they moved down the coast in 1986 they probably did more than any other individuals to explore, document and popularize the diving around Port Moresby.
Together with the POMSAC, Bob & Dinah were instrumental in sinking the MV Parama, MV Jade and the Pacific Gas wrecks at Horseshoe Reef, which have become great dive sites – particularly the Pacific Gas.
All this and much more has been documented superbly by long time Port Moresby diver Neil Whiting in his excellent book the Wrecks & Reefs of Port Moresby.
So while Port Moresby may not be at the top of your “bucket list”, do not dismiss it as somewhere you need to transit through as quickly as possible, because it really does offer some very good diving and a great way to break up the journey to your final destination.
Diving Port Moresby – When to Go?
Papua New Guinea’s location just south of the equator means that its weather pattern is monsoonal with distinct wet and dry seasons and “doldrum” periods in between.
In the Port Moresby area the wet season starts in late December and goes through to early April. Typically the seas are reasonably calm during those months, but the visibility does decline as it progresses because of the run-off from the rain.
Then from late April, for about 4-5 weeks to the end of May, the doldrum period sets in with calm seas and steadily improving visibility.
The dry season arrives around the start of June and goes through to early October – bringing with it the south-easterly trade winds and the potential for choppy seas… but the lack of rain means that the underwater visibility continues to improve.
The doldrums return again in late October and for about two months the diving is at its very best with calm seas and excellent visibility.
Water temperatures range from a low of about 23 deg C (75F) in August and September when a 5mm wetsuit is recommended, up to 30 deg C in March and April when a dive skin is probably enough.