On the eastern-most point of the world’s last wild frontier, Papua New Guinea, lies an untouched paradise: Tawali Dive Resort. Whether you’re a diver or a snorkeler, you won’t believe what you’ll find just underneath the surface of the water, right outside the resort. It’s simply amazing.
Here’s a step by step account of a single day in the (underwater) life of Tawali.
8.00am Up bright and early on my first day at the resort, I’m eager to make the most of my short stay and spend as much time underwater as possible. Looking out from my balcony, which overhangs a semi-circular bay of turquoise water, I can see coral gardens almost directly underneath me. I literally squeal with delight. I can’t wait to get in there.
9.00am Our first dive is at Barracuda Point, about eight-minute boat ride away. Our dive guide Albert describes a sloping shelf, and what critters we’re likely to see. He doesn’t mention how many. I jump in and glide down into the coral gardens, through enormous schools of brightly coloured reef fish.
It’s an incredible sight. Huge schools of pink, purple and orange antheas, yellow damsels and black surgeons surround me. Darting in and out of the coral gardens I see the odd titan triggerfish, parrotfish, emperor angels, coral groupers, trumpet fish and unicorn fish. I emerge grinning from ear to ear, impatient to get back in the water for our next dive.
11.00am We plunge into the water next at Deacon’s Reef a couple of minutes along the coast. The shelf of this reef sits underneath the jungle canopy and there is an underwater jungle of gorgonian fans less than a metre away from the shore.
The reef wall drops off to a depth of about 30m, and it’s covered in sea fans, sea stars and soft corals. More large schools of antheas and damsels, this time joined by bright blue and yellow fusiliers as the wall opens up into coral gardens with large mounds of cabbage corals and a pretty little swim-through.
2.00pm We have lunch on nearby Lawadi Beach, which turns out to be our third dive site, a muck dive. The critters we find in the dark volcanic sand that slopes down from the beach are quite incredible. Within moments I find a pair of bright green, blue and orange mantis shrimp hiding under a rock.
Then every metre or so we find more; nudibranchs of all size, shape and colour, pipe fish and anemones with tiny anemone fish and porcelain crabs hiding amongst their tentacles.
5.00pm But the best is yet to come. On a night dive, just a few metres from the resort jetty the reef drops off and I lower myself down into the coral gardens and hover around a big coral formation where my guide tells me I’ll find what I’m looking for: Mandarin Fish.
Mandarin fish come out to play just as the sun is setting, so you have to time your dive carefully. They’re smaller than I imagined, and by far the prettiest little fish I’ve ever seen.