Diving in Papua New Guinea - Bluewater Dive Travel

Papua New Guinea

Healthy soft corals on a reef in Papua New Guinea.
A silvertip shark is seen underwater in Papua New Guinea.
A soft coral crab in Papua New Guinea.
A gorgeous coral reef in Papua New Guinea.
A school of yellowtail fusiliers in Papua New Guinea.
A boxer crab on coral in Papua New Guinea.
Cuttlefish above the reef Papua New Guinea.
A pearly nautilus in Papua New Guinea.
An elder Huli man in Papua New Guinea.
A dive map of Papua New Guinea.

Scuba Diving in Papua New Guinea

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Papua New Guinea Diving HIghlights

Papua New Guinea, also called PNG, is THE scuba diving destination for anyone looking for pristine coral reefs, extremely rich marine life, and exotic culture in off-the-beath-path locations. PNG is no less beautiful topside with its lush tropical jungles and mountain ranges.

The diving in Papua New Guinea is centered around Milne Bay and Tufi in the east (Solomon & Coral Seas), Kimbe Bay and Rabaul in New Britain (Bismarck & Solomon Seas), and Kavieng town in New Ireland in the north. Divers and underwater photographers flock to Papua New Guinea to see its coral atolls and walls, WWII wrecks, barrier reefs and many other wide-angle and macro photography underwater subjects that the Indo-Pacific is famous for. 



intro to Papua New Guinea

Located in Asia Pacific's Coral Triangle, Papua New Guinea lies just south of the equator and 100 miles (160km) to the north of Australia, encompassing the eastern side of New Guinea Island plus 600 smaller islands and atolls.

Papua New Guinea is also famous for its indigenous cultures with over 800 languages and for having the largest area of intact rainforest outside the Amazon. If you ever decide to dive the PNG, including a land tour to see the local tribes is a MUST! 

There are 28,000 miles (45,000kms) of reef systems, so it's a destination where divers rarely come across other groups. It is home to some of the world's most spectacular scuba diving, with various dive resort and liveaboard options for every diver.

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Diving Information 

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Papua New Guinea Marine Life & Photography Subjects

Papua New Guinea is located in the "coral triangle" and you can expect to see and photograph an abundance of diverse marine life.

Macro life includes frogfish, pipefish, seahorses, exotic nudibranchs, crabs, shrimp and a plethora of other critters.

Large sea life includes pelagic sharks and fish, turtles, sea snakes, and even marine mammals. Those who like to shoot metal will find a variety of World War II wrecks that include ships, aircraft, and submarines.

See Also: Papua New Guinea Dive Trip Report and Images: Sep/Oct 2018 


Best time to Dive Papua New Guinea

You can scuba dive Papua New Guinea year-round, however, the high season is generally between May and November.

  • KImbe Bay is best dived in May and June, and then again from September through December.
  • It's almost the same for Kavieng, at the northwest tip of New Ireland. Good diving in this area starts a month earlier, in April, and conditions are great until June. But the best diving is later in the year, from September to early December.
  • For Milne Bay, the best time of the year for diving is between October and March, for peak visibility and calm skies.
  • Diving in Tufi is at its best between August and November.
  • If you're headed toward the dive sites near Port Moresby, such as Loloata Island or Bootless Bay, November to early December is the ideal time to go.


Diving in Papua New Guinea

  • Water Temperature: Averages about 79F (26C) along the edge of the Coral Sea and 88F (31C) in the Bismark Sea.
  • Visibility: Ranges from 50 to 150 feet
  • Weather: The climate in Papua New Guinea is hot and humid throughout the year.


Papua New Guinea's Best Dive sites

Papua New Guinea offers a wide variety of diving, including vast coral beds, huge walls, wrecks and more. Depending on the site, photographers are encouraged to shoot wide-angle or to keep their eyes on the bottom looking for colorful macro life.

  • Kimbe Bay: New Britain Island's Kimbe Bay is known for abundant, diverse marine life and exceptionally healthy reefs, and as such is a Marine Protected Area. National Geographic magazine apparently agrees, as does photographer David Doubilet, ranking these reefs among the world's most beautiful. Kimbe Bay highlights include Father's Reef and South Emma, known for pelagics like sharks and barracudas, and Susan’s Reef celebrated for its colorful soft corals, fans, and other wide-angle scenery.
  • Other top dive sites include a fully intact Japanese Zero fighter plane, and picturesque Rest Orf Island, where the scenery is equally good above and below the surface. 
  • Witu Islands are also nearby, famous for schooling fish and loads of soft corals as well as unusual critters. While less reliable than the reef dwellers, various marine mammals also make regular appearances in Kimbe Bay, including pilot whales and several species of dolphin; even orcas and sperm whales show up on occasion. May/June and Sept-Dec often offer great diving conditions here.
  • Kavieng: Located on the northwest tip of New Ireland, Kavieng is best known for big animals like reef sharks and semi-pelagic fish like Dog-tooth tuna, Spanish mackerel, and barracuda. It’s also blessed with excellent soft corals, sponges, and fans, all of which thrive in the often-vigorous currents. There are also some great World War II wrecks. Apr - June, Sept - early December usually offer the best diving conditions.
  • Tufi: Forming the northern coast of the main island of New Guinea, the scenery in this region could be described as tropical fiords - gorgeous, lush, green, and very isolated, with no roads leading to it. The diving is a mix of critter diving and great reefs. August - November is generally considered the best season for diving.
  • Milne Bay: Encompassing the easternmost point of the huge island of New Guinea, Milne Bay offers some of the best diving in PNG for both ends of the marine life spectrum. On the outside finger of Milne Bay are dramatic walls and dropoffs, which act as a superhighway for passing pelagics certain times of the year. At the mouth of Milne Bay where different seas and currents collide are colorful reefs teeming with fish.
  • For macro critters, this region is hard to beat, with an amazing diversity of species, many of which are found in less than 20 ft. depths. In fact, Milne Bay is the original place for “muck diving”, and helped put PNG on the map for diving.
  • That alone would be reason enough to visit, but there’s also excellent scenery, including sloping coral reefs, dramatic walls, and isolated pinnacles. There are even some sites, such as Lauadi / Dinah’s Beach, where you can see all the above in a single dive!
  • Find out why Lauadi/Dinah's Beach has made it onto our list of Top 20 Dive Sites! 
  • Milne Bay has lots of small critters. Ghost pipefish, flatworms, seahorses, frogfish, cuttlefish, mandarin fish, lots of nudibranchs, etc. You can even see Rhinopia here.

Manta Ray at Gunabalabala, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea

Manta Ray encounter at Gunabalabla, one of the best dive sites to find manta rays in Milne Bay. Taken by Bluewater Trip Leader Katie Yonker while diving Papua New Guinea in 2018

  • Bootless Bay: Easily accessed from the capital of Port Moresby, this area offers a welcome escape from the city, as well as some superb diving. Depending on the site, this area offers a bit of everything, from prolific fish life, thriving corals, rare species like Rhinopias scorpionfish, and even big fish like Napolean wrasse and reef sharks. About the only thing lacking here is a chance to visit remote villages, but aside from that, it compares very well to PNG’s other top dive areas. 
  • New Hanover: Accessible only by liveaboards, the marine area is pristine and seems untouched and offers great opportunities for wreck diving. Explore the Sanko Maru, a shipwreck that has become a thriving artificial reef, or the small Japanese submarine nearby.

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Travel Information 

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How to Get there 

International flights arrive at Jacksons International Airport (POM) from several Asian and Australian hubs. The airport is right next to Port Moresby, which makes transfers to liveaboards easy.

Domestic flights also leave POM for other parts of the country, operated by Air Niugini, Airlines PNG, and QantasLink. A good tip is to fly into Papua New Guinea on the same carrier being used for any domestic flights, as the airlines will then allow higher baggage weight restrictions.  

Note that domestic flights in Papua New Guinea are unreliable, so we recommend booking your domestic flights on the same ticket as your international flights; this way the airline will assist with accommodation if there are flight disruptions. If you book separate tickets, you may have to find your own accommodation. Travel insurance is strongly recommended.


How to Dive Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a place where resorts and liveaboards are both great options.  Liveaboards are a great option for exploring many areas during a week-long trip. Resorts allow divers relaxation on land along with a wide variety of local dive sites.  

Papua New Guinea also has its own hyperbaric chamber and top notch dive facilities, with many catering to underwater photographers. 

One can expect to be in the water 4 or 5 times a day on a liveaboard. Land-based dive operations will generally offer about 3 dives per day and most dive sites are within a 30-minute boat ride from the resorts.


Other Things to do in Papua New Guinea

There is more than just scuba diving in Papua New Guinea. There is a long list of things to do while visiting the country. Many travelers flock into the country to surf, hike, fish, bird watch, kayak, snorkel and explore the indigenous culture. It's easy to spend some time doing any of these activities before or after the dive portion of your trip.

We highly recommend including a land visit to see the local tribes on your dive trip. The experience is simply amazing! 

Huli Wigman in Papua New Guinea

A Huli Wigman at a local village in Papua New Guinea

On liveaboards you're pretty limited to diving and snorkeling, however, you can always book an add-on after your liveaboard trip. Land-based resorts offer many of these activities to complement your dive schedule. These are also great activities for non-diving travel companions while you're out on the ocean.

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Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Papua New Guinean Kina (PGK)
  • Language: The official languages are Tok Pisin, English and Hiri Motu
  • Time Zone: UTC+10
  • Electricity: 240 V 50 Hz
  • Visa: Visas must be obtained online in advance and can take up to three weeks, so apply early. See the latest information here. Australian visitors are required to apply for a 30-day permit while other nationals may only apply for a 60-day permit. 
  • Health: PNG is a high-risk malaria area, so be sure to take anti-malaria pills, and check with your doctor or the CDC beforehand to be sure that you have the best drug for the specific area you’re visiting. Also, remember that even the 
  • best anti-malaria pills do not always work, so be sure to cover up and use insect repellent when ashore, especially around dawn and dusk.
  • Safety: As in all international travel, but especially in PNG, you need to be aware of your surroundings—don’t go places without a guide or a big strong person who can speak the local language. Some areas are very, very remote if you are trekking, but perhaps the most dangerous location is Port Moresby—leaving your hotel on foot here is not advisable. In general over-nights in the capital are best avoided, but if you must, there is safe access to the Airways Hotel, a mere 2-minute complimentary shuttle ride from the airport.

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Reviews (3)


Wewak-Madang: Amazing diving. Marine life in abundance. Schools of jacks, giant trevally and curious sharks. Fishy reefs. nspoiled coral walls. Hansa Bay offered the most amazing preserved WWII wrecks we have ever encountered. Sunken ship carrying a fire engine in the hold with the steering wheel big tuna and sharks cruising the blue. Football sized fields of perfect staghorn and cabbage corals where we floated above watching the fish. Some stops we made along the way allowed us to see and experience primitive village life and meet some of the friendliest (somewhat shy) people. We were lucky enough to be offered a tour of that particular villages vanilla fields and be given a bag of the most delicious vanilla we have ever tasted or smelled. Our young son was welcomed into the village and was shown to homes and offered kina and the most beautiful shells imaginable. Our accomodation on the Golden Dawn was fabulous. Attentive crew, tasty gourmet meals and snacks, fresh warm towels after every dive..conditioner at the hot topside shower and terriffic tender crew, made this the perfect first liveaboard experience.

Visited on 08/2004 - Submitted on 03/03/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Larkspur, CO
United States


PNG is the most pristine diving I've ever done. We were on Telita, which is no longer in service, diving the northwest side of New Britain Island. It's very remote, with little traffic. The reefs are exquisite, and you'll see critters in their natural environment that you can't imagine. The visibility was good, not great. We saw the full spectrum of South Pacific fauna--ranging from tiny colorful nudibranchs to silver tip sharks. The splendid anemones and carpet anemones are awesome, with a plethora of small tropical fish on the reefs. You'll also see stonefish in some locations. In the muck diving areas we saw green ghost pipefish, mantis shrimp, and a variety of starfish, sea urchins, etc. Once you get around to the Rabaul harbor area, there are Japanese wrecks from WW II. There are no bad dive sites off New Britain island.


Be very careful ashore, especially in Port Moresby, which you'll have to pass through to get to the diving. It's a dangerous place. Don't venture away from your hotel. Many of the larger cities and towns in PNG are plagued with "rascals", which is the local term for bands of violent young men. The shoreline of New Britain island is mostly extremely primitive and generally peaceful, with numerous small villages dotting the shoreline. Your boat will likely be visited by some of these folks in their outrigger canoes, wanting to trade fruit from shore for bags of rice and candy.

Visited on 10/2008 - Submitted on 07/30/2014

PNG for diving is a true jewel. Unspoiled waters, diverse marine life, and very little bubbles around.. this destination is very unique on many different levels: history, current, muck dives and friendly culture. I loved all of it!
Great visibility- every dive! Same dive sites- completely different experience each time! PNG offers everything for everyone.

Visited on 12/2023 - Submitted on 12/24/2023


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