Tawali— our PNG boating refuge
It was 40nm from Alotau to the Tawali resort situated on the Solomon Sea side of the northern peninsula of Milne Bay. An excellent area for diving with unique marine life quite unlike we had encountered elsewhere. But despite its beauty, almost no yachts get to enjoy this area due to the unchartered waters, lack of information & the threat of lawlessness. Thanks to the hospitality offered by the resort, that may soon change.
The Tawali Resort
We had contacted the resort manager ( Armando Agusto +675 7364 0607) before leaving Australia. Only two other cruising vessels had visited them in the last two years, and he was keen to attract more. We were welcome to anchor nearby or tie to one of the jetties when their Live-on-Board boat was away.
An armed Guard was on hand 24/7, and we could use all their facilities like wifi and swimming pool all at no charge.
We returned the favor by taking a dive trip over to several Norman Island reefs on their day boat ( prices similar to Australia) and dining nightly in their restaurant ($A35 for a four-course dinner). Apart from the excellent food we enjoyed meeting other divers and resort guests from around the world.
Mucking around Lawadi village.
This is where the term “Muck Diving” originated, and we were keen to find out what it was all about. To that end, we recruited Albert the Tawali dive master on his day off and took Flash Dancer 6nm to near the village of Lawadi. We dropped anchor in 25 m, backed to the shoreline and tied to a tree. Our keels were almost touching a black pebbled bottom, which to us of the “white sand Coral loving variety “ looked anything but inviting.
Paying our respects at the village …oops.
We were sitting in the villages backyard. We would have usually visited first up to create a good relationship by finding the head man, offering educational material, and assuring them of our intentions to assist with generous trading deals, first aid assistance, and so on.We had never had a problem and had made many friends. But on this occasion in our rush to dive we skipped the niceties, and before we finished kitting up, we needed to come to grips with a flotilla of canoes wanting to trade. Plus one determined villager who was demanding we pay him A$100 for the pleasure of anchoring and diving in front of his village! Lesson learned. When finally sorted our mood was a little glum. But that changed quickly!
Amongst the muck
In just one meter it was apparent that muck diving was quite an extraordinary pastime. Amongst the rubble, rocks and tiny patches of coral were the most amazing critters we had ever seen and our eagle-eyed guide new how to find them all.
We thrilled to a huge variety of shrimps, spiders, nudibranchs, worms, crabs, eels, octopus, moths, rays, anemone, and many rare fishes that we had only seen in picture books.
Our dive started in just 1m of water and stretched only briefly to 10m. Our 12L tanks kept smiling for 2/12 hours!
From the Dinghy
With the ocean glassy most of the time, we decided to leave Flash Dancer resting on the jetty and explore from our dinghy.
There were excellent snorkeling and diving right next to the resort. Our favorite close by location was five minutes away at Sponge Heaven: a drop off with large crevices and as the name implies a beautiful array of sponges. For the macro enthusiasts where ever we dived, there was always an impressive variety of nudibranchs, and the visibility is excellent.
Further on, almost too Lawadi was spectacular Deacon’s Reef coral garden. It took us twenty minutes with our RIB being pushed along by its 15hp motor. My favorite memory was laying on my back suspended in Crystal clear water looking up at the bottom of our dinghy and the surrounded greenery of overhanging branches. The hard corals were not only healthy and exotic but grew right to the shoreline.And just a few fin flutters from the garden we peered down into the darkest of blue in hopes of something huge coming up to meet us. Nothing did, but anything is possible where 1000m+ mountains fall into a 1000m- yawning sea full of superb marine diversity.
The Tawali area has it all.
We would have liked staying a couple of months, but we wanted to get back to Australia by mid-December and needed time to explore off the East Cape of Milne Bay. Next story.
*For further information on Tawali Resort go to their website by clicking here.
p.s. Tawali can organize many land based activities as well as assist with information on the best diving locations.
*For Trip Advisor reviews of Tawali Resort go to their site by clicking here
*To see more of our images of the Milne Bay Province, which stretches 250nm through the Louisiade Archipelago click here.