A Travellerspoint blog

Papua New Guinea

The Golden Dawn - Jacquie's Perspective

Turbulent Times in Papua New Guinea

storm 24 °C

Forgive me bloggers, for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last blog entry . . .

Three weeks! I wish I could say that I've been on vacation (I know, how laughable is it to need a vacation from a vacation....), but that was - unfortunately - far from the truth. As Lloyd indicated, I was stuck in my own private hell that was the Golden Dawn. To be fair, the Golden Dawn wasn't the problem. But the cyclonic seas around her threw that tiny boat around something wild, and I'm just not built for that kind of 360 degree turbulence.

How I enjoyed my ten days...

With a bad cold from the start, it was clear that I would be missing several days of diving anyway. But the rough seas and poor visibility, coupled with persistant sea sickness, meant that I wasn't tempted into the water until the last day. I can't even begin to measure the disappointment. This was a real highlight of the trip - the dive trip of a lifetime - and I managed a single dive.

I wish I could tell you the dive was worth waiting for. It wasn't. The visibility could be measured in inches rather than feet, and an unpredictable current whipped us around in all directions. All you could do was hang on for dear life to the reef (or in my case to Lloyd) and hope you could find your way back to the boat.

Unlucky, for sure. As Lloyd has mentioned, the conditions were unprecedented. And while this was one of the most expensive parts of our trip, we are reminded that many Papua New Guineans were left homeless or worse by Cyclone Guba. We will live to dive another day, and another reef. Others were not so lucky.

On the brighter side, I was ecstatic when - after ten loooooooooooong days - we returned to dock on Thursday, which just so happened to be Thanksgiving. As luck would have it, a local expat American swung an invite to the US Ambassador's Thanksgiving dinner, so we found ourselves enjoying turkey and all the trimmings with the local Embassy Staff. An unexpected treat, but much appreciated by these weary travellers for whom a roast turkey and cranberry sauce was but a distant memory!

No roasties or yorkies, but it was still like Christmas come early....! I couldn't resist going back for seconds, much to Lloyd's embarrasment!

With our flight leaving mid-afternoon, and precious little time onland in PNG, we took the opportunity to visit a local market. By far, the most friendly place we have visited, with locals bursting into smiles and waves. In many countries, when we take out our cameras and ask to take a photograph, we are asked for money in return. Not once did this happen in PNG.

We were horrified to see this tiny spotted eagle ray for sale at the market. We also saw a sea turtle, still alive, at another stall. But you gotta make a living, right, so who are we to judge?



This lady was breast feeding right up until I took the photo. Note the red, betelnut-stained smile.

Unemployment is very, very high here - up to 80% in some urban areas. As a result, many adults have little to do but sit around on the streets all day, hoping to sell a second hand pair of shoes, some betelnut, or anything else they can get their hands on. This is the kind of place where you hang out all day outside the workplace of your one, employed buddy in the hope that they'll give you a few kina on their way out. When we went to draw cash from the ATM, Lloyd found himself surrounded by four uniformed guards, including one armed with a shotgun.

Last stop, a quick perusal at a local handicrafts store. We'd have loved some of these giant masks to adorn our (future) home!


Of course, as we left PNG the weather was picture-perfect, with the ocean flat and blue and every inch the tropical paradise we were hoping for. Lloyd will be back to dive here for sure. It remains to be seen whether you'll ever get me back on a dive boat...

Posted by jacquiedro 20:22 Archived in Papua New Guinea Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Finally, Eastern Fields: Golden Dawn Part II

Big blue, big waves, big fish

storm 23 °C
View The World 2007 on lloydthyen's travel map.

After six days steaming up and down the coast of Papua New Guinea just south of Port Moresby, the capital, we headed out for the Eastern Fields, a 98 nautical mile ride southwest, which would take almost 12 hours. Arriving to the fields is almost anti-climactic, with nothing more than white-cap breaking waves on the horizon and what looks like an oil slick of translucent emerald green shimmering almost like neon, announcing shallower worlds of coral below. While the waters and their contents were worth the wait, the journey has taken its toll on Jacquie, and she continues to struggle fighting her head cold and battling the ill-effects of an unreasonably rough sea. At times, half the boat has been taken ill, and the all-night journey produced many groggy travelers on the morning of our arrival.


Within 15 minutes of arrival, we waste no time and get into the wet. Days of murky visibility and green, brackish water gave way to the deep blue of Coral Sea beauty. While the visibility could be better (currently at about 75 feet) it is stupendous in comparison to what we have dealt with, and the hoots and squeals of delight, along with fist-pumping and large smiles barely obscured by our regulators reflect the mood of finding nice open waters. Finally we found the BIG BLUE!

Big smiles as we find BLUE waters in the Eastern Fields!
Reef fish abound
Lots of barracuda too - they would swim right to you and envelope you!
We saw some great big tuna as well - schools of a couple dozen or so

The fish life abounds here, with schools of numerous species, many I have never seen: hammerhead shark, large (400 pound!) dogtooth tuna, huge (300 pound!) potato cod, rhinopius or lacey lionfish, flashlight fish (that emit bioluminescence at night) and sea-snakes were all part of the cast of marine animals we came across. In addition there were uncounted numbers of corals, sponges and small life like reef-fish and nudibranch.


Of course the biggest impact to our visit was the cyclone. The captain of the boat and many others we met with many years of experience in Papua New Guinea, said this was the earliest such weather seen in at least 20 years. Normally we should have found sun, dormant (or “doldrum”) waters and amazing visibility below. While this was not the case, we still feel lucky to have visited a very remote marine eco-system. We made the best of it, and have actually considered creating a new PADI certification (named for our new small club): Cyclone Divers!

You can see Cyclone Guba (white swirl) in the top right - we were on its south-western edge. Too close!

Not all the days were bad, and we had one or two nice days in the Eastern Fields

Although remote, one draw for us to such places is to see large pelagic sea-life, especially sharks. Unfortunately, sharks were in short supply. The reason: shark finning operations that came through the are 3 years ago, decimating the shark population. One such vessel was caught by Australian authorities just south of the area, and confiscated 240 tonnes of shark fins. That’s just the FINS. No doubt untold thousands of sharks were destroyed to meet the demand for shark-fin soup – a delicacy that has no taste. The fins are after all merely cartilage – it is prized merely for some mythical properties of potentcy prized by Asian (mainly Chinese) markets. So – if you ever see shark-fin on the menu of a restaurant you are at, please walk out and let them know it’s a horrible, destructive practice.

On the whole, the dive experience was good, but due to the weather and rough seas, we were limited overall. It still amazes me to see the things we can see while taking a peak into the undersea world. It is also humbling and sad to know the devastation we can wreak so easily. I'll be back here someday, without doubt, and hope the waters will be as vibrant with life as they are now, and possibly rebounding with more big life.

Posted by lloydthyen 13:14 Archived in Papua New Guinea Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Cyclone Divers: Golden Dawn Part I

Diving the rough and tumble waters of Papua New Guinea

storm 19 °C
View The World 2007 on lloydthyen's travel map.

Months of anticipation as we travelled the globe brought us finally to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for our 10 day live-aboard scuba diving trip. On arrival, rain greeted us, and has since not stopped. Once on the boat, we have suffered the heaviest seas we’ve ever encountered (6-8 foot swells, with lots of white caps and 35 knot winds) keeping Jacquie down and out of the water. At least she can say she’s lived (literally) through a cyclone!

What we thought was simply unseasonably bad weather turns out to be the earliest cyclone experienced in the area in at least 20 years, and has affected at least half of the 9 passengers on board, keeping Jacquie in good company! As with hurricanes, cyclones are named as well, and this one is Guba, which is the Papua New Guinean word for “Strong Wind”. Of course it could also have been named something like “Cyclone Obstinate” or “Cyclone Stubborn” as she has refused to budge, keeping us essentially trapped just off the south shore unable to make way toward the Eastern Fields. The Eastern Fields, an awesome dive area that is essentially at the northern end of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, lie 120 nautical miles from us to the south, and the storm has just hung there, day after day after day . . . .

One of the dozens of lionfish so far!

Can you find the Pygmy Seahorse? He's dead center, and in reality about 1 cm long!


Luckily, I quickly found my sea-legs, and have had a chance to get into the water for about a dozen dives so far. The volume of life and diversity is amazing, albeit a bit muted with visibility down to 20-30 feet. Normally, it is around 100 feet or better, but we’ve only experienced that on one dive so far. Sharks, lionfish, scorpionfish, and puffers have all made regular appearances, as well as – for us - a number of new species: several pygmy seahorses, lacey lionfish (Rhinopius), a sea-snake, and a crocodile-fish.


Of course, I saw most of the cool new stuff WITHOUT my camera, so you’ll have to wait until the next installment for any of those IF we see them again . . . and I really hope we do!
All in all, we’ve been able to keep relatively good spirits despite the lack of any sunshine. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for fair winds and more sun and hopefully report on an amazing ocean adventure! In the meantime, Jacquie is counting the minutes before she’s back permanently on solid ground in another 6 days…


Posted by lloydthyen 03:59 Archived in Papua New Guinea Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]