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Imi Heads to Papua New Guinea

So our travelling DiveBunnie Imi heads off to another divers' paradise to sample the natural wonders there. And once again, she has generously shared her fantastic experiences with us here.

Pristine Tufi: Dive Papua New Guinea

By Imogen Simpson-Mowday


Tufi feels like it is the wild side of the world, located as it is in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea. When I recall being there in my mind’s eye, I see a balcony looking out across the tropical forested fjord, a room with walls constructed with natural plant fibers as a fan spins above draped white mosquito nets. Beside the large bed with embroidered quilts, small green lights add a low romantic light. The diamond patterns of the wall panels contrast with the brilliant colours of tropical flowers, like parrot plumes or pure white spiders, which daily adorned our pillows.

I asked is this really our room? Was I in the right place? I found myself in a secluded boutique hotel with some of the best all-year-round diving on the planet and I had a whole week there!

We had arrived in a small Twin Otter plane, with the other hotel guests, and stepped out onto the gravel runway to be greeted by the hugely helpful resort manager in the jeep. We watched as the plane took off, cruising over the Solomon Sea, in a huge shower of dust as the locals smiled and waved from beneath the shelter of some large trees nearby.

That week we dived as much as we could until our skin was slick with sweat and sea-salt, and our hair matted (despite the lovely showers). Daily, we donned our wetsuits and stared into the clear and azure sea. Daily, we rolled backwards into 30-degree waters and went down. For the first five days, there were seven of us. Only seven people, and for miles and miles I knew there were no other divers! There is just one dive lodge at Tufi on the Cape Nelson peninsula and we were scheduled during a very quiet week (perfect for me!).

I remember how gently we drifted deeper with the mildest of currents, leveled off then headed down to 28 meters to see an electric blue nudibranch, dusky pink anemones, curious orange anemonefish, juvenile white tip reef sharks a passing shoal of Spanish mackerel and a school of barracuda. Then in shallower waters, we encountered water thick with countless yellow fusiliers.

Afterwards in the shallows, we basked in the brilliant sun beside glorious plate corals and in shafts of sunlight heard the ‘click-click’ of a sea turtle, as a baby swam by. We saw pyramid butterfly fish, black and white snapper, so much, and this was only our second dive on our first day diving at Veale’s Reef. I still can’t believe I was actually in that wilderness where deep tropical forested fjords meet pristine coral reefs. I can only recommend that anyone who can possibly find the time and money to go and dive in Tufi and to Papua New Guinea in general must try to go! It is a once in a lifetime place – a landscape of pristine dreams.

Once upon a time, I worked for the Pitt Rivers Museum (one of the worlds’ premier museums of anthropology and archaeology) at Oxford University. I’d stare at the long shields whose small labels read “Sepik River” or “Mount Hagen” or simply “PNG”. The Director, my boss, was incredible. He had lived in PNG for seven years and studied the body paintings of the men from Mount Hagen. We would sip fair-trade coffee from the PNG Highlands and leaf through books with large photographs of dancing PNG Highland men and crank up Bob Dylan. I would sit back and stare at the glossy beauty of the proud men dancing, it was as if they were caught whilst they danced, immortalized now and captured in the images. I never really dreamed that one day I would see them in the flesh!

Then really early one morning in Cornwall, listening to fine rain and seagulls, Christopher said: “Want to see a ‘Sing-Sing?” “I do,” he said, “I want to dive in Papua New Guinea”. I was not surprised so kissed him and said “Yes, of course, when?” “August” he replied. Reliable as always August arrived and he had it all organized. It seemed like I blinked, I dreamed, I woke up and we were in the arrivals ‘lounge’ of Port Moresby airport. Our first stop was exquisite Tufi.

Phase Two of Imi's idyllic adventure
Phase Three
Phase Four
Final Phase

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© Clare Wilders and Imogen-Sympson Mowday 2010. Photos by Christopher Bartlett.