Hammerheads & Silvertips Yacht Charter in New Ireland
Shark diving off Lissenung Island
Dec. 6, 2005 09:00 PM
YV&C International Yacht Vacations & Charters Magazine reports:
It was just another day’s diving in paradise for Dietmar Amon of Lissenung Island, except today he had a diver named Gadi, who wanted to see big sharks. “I’ll take you to see the silvertips at Silvertip Reef” said Dietmar.
They were soon diving with six sleek and graceful silvertip whalers, two to three metres long, approaching closely. “Suddenly, the silvertips were gone. This is unusual I thought. Then I saw a new shark approaching. I drew Gadi’s attention and as the shark came closer, I saw it was a great hammerhead over four metres long ~ the mother of all hammerheads! It’s sheer size scared the hell out of me.
It scared Gadi even more! I hid behind a coral head and he hid behind me. He couldn’t have got closer to me if he tried. The hammerhead came so close I could have touched it, then it was gone. The silvertips quickly returned and it was back to diving as usual” says Dietmar
Sporting high orca-like dorsal fins and superior maneurability, great hammerheads usually eat stingrays. They are not usually aggressive but will make close unnerving passes at divers. Their huge size makes them dangerous.
Another day, Dietmar’s divemaster Andy Baldauf was guiding two divers on Helmuts Reef. The gang of two-metre grey reef sharks were there and soon the same thing happened ~ The whaler sharks disappeared and a great hammerhead appeared.
One of the divers swam out to take video, which is when the shark started arching its back ~ an extreme and agressive form of shark behaviour. Andy swam out and grabbed the videographer, dragging him back to the reef. “I’d love to see his video footage one day” says Dietmar.
Great hammerhead encounters at Kavieng are rare but Dietmar’s sighting was one of the highlights of six years diving in New Ireland. “I love diving with sharks, especially the gray reef sharks at Helmuts Reef. These days it’s the tiny marine animals that excite me. I enjoy showing our visitors the tiny pygmy sea horses and allied cowrie shells.
There are many shrimp gobies and garden eels. You can get close to the eels by hugging the sand and holding your breath. Our divemaster has seen a pegasus sea moth ~ a creature which looks more like a chicken carcass, than a fish” says Dietmar.
We were diving at Helmuts Reef and the gang of gray reef sharks were there. A strong current swept over the coral reef which extends to 30 metres. The reef is adorned in big sea fans, sponges and soft corals. Redtooth triggerfish and fusilier fishes filled the sea, as did two dogtooth tuna.
An explosive bang on the surface saw the whalers shoot to the surface like shiny grey missiles. I was surprised at the speed with which they dashed to the surface from 20 metres. One caught a spanish mackarel and none of the pack wanted to miss out. They returned to 20 metres, where a dozen excited sharks milled together, like a pack of wolves.
Albatross Passage is a brilliant dive. An underwater wall, extending to 30 metres, it then drops into the abyss. When the current is incoming, it is a magnet for sharks, big fish and smaller reef fish. The wall is undercut with caves and tunnels.
Among the sea fans were lionfish, bannerfish, angelfish, glasseyes, purple queens and long-nosed hawkfish. Dietmar excitedly showed me a pygmy seahorse ~ with it’s bulbous little belly. Silvertip sharks and squadrons of 30 ‘mobula’ rays ~ a small kind of manta ray, live here.
Beneath an old jetty at Kavieng, living on the sand and ribbon weed beds lurks the bizarre and the ugly, a macro-photographers paradise. Here we saw strange fishes ~ shrimpfish, green filefish, panda clownfish, yellow shrimp gobies, even a lionfish in a truck tyre.
In the Steffen Strait, there is a coral reef named Peters Patch. An underwater ridge, it is best dived on the incoming tide. The reef at 15 metres is covered in corals and reef fishes ~ anthias, leatherjacket, sweetlips, angelfish, diamond trevally and more sharks. “The fish life is so intense here, that it’s like fish soup. Two rare golden cowrie shells were seen here by Telita” says Dietmar
Peters Patch was my final dive and as I was swam along the ridge, enjoying the last few minutes, the fish parted in front with a chunky gray reef shark flying over the crest. I don’t know who got the bigger fright, me or the shark.
Kavieng is largely an archipeligo of islands, although the New Ireland land mass, shaped like a great rib, extends for 360 kilometres. Many of the islands have clear water mangroves and the channels, Steffen and Byron Strait open to the Bismark Sea. The Tsoi Islands is where the silvertips live and big fish reef is near. “Big fish reef has swarms of batfish, big-eye trevally, barracuda and eagle rays. It’s one of the best dive sites in Papua New Guinea with blacktip reef sharks and bull sharks at times” says Dietmar.
Lissenung Island’ at Kavieng is the gateway for some of Papua New Guinea’s best scubadiving and big fish action.
More about Lissenung island:
Lissenung Island Resort is a small private island two degrees south of the equator, North-West of New Ireland, fifteen minutes, banana boat ride from Kavieng. The divers accommodation is very comfortable with large spacious bungalows and large decks. The day’s routine is to roll up for breakfast at 8am, then collect your dive gear from the dive shack, leaving the beach at 9am. Dietmar usually runs two morning dives, returning at 2pm for lunch. Then there’s more diving.
Edith is an extraordinary cook and knows how to feed her guests. Lissenung buy all their fish and lobsters from the local fishermen. Dietmar and Edith, host divers from all over the world, particularly from Europe.
How to get there
Fly to Brisbane, then Port Moresby/Kavieng. If you need to overnight in Port Moresby, stay at the Airways Hotel. They have a swimming pool and dining room (excellent buffet dinner).
What to take
Your underwater camera, anti-malarials, light clothing.
Other things to do
Buffet dinner at the Kavieng Hotel (Friday nights), Malagan Beach Resort BBQ (Sunday nights) sailing (located next to the Nusa Island Retreat), surfing ~ famous breaks in season, Kavieng markets (Saturday early morning visits are best), snorkelling and cycling from Kavieng.