After a short flight from Port Moresby to Rabaul, located on the northeastern tip of the island of New Britain, our intrepid group of snorkelers boarded the MV Febrina. Shortly after settling in the ship weighed anchor and we sailed towards New Ireland where we woke to spectacular lagoon scenery, surrounded by beaches and thick jungle. For the next two days we explored the fringing coral reefs and sand habitats that grew along this attractive island. The area provided our snorkelers with a special, close up view of several Estuarine seahorses, and those who waited around eventually saw one pair mating!
Next we headed southwestward, far down the southern coast of New Britain, a locale near Gasmata that rarely (if ever) has seen a snorkeler. A beautiful barrier reef protected a large lagoon with several idyllic islands scattered about. The varied reefs were full of life. Hard and soft corals competed for space to grow while small, vibrant reef fish, including thousands of planktivorous Redfin anthias and Chromis, fluttered all about. While at least a handful of anemonefish species were prevalent on every snorkel, the Bonnethead anemonefish was certainly a highlight seen quite often. This geographically-limited species is now known to be a hybrid and is often found living with Orange anemonefish or Orangefin anemonefish.
Stunning aerial in PNG
Islands within the barrier reef offered sand habitats mixed with coral reef and thus great areas for snorkelers to discover critters. A number of pipefish species ranged in this area along with Raggy scorpionfish, lionfish, flatworms and some gorgeous nudibranchs including the dorid Gymnodoris ceylonica. These amazing nudibranchs occasionally engage in mass movements into shallow water to spawn and we witnessed this! We found double digit G. celonica gathering on a sand slope where they laid eggs and searched for mates. On this same site was a Ribbon eel, Peacock flounder, and many Sap-sucking slugs.
White bonnet anemonefish
The Febrina then sailed northeast, bringing our group to the lush islands within Waterfall Bay, one of the wettest spots on Earth. Yes, there was a pretty waterfall that poured into a shallow, clear river which then entered the bay. Reef-building corals were prolific in this bay and while we drifted on the surface we were treated to the sight of a herd of 30 massive Bumphead parrotfish grazing on boulder corals, Palette surgeonfish, and a few Napolean wrasse.
Before heading back to Port Moresby, we ended our snorkeling trip exploring a tiny, heavenly island, called Pigeon Island, just north of Rabaul. Just below the surface, robust, reef-building corals thrived on top of the reef flat but much of the action was found along the reef crest where a vertical wall dropped into the blue. Hundreds of species of fish were found feeding in this gorgeous spot. All in all, Papua New Guinea offered some wonderful snorkeling and certainly reminded us that picturesque, remote locations still exist on this water-covered planet!
We hope to return here in 2022 (I know, it seems so long from now), but between now and then, perhaps a session in Raja Ampat or Palau?