Rejoice! For I return to my favourite dive spot! This is the benchmark by which I judge all other diving. Some say that is cruel and unfair. I say that’s just reality. As divers, we all do it, it’s just that my benchmark happens to be, well…Milne Bay 🙂
Seriously though, I love it: macro, wide angle, fish, coral, sharks, critters…Everything! That being said, it had been a long time between visits. I had not been diving there since getting into underwater photography, so I was really looking forward to it! I booked a 10 night stay at Tawali, which is a kind of luxury eco dive resort.
After my impatience with the travel required to get to Raja Ampat and Ambon for the holiday season, I was grateful for such convenient flights to get to Milne Bay. I flew Townsville – Cairns – Port Moresby – Alotau. Then a scenic drive and short boat ride from Alotau to the resort. Others may complain about the hassle of getting there (much like I just complained about getting to Raja Ampat 10 seconds ago), but PNG honestly does make for the most convenient overseas diving if you already happen to live in north Queensland!
For the Townsville to Cairns sectors, there is technically a 23kg baggage limit due to the size of the aircraft (it’s a Dash-8), however due to my frequent flyer status and the fact I intentionally catch the stupid o’clock flights in the morning that are half empty, I find that they conveniently overlook it and I get away with 30kg without them batting an eyelid. Air Niugini gave me a 30kg standard allowance, plus a 10kg dive gear allowance for the Cairns-Port Moresby-Alotau flights (please note that this is because my domestic flights were on the same ticket as my international flights, the allowance is considerably less if you book your PNG domestic flights separately). Thankfully nobody even looked twice at my carry-on…
The resort was fine. Rooms were clean and spacious, plenty of hot water, airconditioned. Could probably do with some more powerpoints in the rooms to charge things though, as there is no dedicated camera room, meaning you’re charging lights, strobes, cameras, torches, phones, laptops, etc. in your room. Bring multiple power strips. Australian-style plugs. Wifi at reception was pretty good for such a remote location. Food was ok.
The diving…My favourite! First half of the trip was mostly spent reef diving because there was another group at the resort who were persistent about only wanting to do reef diving. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind wall diving, but it’s monotonous after a few days. Eventually I had a word to the dive manager and managed to get them to send me out on a smaller dive boat to go muck diving. Huzzah!
As for photography, I noticed on arrival that I had somehow managed to get a small scratch on my macro lens (probably something that happened while I was in Ambon for New Years and I only just noticed it). Argh! I tried to polish it out, but turns out that it had actually scratched the glass. It was relatively small, and my hope was that it wouldn’t show up on the photos (too much) and that if it did I could simply edit it out in Photoshop. I know that I’m inevitably going to have to buy a new macro lens to replace it, but they’re expensive 😦 While the scratch didn’t strictly show up on the photos, I had trouble getting the camera to focus properly through it, so the photos aren’t especially sharp.
Alas, as much as the diving was awesome, my photos were not. These things happen. Or maybe I’m just my own worst critic. I look at my photos and think “that’s crap” a lot. A few of the better ones posted below – a couple remain without ID, couldn’t find them in my books, so happy to take advice on those.