The MV Odyssey is, quite simply the best live aboard dive vessel in Chuuk. (truk lagoon)

Is it finally time to dive Truk Lagoon

A few years ago, we organised a dive expedition to Papua New Guinea (PNG). Our northernmost point of diving was the paradise island of Lissenung. This island is tiny, with small wooden huts in some trees on the beach. Everything in Lissenung is on the beach and has tree cover. It really is that small. Apart from the plethora of fish, coral and nudibranchs, what really got our attention, was the detritus of world war two. The harbour in front of Kavieng had a Catalina on the bottom along with an array of Japanese metal equipment.

One night in the sultry heat, we asked Dietmar, (the owner of Lissenung Island resort) why this was the case. He pointed to a map on the Bamboo wall of the dining hut.

“Kavieng is exactly 500 nautical miles south of Truk. It is the northernmost airfield in New Guinea. If you look at Truk’s location you will see that it was the natural supply base for the Japanese navy. They could carry on to Saipan and then Japan.”

The forgotten sleepy lagoon in Truk has since become the premier wreck dive site in the world.

Of course we should have remembered our history books, but the Japanese supplied their New Guinea Army through Kavieng. And when they were under attack by the allied forces, they fought off attack after attack from Kavieng. The tactical, technological superiority and professionalism of the US forces prevailed and the Japanese were defeated across the pacific. Peace eventually prevailed. But what got me thinking was Truk. What was so special about Truk and the Japanese supply chain? This forgotten lagoon in the middle of nowhere was turned into a major dive site. The fascination continued and I found myself reading more and more about Operation Hailstorm. Everyone says that the US navy were after the warships, but when you read the history of the defeat of Japan it is obvious that the US had a dual policy of blockade and fight. The US submarine fleet kept Japan completely isolated at the end of the war, and the 1 million Japanese soldiers in China were powerless to defend their homeland, as every ship which put to sea was sunk. The sinking of the Japanese merchant marine fleet in Truk Lagoon effectively neutralised thousands of soldiers on small islands around the pacific. The US forces could then ignore islands at will, and attack those that they chose.

 Truk was on my radar but not really on it, because I thought that I would never get there. All of my visits to Micronesia had been to Yap and Palau, and perhaps I was interested more in life than death. But a chance meeting at the DEMA dive show changed all of that. One day Maria the owner of Kosrae Pacific Tree Lodge took the empty space next to us on the show.   After three days of chatting and drinking coffee in between meetings, she invited us to come and see her lodge and dive centre. The easiest way to Kosrae was via Truk. So I found myself planning to visit Kosrae. But standing next to me, was my friend Cliff of the Truk Odyssey.

“If you visit Kosrae, you would be very welcome to see the Odyssey” he said. And the brain started to work on expanding the Trip.

“If you go to Truk I would like to come with you” said a voice behind me.

Stevie Macleod the owner of the Workshop at Al Boom divers (Dubai) had overheard.

“And I think I know a couple of others who might wish to join us. You see the wrecks of Truk are not still wrecks, they are also vibrant reefs full of fish. Diane would love this.

Doug Bennett the owner of Reef Encounters International (Japan) strolled over.

“Hey Raf, if you go to Truk, then I want to come too with Maggie” .

I sat down and took out my notebook and started to write down names. After a few minutes, I had a think and turned to Cliff. 

“Cliff when do you have a whole boat available? I think if this continues I might need the whole boat”. Cliff beamed from ear to ear, his kind invitation to an agent to inspect his boat, had morphed into a massive booking in five minutes.

“Hey who flies to Truk?” said Stevie?

“Well we use Air Niugini” Is said to him.

“Well you can add that on for me”.

We all packed our bags and flew back to our respective nations around the world. Everyone else got to run their dive centre or workshop. I, on the other hand, found myself at my desk ringing Air Niugini and asking for fares to Truk from Manila and Singapore with a Port Moresby (Hoskins) stopover. Since this all came about, we have packed our bags a few more times, and I have seen the inside of a few aircraft. Turkey, Indonesia, the Antarctic, ST Helena, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania are all lined up before we will eventually board that aircraft to Truk, but it is now only 13 months away, and we are almost able to book flights. Now all I just need to head down to Mike’s Dive Store for that 3mm suit and some replacement fins and I will be ready.

The Wrecks of truk have become reefs now full of life

And you dear reader? Would you like to join us? We only have three spaces left, so you would be welcome. We will be in Truk from 22-29 August 2020. We will be at Walindi Plantation the week after that, and if anyone lasts that long, we will have a glass of bubbles in Cairns or Singapore after that. Ping me an email at Info@orientafrica.com and I’ll send you some details.

All images courtesy of Truk Odyssey- as we have not been there yet!

There is no finer diver liveaboard in Micronesia than the Truk Odyssey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TUFI DIVE RESORT

INTRODUCING TUFI AND TUFI DIVE RESORT

Stunning, untouched, full of life, full of surprises and clearly very rarely visited – that best sums up the diving off Tufi. Reefs rise up from hundreds of metres of depth and some break the surface. There are always sharks and always pelagics.  Some of these outer reefs have strong currents. The dive boat is covered and offers comfortable rides to and from these sites, and some are up to 45 minutes away. The crew of the Tufi Resort knows them well. Besides the obvious known reefs there are so many sites to explore under the guidance of the professional Tufi Dive Team, that you simply cannot go wrong. Diving in Tufi is an essential addition to a PNG dive holiday.

TUFI Dive Resort has possibly one of the most dramatic settings found in New Guinea.  Papua New Guinea is one of the most appealing dive destinations with so many diverse destinations within; from the best liveaboards to the tiny islands of Northern New Ireland. Tufi Resort is one of those diverse destinations. Unlike traditional beach resorts Tufi Dive Resort is located on a cliff top in the Oro Province and overlooking the ocean.  In spite of this lack of conventionality, Tufi is one of the must-visit dive locations in PNG. It has incredible diving, with a perfect combination of adrenaline reefs packed with sharks, to some of the finest calm macro dives in the fjord lands.  Tufi has its quirks however and on this page, we hope to inform you of how to get the very best dive vacation at Tufi Dive Resort.

THE DIVE LODGE

To best describe Tufi Dive Resort would be to liken it to a safari lodge in Tanzania. It is made up of a series of diver friendly air conditioned bungalows with balconies. The rooms are quite comfortable and the food is excellent, but this is the most rural and basic locations in PNG, so you should not expect five star hotel experiences.  The staff are brilliantly led by the gentle and yet so competent Brian Boustridge. He and his team cater for special diets and special requests. Tufi Dive Resort is however unique in its appearance. It is not on a beach, indeed beaches are hard to come by in Fjords, but on a cliff overlooking the sea.

Tufi dive resort sports an amazing view of the surrounding fjords and hills from the rooms, balconies and dining area. A small pool is situated in the centre of the lush gardens between bar area and viewing deck. Dinners and drinks are served sometimes in the cosy restaurant or made into a feast with open air BBQ on the decking area overlooking the stunning fjord. The resort only has 10 rooms, so space is limited. Most packages are full board, but on the standard packages there can be some small but niggling hidden charges added. We always sell an ALL inclusive package at this resort to avoid any extra laundry or internet charges. Please contact us for a fully inclusive package stay at Tufi Dive Resort.

THE LOCAL AREA

The fjords are called fjords as they look exactly like fjords in a tropical setting, but in essence they are of an entirely different making – where fjords are cut out in the landscape by ancient slow moving glaciers, these ravines in Tufi are made thousands of years ago when volcanic lava streams simmered down and carved them out. The lava and volcanic ash left a highly nutritious layer of soil and residue and the green hills and jungle all around are the stunning result.

This means that besides diving, the location is superb for hikers, bird watchers, kayakers and fishermen. The Resort organises day trips but even a 1 hour stroll outside the resort has you right in the middle of lush greenery with scenic views of the fjords, while a myriad of colorfull birds and butterflies dance around you while you hike.

An interesting fact about the butterflies near Tufi Dive Resort is that the famous Queen Alexandra Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae), the largest butterfly in the world, is endemic to this Oro Province and is now listed as highly endangered (CITES, IUCN Red List 1996)– if you have a chance, ask the local guides to search for pupas or fully  grown butterflies known to be around. This intriguing insect needs the old growth forests of the Oro Province to thrive and feed in and is restricted to local habitat areas for mating. They only live for about 3 months, so you have to be there at the right time!  The stunning Queen Alexandra Birdwing can reach a wingspan of just over 25 cm wide – the size of a small bird.

Guides at Tufi Dive resort and all staff hail from the local villages – their families are fishermen and small scale subsistence farmers and extremely friendly. When dressing up for a sing-sing at the Tufi Dive Resort their traditionally painted faces with white dotted lines are as pretty and dainty as their flower- filled surroundings.

 DIVING INFORMATION

The scuba diving is mind-blowing around Tufi but you need to know what you will see depending upon the time you go. The best time to dive the outer reefs of Tufi, is when the sea is calm: between November and June. There is an argument that says that Tufi is best visited during this calm time, but we inspected Tufi Resort in theheight of the winds and found the diving to be spectacular in the calm waters, but this is what you need to know.

The outer reefs off the coast are beyond compare. They are literally shark infested coral structures that poke out of the water. The outer reefs of Tufi are located in crystal clear blue water between 4 and 20 miles offshore. During the calm season, you can be on the dive site very swiftly. But in the cusp seasons, you will need to travel for longer periods (45 mins and more) in a mild sea state. This is not for everyone, so if you don’t have your sea legs and you want to see sharks, tuna and barracuda in great viz, make sure you visit between November and June. When the wind blows hard even the hardiest divers cannot get out of the inlets. This is the perfect time to dive the fjords. These are world class dive sites in their own right. The fjord reefs are packed with coral, fish and nudibranchs. The only issue is that the visibility hangs around 10-25metres and the water can be green. To the experienced diver this is of no matter as the marine life is so prolific as to need a week to explore the fjords alone.

When diving from Tufi Resort, there are 2 main different areas to focus on. There are a huge number of dive sites inside these fjords offering stunning diversity and vibrant reefs. The green water should not hold you back – go below 12 metres and visibility clears up! These fjord dives around Tufi are easily accessible, in warm waters, and within easy reach of the resort. A macro –photographers dream in itself! Dives in these fjords can be done at any depth between 6 and 26 meters, and with very short travel time between resort and site, this is a fantastic opportunity.

The fjords also harbour another surprise – a wreck right in front of the dive centre, on the house reef – where the true extent of the uniqueness of diving the Tufi fjords becomes clear: it drops down to over 40 metres where you will find: a Landrover and a series of wrecked fishing boats. And at the very bottom of the sound is the skeleton of an American PT Boat. (Tufi was a US PT boat base in the second world war)

The combination of sheltered macro sites and challenging open water reefs is a unique feature for Tufi Resort. The windy season is in general from June to October, and the crew will try and take you out where possible – but keep this in mind when planning.

The ‘in’ house dive centre is actually slightly ‘out’ of house, and situated at the bottom of the cliff next to the sea. This means a stroll down every morning to go diving and a steep hike up every afternoon after your return (although a ride in the resorts’ land cruiser is always possible). There is no NITROX available in Tufi Resort. The national dive guides are excellent and knowledgeable. Managers may come and go, but the constant here is the quality of local dive guides and their boat captain.

GETTING TO TUFI

The Tufi Resort can only be reached by plane via Port Moresby, and only on a few days a week. When planning your journey, please contact us to make sure you have enough time between arrival and departure so that you can make your connection.  As with all air travel in PNG, planes don’t always turn up, and are sometimes cancelled (so good travel insurance is vital). In addition, we always build in a large amount of leeway in your bookings to make sure that you get out on time. Tufi ‘Airport’ has a crushed coral runway, and so it has its own unique issue: when it is really rainy the runway becomes waterlogged and the larger Dash8 planes cannot land.

We can also organise charter flights for groups. The lighter charters can nearly always land in Tufi even on a semi waterlogged runway.  Ask us to make all your arrangements and we’ll do our best to avoid the PNG factor when booking your holiday.

TUFI? ITS TIME TO VIST

When combining this dramatic natural landscape, the untouched remote reefs of Tufi, and the diving of the FeBriNa and Walindi Plantation – our guests end up with an unbeatable and once in a life time journey to Papua New Guinea. Ask us now how to combine your 2-centre dive journey to this most vibrant, wild and diverse of dive destinations in the world.

Have a question?

GET IN TOUCH