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Dive with a pygmy seahorse, manta ray or even a hammerhead shark at one of the world’s best diving destinations, Milne Bay.

Diving in Milne Bay

Quick facts

Milne Bay is vast with a great variety of dive sites. The area boasts superb muck diving, airplane wrecks from World War II, stunning drop-offs, towering pinnacles and colorful coral gardens. For land-based diving, pick from resorts and dive operators located in Alotau or others along the north coast of the bay. Otherwise, there are liveaboard diving vessels which frequent this vast area.

You can dive Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Sea year-round, but conditions can vary by month. For example, September is manta season in Milne Bay, and May to August can bring choppy surface conditions. Rain, especially during May to August, can make visibility poor at the muck diving sites. Otherwise, at the coral reefs, visibility is always good, averaging around 66-100ft (20-30m). Water temperature sit at about 82˚F (28˚C), but can dip to 77˚F (25˚C) during the rainy months.

For critter hunting, head to the north coast of Milne Bay for muck dive sites like Dinah’s Beach or the Tawali House Reef. These sites are sheltered and all that is needed is good buoyancy. Also in the north coast but at the outer reefs, you will find drop-offs where there could be stronger currents and surface swells. One of the best plane wrecks in the whole of Papua New Guinea, a B-17 Bomber called the Black Jack, is also in the area but lies at a maximum depth of 150ft (46m). To the south of Milne Bay, visit Samarai Island which has an easily accessible manta ray cleaning station and a wonderful wharf to dive.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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USD 2,010Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers

What to see

There is truly so much to see in Milne Bay. Being within the Coral Triangle, there have been many studies proving that marine biodiversity here is close to the highest in the world. For those who love the weird and wonderful critters of muck, this place is like a buffet. Pygmy seahorses, rare Rhinopias scorpionfish, all manner of eels, octopus, cuttlefish and frogfish can be found here and more. Try dusk dives as well to see mating rituals of the beautiful mandarinfish and creep up on crab and shrimp that get active at night. Strange looking wobbegongs are also often seen here, blending tastefully into coral gardens.

For those who like bigger creatures, there will be no disappointment at Milne Bay. Cleaning stations for manta rays can be found at Samarai Island. At the outer reefs, you could even see a great hammerhead shark. Otherwise, be spoilt by busy drop-offs buzzing with colorful reef fish and schools of snapper, fusiliers, barracuda, and trevally. Sharks are ever present and expect to see whitetips, blacktips and grey reef sharks. Whale sharks have also been known to appear around Milne Bay and even minke whales have been seen passing by.


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Milne Bay came into the spotlight in 1942 during the historic Battle of Milne Bay. A natural harbor, the bay was initially occupied by Japanese forces before being taken over by the Australian garrison in World War II. This has resulted in a rather dark past for the bay, with stories of war crimes and epidemics of malaria.

Fast forward to today, Milne Bay in the southeast of Papua New Guinea has become a quiet province with about 280,000 people. It is mostly known for its stunning coral reefs, exotic islands and as a stopover for yachts. It was also an area known for gold mining but the main mine on Misima Island has since been closed and only artisanal mining activity remains.

There are more than 600 islands in the province which are grouped into seven island groupings that include the D’Entrecasteaux Islands and the very remote Trobriand Islands. Milne Bay itself is 22 miles (35km) long and 10 miles (16km) wide with much of the coastal area to the north covered by mangrove swamps.

Other attractions

Visit the D’Entrecasteaux Islands for some wonderful snorkeling or fly to the Trobriand Islands for a true glimpse into the lives of Papua New Guinea’s islanders. Go birdwatching to see the birds-of-paradise or take to the forests for a hike. Also immerse yourself in local culture, join tours to learn about World War II and visit ancient skull caves.

Getting there

Fly to Gurney Airport in Alotau from Port Moresby on Air Niugini, Airlines PNG or Southern Star. There are also flights from Losuia in the Trobriand Islands and Misima Island.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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