text and images by Tony Karacsoyi
We arrived at a crystal clear stream, the banks covered in rainforest. âAfter the dive, weâll scuba down the river and come out hereâ.
Forty minutes later, using a hand held GPS, we turned onto a secret and very muddy track. This is where our adventure really began, slipping and sliding, in our two-wheel drive ute. âNormally we can get in here quite easily, but thereâs been a lot of rain and Iâm a bit worried, the flow of the spring could be too strongâ says Dorian.
Donning our scuba gear, we did a steamy hike through the jungle, to a magnificent blue pool. Tree stumps and palm fronds lay across its entrance, which looked like a good place for crocodiles. Entering the pool, best done with a giant stride so as not to disturb the silty edges, the sight that lay ahead was unbelievable – a 45 degree tunnel, furrowing towards the centre of New Ireland. Our adrenalin was bubbling! Dorian and our dive buddy, Reto Graf, were ahead and already snapping wide-angle silhouettes of the caveâs entrance. We swam down the tunnel lined in ancient coral, to what seemed like 20 metres, only to look at my depth gauge reading 38 metres.
Fresh, sweet water rushed powerfully past our faces and the smile on my face said it all. I was in diversâ heaven.
The tunnel narrowed at this point and with the strong current, we couldnât venture any further. Dorian had been a few metres further on, when the spring wasnt flowing as strongly. Nevertheless, itâs a safe dive to the 38 metre mark. Anything past this point is certainly for experienced cave divers. We stayed for about five minutes, simply enjoying the aura of being there. Drifting downstream, collections of fat tropical leaves collected against palm fronds and fallen tree branches creating a kaleidoscope of colours. Schools of trevally, scats and deep-bodied, transparent, hatchet-like fishes sought refuge among the leaves. Looking upward, I could see the sky and the invading rainforest.
Dorian and Cara now operate this and other freshwater cave dives as part of their diving operation âScuba Venturesâ based at Kavieng. They are fairly new to Kavieng and have worked hard to build up a resume of exciting dive sites specialising in the many WW2 aeroplane wrecks, shipwrecks and freshwater cave dives.
Kavieng has an amazing WW2 history, since the allies engaged in a massive air offensive, from 11th February to 15th February, 1944, against the Japanese. They tried a new low-flying bombing strategy with their B25 Mitchell bombers, but lost many planes to Japanese anti-aircraft fire and exploding fuel dumps. One of these bombers was the Stubborn Hellion, which now lies in 12 metres of water, still with machine guns in place. Another bomber is the Gremlinâs Holiday, which went down about three miles from Kavieng. It hasnât been found yet.
One of our most spectacular dives was an Aichi E13A âJakeâ float plane in 20 metres of water. It still has the âHinomaruâ red Japanese rising sun emblem on its starboard wing. Itâs a beautiful wreck with pink soft corals growing on its propellors. Another âJakeâ lays on the coral at 10 metres at another site.
We dived both âJakesâ and an unidentified Japanese shipwreck. This shipwreck has piles of live ammunition, depth charges, cordite sticks and even the rubber soles of shoes.
The âDer Yangâ, a Taiwanese fishing trawler, was our first dive where we descended to the shipwreck and red sea whip gardens at 30 metres. From here, we swam to a reef at 14 metres, watching grey reef sharks, blue-finned trevally, fusiliers and a green turtle.
My most exciting dive, other than the Fissoa sinkhole, was at the legendary Silvertip Reef, also known as Valerieâs Reef, in honour of Valerie Taylor.
We snorkelled for 30 minutes waiting for the sharks to arrive. Native âbeche der meerâ fishermen paddled over to us and it was so funny to have them snorkelling alongside, as we waited for the silvertips to arrive. We started the dive in the hope of the sharks arriving.
My zoom camera port was flooding miserably and Iâd taken it back to the boat and was on my way back down, when suddenly the sharks arrived. I had two silvertips on my tail. Dorian went for the surface to grab his camera and I too. Flooding camera port or not, there was no way I was going to watch two silvertips cavorting and coming to within touching distance, without taking any pictures.
Itâs hard to describe just how beautiful, graceful and controlled these silvertips are. They are true oceanic sharks, big females, two to three metres long, the most magnificent sharks Iâve seen. Back in 1997, there were nine such magnificent silvertips at this place, but tragically an overseas fishing company came along and commissioned the locals to massacre the sharks for their fins. Seven of the nine silvertips were killed. Shark-finning is now banned in the province.
Dorian has a fleet of four dive boats and trips to the dive sites, mostly within 25 minutes of Kavieng, are a breeze. Trips to Silvertip Reef take 95 minutes.
Dives are conducted very professionally and Dorian dove over the side at each dive site to collect the submerged mooring line and used his hand held GPS to put divers right onto the best dive sites.
Peterâs Patch is like an underwater eden, the fishlife is intense and on an incoming tide, the reef is alive with fusiliers, big-eye trevally and a melting pot of tropical reef fishes.
At Albatross Passage, we were dropped at sea and quickly swam down with the current onto the reef. Several grey reef sharks patrolled the blue and the sea fans, soft corals and black coral trees were spectacular.
An incredible variety of creatures can be seen at the bottleshop muck dive, including the panda clownfish, ornate ghostfish and the pipe fishes: harlequin ghost, banded, ringed, mesmate and double-ended. Divers from Febrina, even saw the shy hairy ghost pipefish!
I spent five days diving and felt that Iâd only just scratched the surface, of what Kavieng has to offer. You could easily spend two weeks exploring the many channels, reef passes, shipwrecks and aeroplane wrecks!
With a resume of exciting wreck, reef and muck diving, together with sharks, turtles, thousands of anthias and tiny marine animals, on virtually every dive, Kavieng has a lot to offer.