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#1 Nicool

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 07:15 PM

Hi photographers,

Now that I have relocated to Sydney, I am a few hours flight away from some dive destinations which I wouldn’t have considered travelling to, when living in Europe. Needless to say I am not so familiar with what the South Pacific region has to offer, so I am coming for advice.

Besides, I won’t have much opportunities to travel for diving (young kids) so looking to pickup the right place for probably my unique trip over next 2 years.
I am planning for Feb/March 2019, a 1 week vacation
Keen to stay at the same place (or liveaboard) – I don’t want to fly from one island to the other as it will restrict days of diving.

Here is what i am looking for during this future trip:
-Priority 1: Large and approachable sea life: sharks, mantas, dolphins, huge groupers are kind of things I am after… but they must be approachable within photographic distance (1 meter, 2 meters big max). I am saying so because there are destinations where you may see lots, but the animals are very difficult to approach. For example, difficult to come close to hammerheads in Sudan, whereas I understand they are easier to approach in the carribean). Another example is reef sharks that are shy and difficult to approach, whereas in places like Maldives sharks wouldn’t mind being very close to divers.
-Priority 2: little currents – I don’t mind some currents, as long as they are not so strong that approaching a subject gets very difficult. Obviously currents attact wildlife, but if it’s so strong that I cannot photograph, I won’t go.
-nice to haves: outstanding wrecks, water warmer than 28 degrees C, great visibility, self-timed shore dive option.

Destinations I have penciled so far (not knowing any - just looked at google maps):
New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fidji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, Niue, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Pohnpei (Micronesia), Truk, Bikini, Rongelap Atoll (Marshall islands), Tahiti (French Polynesia), Tahiti, Rangiroa, Bora Bora, Moorea, Mahini.

Now I’d be very happy to get your advice on where to go :D

Cheers
Nicolas



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#2 troporobo

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 09:47 PM

So many choices, so little time!  I have not been to French Polynesia, but I have been to the others you list.  Here is what I can offer.

 

Solomons: Great diversity of sites, mostly easy conditions. If staying on land, go to either Munda or Gizo.  Grand Central Station and Kennedy Island are both great shark dives, mostly for nurse, grey and bronze whalers, and reef sharks. There are other dives such as Uepi where you might see hammers.  Eagle rays are common sightings, mantas less so. Fantastic reefs and walls.  Also the easiest and most diverse wreck diving in the region

 

Fiji: Large pelagics are less reliable at most sites, except for Beqa Lagoon where they feed them. Get off the main island and go to Taveuni or Savusavu.  Better to go with a liveaboard if you can, especially around Bligh Water. No easy wrecks.

 

Vanuatu: Diving around the main island of Efate is not great.  Espirito Santo is the place to go, but the main attractions there are the wreck of the Coolidge and Million Dollar Point for wreck diving. Reefs not as lush as the others. 

 

Tonga and Niue: Fantastic places to go for humpbacks in the season, but both are snorkel only not scuba. Diving around Niue is unique and well worth a visit, Tonga less so

 

Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Samoa: Not brilliant diving but lovely to visit

 

Kiribati: Forget it for diving. Pohnpei is not great either. Very little to no support in either.  

 

Yap: Not on your list but should be, for mantas, the best in the region, though it is far from Sydney

 

PNG: Also not on your list but should be, especially for liveaboard. 

 

You don't mention if you will travel solo or with family, that will make a big difference. If so, it's tough to beat Fiji which has a wide range of resorts and activities to keep non-divers happy

 

Don't overlook Australian diving either!



#3 kdgonzalez

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 12:26 AM

I would say you should look at start at home on the Great Barrier Reef.  Most liveaboards will do the Cod Hole which you can get within touching distance of large potato cods and some nurse sharks.  You can see some pelagics around the pinnacles but they are rare.  If you want the shark experience you have to do Osprey Reef.

 

I did Fiji in February, both land base and liveaboard and absolutely love it but its not the place for large pelagics, mostly macro and reefscapes.  I have done Beqa lagoon and you can get close enough to touch tiger sharks, lemon, tawny nurses, and bull sharks but again it is a feeding site as mentioned above.  There are other great dive sites around Beqa but no pelagics.  You can see pelagics in Bligh Water but it is mostly in passing, we saw Mantas but again it was for a few seconds and they were gone and definitely not close enough for a good picture.  You can get close to a potato cod and some reef shark and white tips in Gau island during your liveaboard.  I absolutely loved Naia if you can afford it. 

 

Check out my Fiji shots:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskxnfKaC



#4 Crayfish

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 01:44 PM

Check out Beqa Lagoon resort I took my wife and 3 kids there in December. Great set up for familys kids did scuba and the diving was really good large Tiger sharks about 6 of them right on the fisheye dome port. Healthy reefs with loads of soft coral and turtles and a couple of wrecks. Also there is a house reef for macro found loads of cool stuff.

Tonga or Niue for Humpbacks French Polynesia for schooling sharks or Poor Knights Islands nz for large schools of fish and groups of very large stingrays similar water temp to Sydney. Southwest rocks for Grey Nurse sharks enjoy this part of the world loads to see

#5 TimG

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 02:13 PM

I can recommend Ningaloo Reef off Exmouth, Western Australia. Lots of Martine life in abundance and diversity. Better, I thought, than the Great Barrier Reef. And there is whale shark watching too.

 

I liked too Moorea in French Polynesia - a few minutes hop from Tahiti. Lots of reef sharks, lots of life.


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#6 oneyellowtang

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 11:46 AM

Great question, and great region to explore...

 

As background, I lived in Sydney twice, once for high school (w/my parents) and then again for work (when our kids were young). We've also taken a number of trips throughout the region in recent years. 

 

The first thing I would say is that if you don't take your family to Fiji you are going to be missing out on a great experience. Fiji is one of the most family-friendly destinations in the world. Fijians are also known as some of the friendliest people on the planet (and they love children). Almost all the dive resorts that allow children will have a nanny program where for very few $ each child will be given a nanny for the entire stay. Our first trip was when our daughter was 18 months, we went again after our son was born, and then again when they were 4 and 2, (and since they both now dive, we've been back as a family of divers). The nannies are great - and by the end of the week our daughter was playing with several of the local children in the village. A great experience... (and very safe).

 

Several great recommendations have been made already, so I'll limit this to a few of my favorite locations in the Pacific.

 

1. Solomon Islands (either Uepi Island Resort or the Bilikiki): We took our kids (when they were 12 and 10) to the Solomons - they had a great time (snorkeled with reef sharks every day off the dock). The diving in the Morovo Lagoon is some of the best diving anywhere in the world (no other divers, very healthy reefs), mantas, sharks, etc. I have also been on the Bilikiki (w/out the family) - also very good. In general, for the Solomons you are going to get the best shark action where there are fairly strong currents - the dive operators will put you in a spot to get some good shots, but you want the current to bring these animals in closer.

 

2. PNG (Febrina): outstanding diving. As a bit of an old-timer, I can say the number of sharks is much less than what it used to be like, but it's still very good for large pelagics. There are still sharks on many of the most famous dive sites, but just much smaller in number (and it feels like less likely to see some of the larger sharks, like tigers). Having said this, PNG has some of the most beautiful reefs anywhere in the world (similar to the Solomons, with even a touch more diversity in critters).

 

3. French Polynesia (Rangiroa & Fakarava): If you want sharks (and not just lots of sharks, but a chance to see some of the larger species) then this is a great location. The passes in both Rangiroa and Fakarava can have huge schools of reef sharks (esp. Fakarava), depending on the tides. In Rangiroa you can find yourself drifting through the pass with several large species of sharks (I have seen a tiger shark here, as well as a number of hammerheads coming in to hunt stingrays in the lagoon).

 

bonus location:

Wolf Rock (Queensland): a few hours north of Brisbane (possible long weekend destination):

https://www.diveplan...tion/wolf-rock/(take a look at the video...)

Just had a friend dive this as an add on to his GBR trip - he said it was better than all of the GBR (except the Coral Sea outer reefs).

 

However, given your location, have you thought about heading north (instead of Northeast)? A trip to Bali and then to Raja Ampat is actually quite easy from anywhere in Australia (much easier than from Europe or the US). Amazing diving with the chance of diving with mantas and unequaled biodiversity of fish, critters, and coral. 

 

Others have mentioned Palau (been several times - very enjoyable, recently dived it with my 15 year old daughter), Yap (mantas), Pohnpei (we had great dives with mantas, and more reef sharks in the passes than anywhere else we've been), and Tonga (snorkeling with humpbacks), 

 

What we enjoyed most of living in Sydney (and traveling the region) was the opportunity to take long weekends to dive in different places. For example, we spent several long weekends diving Lord Howe Island - a really cool destination just a couple of hours from either Sydney or Brisbane, we also took a trip to Christmas Island (flying out of Perth) that was great for whale sharks.

 

Matt


Edited by oneyellowtang, 28 March 2018 - 11:51 AM.


#7 Luko

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Posted 30 March 2018 - 07:48 AM

We could also have that discussion in french language, relocated on the other board you know.

My experience in South Pacific  (Disclaimer : Vanuatu is where I grew up btw, kantri blong mifala) : 

 

Fiji , absolutely lovely islands and people. You are a social freak if you don't shed a tear when they usually sing the "Isa Lei" on your departure. Diving wise, it's color paradise I don't remember a dive in the wild nearby Vatu I Ra or Bligh Waters where I didn't spot a reef sharks and large pelagics such as tunas or spanish mackerels.

Even people who say they are opposed to shark baiting/feeding are impressed with B.A.D. (Beqa Adventure diving) operation where tigers and bull sharks are regulars.  

Ovalau and Wakaya are supposed to host hammerheads too. 

 

PNG : Only went to Milne bay (Tawali) but I support the idea that it's probably the place where corals are the liveliest. Sometimes hammerheads are seen bit not frequently.

 

New Caledonia : lots of manta rays even on day trips from Noumea, some sharks and sometimes silvertips (Dumbea pass).  Expensive and not very tourist friendly, but easier for french speaking tourists, i wonder how exclusive english speakers can cope with NC (although it was once a prime destination for Japanese marriages).

 

Vanuatu : Forget the diving for a while and enjoy Vanuatu on land, best country in the South Pacific for topside attractions (tribes, culture, volcanoes) or... food (perhaps some of the best beef in the Pacific and also best snack in the world called Tuluk). only the Pres.Coolidge is worth the diving (Impressive even for the non wreck divers as I am).

 

French Polynesia... yeah, lots of sharkeys and rays, less biodiversity... uber expensive. Not that attractive to me since I was once stranded a month in Papeete maybe.


Edited by Luko, 30 March 2018 - 07:49 AM.

Pls have a look at my Flickr photo gallery and leave a comment.
Galleries in Pbase : Ambon & Maluku, Bangka & Bali, Komodo & Maumere, Moalboal, Mabul & Sipadan.
Vanuatu incl.SS Pres.Coolidge wreck.

#8 Nicool

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Posted 01 April 2018 - 11:19 PM

Guys, i want to thank you very much for your advice, it's been a pleasure to read as i am returning from Easter weekend! 

Indeed i forgot to say with whom i'll be travelling: this time it will be just wifey (my favourite buddy) and myself, this is our rare occasion to travel without kids, just for diving  :martini:

So many choices, so little time!  I have not been to French Polynesia, but I have been to the others you list.  Here is what I can offer.

 

Solomons: Great diversity of sites, mostly easy conditions. If staying on land, go to either Munda or Gizo.  Grand Central Station and Kennedy Island are both great shark dives, mostly for nurse, grey and bronze whalers, and reef sharks. There are other dives such as Uepi where you might see hammers.  Eagle rays are common sightings, mantas less so. Fantastic reefs and walls.  Also the easiest and most diverse wreck diving in the region

 

Fiji: Large pelagics are less reliable at most sites, except for Beqa Lagoon where they feed them. Get off the main island and go to Taveuni or Savusavu.  Better to go with a liveaboard if you can, especially around Bligh Water. No easy wrecks.

 

Vanuatu: Diving around the main island of Efate is not great.  Espirito Santo is the place to go, but the main attractions there are the wreck of the Coolidge and Million Dollar Point for wreck diving. Reefs not as lush as the others. 

 

Tonga and Niue: Fantastic places to go for humpbacks in the season, but both are snorkel only not scuba. Diving around Niue is unique and well worth a visit, Tonga less so

 

Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Samoa: Not brilliant diving but lovely to visit

 

Kiribati: Forget it for diving. Pohnpei is not great either. Very little to no support in either.  

 

Yap: Not on your list but should be, for mantas, the best in the region, though it is far from Sydney

 

PNG: Also not on your list but should be, especially for liveaboard. 

 

You don't mention if you will travel solo or with family, that will make a big difference. If so, it's tough to beat Fiji which has a wide range of resorts and activities to keep non-divers happy

 

Don't overlook Australian diving either!

Many thanks troporobo

You truly have visited loads of these places and it's great to get your comparative feedbacks.

 

From your reviews it looks like Solomons could be a very good match. Or maybe Fidji, i still can't decide whether i'd be keen to go to a shark feeding place.

Whilst i am totally OK for dive operators arranging it and their customers enjoying it (after all, in some ways it protects the sharks) i am wondering whether i'd have that artificial aquarium feeling... or whether i might be uncomfortable to get around me lots of shark coming close just because the smelt food :P

 

PNG i thought about it but didn't include it because i can picture myself living in South East Asia for some time in my life, and then it will be in easy reach. I am really looking to try one of those far-away destinations which would be tough to do when i am back in Europe or still far from central APAC.

Thanks for the tip on Yap, i didn't know and am penciling it (for later).

 

For the good places whale-wise, i am guessing my target time (Feb-March) isn't good, and i can't change it.

 

Australian diving: giving it some thoughts too.

For instance North Solitary islands or Lord Howe Island caught my attention, but not sure how these compare to Solomons or Tahiti for big wildlife.

 

I would say you should look at start at home on the Great Barrier Reef.  Most liveaboards will do the Cod Hole which you can get within touching distance of large potato cods and some nurse sharks.  You can see some pelagics around the pinnacles but they are rare.  If you want the shark experience you have to do Osprey Reef.

 

I did Fiji in February, both land base and liveaboard and absolutely love it but its not the place for large pelagics, mostly macro and reefscapes.  I have done Beqa lagoon and you can get close enough to touch tiger sharks, lemon, tawny nurses, and bull sharks but again it is a feeding site as mentioned above.  There are other great dive sites around Beqa but no pelagics.  You can see pelagics in Bligh Water but it is mostly in passing, we saw Mantas but again it was for a few seconds and they were gone and definitely not close enough for a good picture.  You can get close to a potato cod and some reef shark and white tips in Gau island during your liveaboard.  I absolutely loved Naia if you can afford it. 

 

Check out my Fiji shots:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskxnfKaC

First of all, kdgonzalez you have some cracking pictures in your Fidji album mate!!!

Like i said above, i need to make up my mind on whether i am ok to dive on shark feeding. Any safety concern to have with these?

Really appreciate the comparative feedback between Bligh Water and Beqa Lagoon, i've been in such places where you "see" but can't photograph the big ones, good to know.

 

Unexpected advice on the Great Barrier Reef: we dove there 11 years ago over a 3 days liveaboard (pro-dive) and love it. However it was our first warm water/coral reef experience so i honestly wouldn't be capable to rate it against memories we got in the following years (komodo, sodwana bay, sipadan, egypt).

But my first question would be: what about the coral bleaching? Isn't it affecting the diving on places you've recommended? If not, can you recommend liveaboard duration & operators to get there?

 

Check out Beqa Lagoon resort I took my wife and 3 kids there in December. Great set up for familys kids did scuba and the diving was really good large Tiger sharks about 6 of them right on the fisheye dome port. Healthy reefs with loads of soft coral and turtles and a couple of wrecks. Also there is a house reef for macro found loads of cool stuff.

Tonga or Niue for Humpbacks French Polynesia for schooling sharks or Poor Knights Islands nz for large schools of fish and groups of very large stingrays similar water temp to Sydney. Southwest rocks for Grey Nurse sharks enjoy this part of the world loads to see

Thanks Crayfish, we did dive South West Rocks recently and LOVED the experience.

Feb-march won't be right for humpbacks i reckon, but i am penciling in Poor Knights Islands which i didn't know about.

Again, wondering about the shark fed in Beqa lagoon. Keen to know more about how the diving is organized, how long, how do the shark behave, whether you feel in danger.

 

 

Schooling sharks in french polynesia sounds interesting, getting close enough for photos? 

 

My preference would be un-shy big animals that come reasonably close for photos without being fed. Yes i am asking a lot, but hey only 1 dive-dedicated vacation over ~2 years, gotta get it right!

 

I can recommend Ningaloo Reef off Exmouth, Western Australia. Lots of Martine life in abundance and diversity. Better, I thought, than the Great Barrier Reef. And there is whale shark watching too.

 

I liked too Moorea in French Polynesia - a few minutes hop from Tahiti. Lots of reef sharks, lots of life.

Thanks TimG! 

I did snorkel with mantas 11 years ago (not yet a diver) at Coral bay and it was a magic experience. How is the diving from Exmouth?

Day trips? Liveaboards? Any good shore dives?

I remember (11 years ago...) seeing small reef sharks and turtles swimming in 1 meter deep water by the shore, at Coral bay. That's the kind of experience i'd love to get again (and now i have underwater photo equipment...).

 

Great question, and great region to explore...

 

As background, I lived in Sydney twice, once for high school (w/my parents) and then again for work (when our kids were young). We've also taken a number of trips throughout the region in recent years. 

 

The first thing I would say is that if you don't take your family to Fiji you are going to be missing out on a great experience. Fiji is one of the most family-friendly destinations in the world. Fijians are also known as some of the friendliest people on the planet (and they love children). Almost all the dive resorts that allow children will have a nanny program where for very few $ each child will be given a nanny for the entire stay. Our first trip was when our daughter was 18 months, we went again after our son was born, and then again when they were 4 and 2, (and since they both now dive, we've been back as a family of divers). The nannies are great - and by the end of the week our daughter was playing with several of the local children in the village. A great experience... (and very safe).

 

Several great recommendations have been made already, so I'll limit this to a few of my favorite locations in the Pacific.

 

1. Solomon Islands (either Uepi Island Resort or the Bilikiki): We took our kids (when they were 12 and 10) to the Solomons - they had a great time (snorkeled with reef sharks every day off the dock). The diving in the Morovo Lagoon is some of the best diving anywhere in the world (no other divers, very healthy reefs), mantas, sharks, etc. I have also been on the Bilikiki (w/out the family) - also very good. In general, for the Solomons you are going to get the best shark action where there are fairly strong currents - the dive operators will put you in a spot to get some good shots, but you want the current to bring these animals in closer.

 

2. PNG (Febrina): outstanding diving. As a bit of an old-timer, I can say the number of sharks is much less than what it used to be like, but it's still very good for large pelagics. There are still sharks on many of the most famous dive sites, but just much smaller in number (and it feels like less likely to see some of the larger sharks, like tigers). Having said this, PNG has some of the most beautiful reefs anywhere in the world (similar to the Solomons, with even a touch more diversity in critters).

 

3. French Polynesia (Rangiroa & Fakarava): If you want sharks (and not just lots of sharks, but a chance to see some of the larger species) then this is a great location. The passes in both Rangiroa and Fakarava can have huge schools of reef sharks (esp. Fakarava), depending on the tides. In Rangiroa you can find yourself drifting through the pass with several large species of sharks (I have seen a tiger shark here, as well as a number of hammerheads coming in to hunt stingrays in the lagoon).

 

bonus location:

Wolf Rock (Queensland): a few hours north of Brisbane (possible long weekend destination):

https://www.diveplan...tion/wolf-rock/(take a look at the video...)

Just had a friend dive this as an add on to his GBR trip - he said it was better than all of the GBR (except the Coral Sea outer reefs).

 

However, given your location, have you thought about heading north (instead of Northeast)? A trip to Bali and then to Raja Ampat is actually quite easy from anywhere in Australia (much easier than from Europe or the US). Amazing diving with the chance of diving with mantas and unequaled biodiversity of fish, critters, and coral. 

 

Others have mentioned Palau (been several times - very enjoyable, recently dived it with my 15 year old daughter), Yap (mantas), Pohnpei (we had great dives with mantas, and more reef sharks in the passes than anywhere else we've been), and Tonga (snorkeling with humpbacks), 

 

What we enjoyed most of living in Sydney (and traveling the region) was the opportunity to take long weekends to dive in different places. For example, we spent several long weekends diving Lord Howe Island - a really cool destination just a couple of hours from either Sydney or Brisbane, we also took a trip to Christmas Island (flying out of Perth) that was great for whale sharks.

 

Matt

Thanks A LOT Matt for your comprehensive advice, especially about the nannies in Fidji! When others were referring to great resorts for families in Fidji i had pictured just the Mariott-like swimming pool focuses places, but there are ways to travel there together with our kids & get them looked after while we do a few dives, that's heaven!!

In that case, i'll probably rule out Fidji from my short list for that particular parents-only trip, just because it means we can go there as family, this is great.

 

1/ Solomons really look interesting! When you're referring to snorkelling with reef sharks off the dock, you mean like by a pier, on the shore? Which place was that in Solomons?

That's the kind of photographer-friendly place i am looking for (already picturing those split-shots with sharks :D).

 

2/ PNG - certainly one day, and same applies to places you've mentioned like Bali (we've been twice), that i'd consider very doable from south east Asia or even Europe. Here i want to shoot for what's hard to touch when going back to good old Europe.

 

3/ French polynesia really looks like a good match for shark action (without feeding). I am picturing passes with lots of current (never dived one), is it still manageable to get close to these sharks? 

Were you saying Pohnpei was better than French Polynesia for sharks?

 

Looks like you've really made the most of your time in Sydney, I envy you and can't wait to take my kids diving when they get of age! 

How does Lord Howe island compare to the above for approaching sharks/big stuff? Is it shore-based diving or boat?

When it comes to long weekends, i'll tend to favor places accessible by car (e.g. South West Rocks) just because we both dive rebreathers, if we're to bring kids along too, the airfrare becomes a killer... that's unless Lord Howe island really has something special.

However i've just watched the video on Wolf Rock... thanks for the tip, it looks amazing, i am seriously considering going there :D

 

 

We could also have that discussion in french language, relocated on the other board you know.

My experience in South Pacific  (Disclaimer : Vanuatu is where I grew up btw, kantri blong mifala) : 

 

Fiji , absolutely lovely islands and people. You are a social freak if you don't shed a tear when they usually sing the "Isa Lei" on your departure. Diving wise, it's color paradise I don't remember a dive in the wild nearby Vatu I Ra or Bligh Waters where I didn't spot a reef sharks and large pelagics such as tunas or spanish mackerels.

Even people who say they are opposed to shark baiting/feeding are impressed with B.A.D. (Beqa Adventure diving) operation where tigers and bull sharks are regulars.  

Ovalau and Wakaya are supposed to host hammerheads too. 

 

PNG : Only went to Milne bay (Tawali) but I support the idea that it's probably the place where corals are the liveliest. Sometimes hammerheads are seen bit not frequently.

 

New Caledonia : lots of manta rays even on day trips from Noumea, some sharks and sometimes silvertips (Dumbea pass).  Expensive and not very tourist friendly, but easier for french speaking tourists, i wonder how exclusive english speakers can cope with NC (although it was once a prime destination for Japanese marriages).

 

Vanuatu : Forget the diving for a while and enjoy Vanuatu on land, best country in the South Pacific for topside attractions (tribes, culture, volcanoes) or... food (perhaps some of the best beef in the Pacific and also best snack in the world called Tuluk). only the Pres.Coolidge is worth the diving (Impressive even for the non wreck divers as I am).

 

French Polynesia... yeah, lots of sharkeys and rays, less biodiversity... uber expensive. Not that attractive to me since I was once stranded a month in Papeete maybe.

Hi Luko,

Actually i write quicker in English than in French, and i thought i'd dive in the Wetpixel pool of knowledge when it comes to South Pacific diving.

In the French forum i see lots of people diving South East Asia, Red Sea and Carribean, whereas it seems to me that Wetpixelers go further East (or West, depending on where you are). Anycase, i'll definitely ask that community for French Polynesia specifics, as i know there are experts there.

 

Back to this topic, lucky you for growing up in Vanuatu!!

I am interested to know about B.A.D: in the way they operate, what would you say impresses people who are against shark feeding?

On Vanuatu and beef: i was today barbecueing next to a family from Vanuatu -> super friendly, we've exchanged food and beers (and they did plan to BBQ a lot!). I see here lots of people planning dive vacation in Vanuatu, i guess it's only around the President Coolidge then, and i wouldn't mind focusing on 1 wreck for creative photo projects, but i am wondering how crowded it gets? are there times of the day when its gets less busy?

 

Maybe your Papeete experience is why you're not keen on French Polynesia - all the divers i know who've been there were soooo happy.

 

 

@all, if i may continue asking i'd like to complement my research with 2 questions:

1/ still in south pacific, can you advise any place where sharks/big stuff (rays, turtles, groupers...) can be seen in shore dives / unlimited diving?

There's nothing we love more than a good shore dive, especially when we can decide by ourselves how long we stay (we dive rebreathers, so in Bali we did 3+ hours dives and loved it, but it missed big approachable animals).

 

2/ for those who dived Australia, on the criteria i've noted before i'd like to know how those places i've noted rank: Lord Howe island, North Solitary Islands, Byron bay, Yongala wreck (Townsville), Ningaloo reef (+ Wolf Rock where i already have information from Matt :) ). 

 

again, thanks a lot for your advices

 

cheers

Nicolas


Edited by Nicool, 01 April 2018 - 11:28 PM.


#9 Luko

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 06:06 AM

PNG i thought about it but didn't include it because i can picture myself living in South East Asia for some time in my life, and then it will be in easy reach. I am really looking to try one of those far-away destinations which would be tough to do when i am back in Europe or still far from central APAC.

 

 

I think you're confusing PNG with West Papua.

PNG is really a PITA to go from Europe, it's the epitome of far flung destination, believe me! That is why it is not so developped and you won't read much in european boards.

OTOH It takes two hours from Oz with a low cost carrier while you can't fly from anywhere else (except Manila) with another carrier than AirNiugini, which is considered like the most expensive carrier in the world.

Just to give you a hint from Europe, last year I flew Paris-HongKong, then HongKong Manila, overnighted in Manila, flew Manila Port Moresby, overnighted in POM, then flew domestic to Alotau. Compared to, flying to other places in SoPac is a breeze since it's almost direct or easily connecting like Fiji, NC, FP, etc.

I strongly urge you to go to PNG while you're based in Oz.

 

Maybe your Papeete experience is why you're not keen on French Polynesia - all the divers i know who've been there were soooo happy.

 

Well, if you read between the lines of some reports you will also find that FP is not very high on biodiversity. It's a bit like Maldives even more accentuated, and I 'm not a fan of Maldives either.

Add on top überexpensive life style, french inexperience for tourism and big resorts for american tourists.

 

 I am interested to know about B.A.D: in the way they operate, what would you say impresses people who are against shark feeding?

 

 

Sharks are heavy in Beqa Lagoon since killing/hunting sharks is taboo in Fijian culture (it's one of their sea gods with octopii), so all kinds have been prosperous around.

Any local operation in Fiji will setup a shark attracting operation, nothing for the show just a way to meet them on specific places but where they have been around naturally for decades, it's not like creating an artificial feeding spot.

THose shark ops will allow you get up close an personals with bulls and sometimes with big mama tigers. You should check pics from Deepbubble (Giancarlo) on Flickr and ask him what was his recent diving experience with them like.

 

I see here lots of people planning dive vacation in Vanuatu, i guess it's only around the President Coolidge then, and i wouldn't mind focusing on 1 wreck for creative photo projects, but i am wondering how crowded it gets? are there times of the day when its gets less busy?  

 

Unlike Bali, you can't go diving yourself on the Coolidge, it's a shore dive but the land where you start the diving from belongs to a dive op, be it Allan Power or another one. Since it's deep deco dives, you will be tied with the ops schedule.

that said, you'll be with your own guide who's going to show you how to dive and penetrate the wreck at different depths (from 25 to 60 and below...), I don't think you can call it crowded anyway (it's difficult to imagine Vanuatu as crowded).

 


Edited by Luko, 02 April 2018 - 06:07 AM.

Pls have a look at my Flickr photo gallery and leave a comment.
Galleries in Pbase : Ambon & Maluku, Bangka & Bali, Komodo & Maumere, Moalboal, Mabul & Sipadan.
Vanuatu incl.SS Pres.Coolidge wreck.

#10 oneyellowtang

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Posted 03 April 2018 - 12:58 AM

Nicolas,

 

Take a look at Uepi Island Resort (https://www.uepi.com/). Most of the dives we did were boat dives (because of the amazing sites around the Morovo Lagoon), however we did dive right off the dock a couple of times (both ingoing and outgoing tides). The wall below the dock is a really good dive... (and on an outgoing tide you'll end up drifting straight to Uepi Point, which (with the right conditions) is better than Blue Corner in Palau (by a long shot), both in diversity of sharks that show up and number of sharks. You do need a pretty strong current to bring the sharks into the point close enough to fill your frame, but we dived it 4 times, and twice it was magical. 
 

And you can absolutely shoot split shots in the mid-afternoon with blacktip reef sharks against the island, while you sit just over the drop off (usually with a grey reefies swimming under you as well). 

 

Downside is that it's 2 dives a day (maximum). They are so far away from a chamber that it wouldn't matter. Most Australians (or the few Euros that make it this far) just stay longer, so the two dives/day isn't much of a limitation (it's also why I ended up snorkeling with our kids every afternoon with the sharks - it was a lot of fun). One other interesting aspect - there is a manta cleaning station inside the lagoon (about 5 min away from the resort). They run an early morning snorkeling trip (pre-breakfast) to check out the mantas almost every day (when guests want to go). I did this on 3 successive mornings with our son and had 1-2 mantas in the water with us every time. There are a couple of different cleaning stations, so sometimes you have to do some swimming to find them (or hitch a ride on the boat), but it ended up being a nice early morning workout. We were told these were the reef manta species, but several that we saw were absolutely massive.

 

The reason I went back to the Solomons on the Bilikiki is I wanted to see some of the other parts of the island chain. You can do 4 dives/day on the Bilikiki, see more of the Solomons (and have a number of great dives). Best dive (for me) was Devils' Highway - where we had 20+ mantas feeding in the current and then exiting out of the current right over our heads - so close that couldn't even get an animal completely in the frame because they were too close). It's a trade off - more dives, or dive the Morovo Lagoon - both were great, but we loved Uepi - one of the best places we've ever dived.

 

As someone else mentioned - *much* easier to get to PNG from Australia than from Asia. You should look at Walindi Resort or the Febrina as really good options. Or if you like more rustic, the Chertan liveaboard. Great mix of dives with large animals, and then great reefs with huge diversity in corals & critters.

 

As others have said - French Polynesia is expensive, and lacks the diversity you see as you get closer to PNG, Philippines, and Indonesia, but they do have sharks (and in some places, many, many sharks). Fakarava (in particular) is both far enough off the beaten path that you won't see many other divers, but you will see lots o' sharks, and depending on where you are positioned near the pass, they will can in close enough to fill your frame (given the choice between Fakarava and Pohnpei (which is up in Micronesia, and harder to get to) I would choose Fakarava, but only because the dive operators are better/more professional). 

 

Last - Lord Howe Island is great for a quick getaway, but I wouldn't choose it over any of the other destinations mentioned by others (for a week long dive trip). It was great place to dive when you can't get a week off to go somewhere else. If you do go, ask the shop ahead of time about their trips to Ball's Pyramid - it's about a 45 min trip south of the island, and they only do it during calm weather - truly world class (and the opportunity to see all kinds of large marine animals, including several species of sharks & rays, and occasionally whales).

 

If you are really interested in shore diving in OZ, then you should start talking to some of the local shops. Most of the boat dives/liveaboards in Australia are aimed at foreign tourists - many of the locals dive from their own boats or shore dive. One location about an hour north of you (by plane) is Byron Bay (Julian Rocks, the best of Byron Bay is only accessible by boat however) - has very good diving, with many large animals (incl. sharks, rays, etc.). There is closer diving to Sydney, but not really for big stuff (but still very good, if you know where to go). Definitely a number of locations to shore dive, and the local shops all have their favorite areas to dive.

 

If you really want to shore dive in Australia, then you should look into what the locals call "caravan diving." Western Australia has some interesting reefs north of Perth, close to shore - lots of Aussies grab/rent a camper, a bunch of tanks, and basically camp & dive as they travel up the coast. The western coast is pretty wild - and you will see sharks (including many larger species). I went with a couple of friends on two different trips and we had some "up close and personal" encounters with several large shark species (incl. a couple where we felt it prudent to leave the water). There are enough dive shops along the way to fill tanks every few days, and there are a number of campers that bring their own portable compressors - so getting a fill isn't too hard.

 

One more comment on shore diving OZ - there is one additional dive in Australia you should look into, and very worth the effort. If you get the chance look into a trip to South Australia to dive with the Leafy Sea Dragons (we had the best luck in Rapid Bay). These are amazing creatures, and very unique to dive with.

 

Matt


Edited by oneyellowtang, 03 April 2018 - 01:06 AM.


#11 ChrisRoss

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Posted 05 April 2018 - 02:54 AM

I went to Ningaloo last year and quite enjoyed it, the navy pier dive is excellent.  Diving is basically land based and you spend all day to do two dives with the boats I was on.  Most of the reefs you need a boat to get to.  Navy pier you'll be up close with groupers and big 1m long tuskfish, not shy at all, we had a 2m long sea snake there as well.  Visibility is not the greatest on the Navy Pier, we had vis like Sydney on a good day.  Tourist season is Australian winter; Feb-March is cyclone season and Exmouth gets hammered by cyclones regularly.  Water is 21-25° range in winter.  If you want warmer water you could go in April.  I dived with DiveNingaloo.

 

I'm booked to go to Halmahera (Weda dive resort) later this year (Nov) and conditions will still be good in Feb-Mar.  Look it up online and look at this video. 



#12 Crayfish

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Posted 07 April 2018 - 08:40 PM

The Shark dive with Beqa Island Resort was very well run and I felt very safe. The local Fijian dive guilds know their sharks and were space around us to fend off the Tigers when they came in to close or from behind. They dive this site three times a week so know how to handle the sharks. Talking with them you can tell they are very passionate about the sharks and know them each of the Tigers by name. They only use their hands to push the sharks away because if they use the metal hooks they have the Tiger sharks don't like it. 

 

 

 

 



#13 Nicool

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Posted 19 April 2018 - 10:37 PM

Hi guys, sorry for the late replies, work has kept me busy...

 

I think you're confusing PNG with West Papua.

PNG is really a PITA to go from Europe, it's the epitome of far flung destination, believe me! That is why it is not so developped and you won't read much in european boards.

OTOH It takes two hours from Oz with a low cost carrier while you can't fly from anywhere else (except Manila) with another carrier than AirNiugini, which is considered like the most expensive carrier in the world.

Just to give you a hint from Europe, last year I flew Paris-HongKong, then HongKong Manila, overnighted in Manila, flew Manila Port Moresby, overnighted in POM, then flew domestic to Alotau. Compared to, flying to other places in SoPac is a breeze since it's almost direct or easily connecting like Fiji, NC, FP, etc.

I strongly urge you to go to PNG while you're based in Oz.

 

Well, if you read between the lines of some reports you will also find that FP is not very high on biodiversity. It's a bit like Maldives even more accentuated, and I 'm not a fan of Maldives either.

Add on top überexpensive life style, french inexperience for tourism and big resorts for american tourists.

 

 

Sharks are heavy in Beqa Lagoon since killing/hunting sharks is taboo in Fijian culture (it's one of their sea gods with octopii), so all kinds have been prosperous around.

Any local operation in Fiji will setup a shark attracting operation, nothing for the show just a way to meet them on specific places but where they have been around naturally for decades, it's not like creating an artificial feeding spot.

THose shark ops will allow you get up close an personals with bulls and sometimes with big mama tigers. You should check pics from Deepbubble (Giancarlo) on Flickr and ask him what was his recent diving experience with them like.

 

Unlike Bali, you can't go diving yourself on the Coolidge, it's a shore dive but the land where you start the diving from belongs to a dive op, be it Allan Power or another one. Since it's deep deco dives, you will be tied with the ops schedule.

that said, you'll be with your own guide who's going to show you how to dive and penetrate the wreck at different depths (from 25 to 60 and below...), I don't think you can call it crowded anyway (it's difficult to imagine Vanuatu as crowded).

 

Thanks for that Luko, indeed i was confused about PNG, it's now back on my list :)

The limited biodiversity of FP doesn't bother me, it's funny you're quoting Maldives because i actually wanted to dive there and focus a dive trip on "big stuff" encounters and FP would have been along those lines. However i see the prices now... to keep for later, or if a friend of mine goes back to dive there and is still ok for me to stay over a few nights :)

 

Thanks for the explanations on Beqa lagoon and Fidjian relationships to sharks, that's definitely comforting.

 

Nicolas,

 

Take a look at Uepi Island Resort (https://www.uepi.com/). Most of the dives we did were boat dives (because of the amazing sites around the Morovo Lagoon), however we did dive right off the dock a couple of times (both ingoing and outgoing tides). The wall below the dock is a really good dive... (and on an outgoing tide you'll end up drifting straight to Uepi Point, which (with the right conditions) is better than Blue Corner in Palau (by a long shot), both in diversity of sharks that show up and number of sharks. You do need a pretty strong current to bring the sharks into the point close enough to fill your frame, but we dived it 4 times, and twice it was magical. 
 

And you can absolutely shoot split shots in the mid-afternoon with blacktip reef sharks against the island, while you sit just over the drop off (usually with a grey reefies swimming under you as well). 

 

Downside is that it's 2 dives a day (maximum). They are so far away from a chamber that it wouldn't matter. Most Australians (or the few Euros that make it this far) just stay longer, so the two dives/day isn't much of a limitation (it's also why I ended up snorkeling with our kids every afternoon with the sharks - it was a lot of fun). One other interesting aspect - there is a manta cleaning station inside the lagoon (about 5 min away from the resort). They run an early morning snorkeling trip (pre-breakfast) to check out the mantas almost every day (when guests want to go). I did this on 3 successive mornings with our son and had 1-2 mantas in the water with us every time. There are a couple of different cleaning stations, so sometimes you have to do some swimming to find them (or hitch a ride on the boat), but it ended up being a nice early morning workout. We were told these were the reef manta species, but several that we saw were absolutely massive.

 

The reason I went back to the Solomons on the Bilikiki is I wanted to see some of the other parts of the island chain. You can do 4 dives/day on the Bilikiki, see more of the Solomons (and have a number of great dives). Best dive (for me) was Devils' Highway - where we had 20+ mantas feeding in the current and then exiting out of the current right over our heads - so close that couldn't even get an animal completely in the frame because they were too close). It's a trade off - more dives, or dive the Morovo Lagoon - both were great, but we loved Uepi - one of the best places we've ever dived.

 

As someone else mentioned - *much* easier to get to PNG from Australia than from Asia. You should look at Walindi Resort or the Febrina as really good options. Or if you like more rustic, the Chertan liveaboard. Great mix of dives with large animals, and then great reefs with huge diversity in corals & critters.

 

As others have said - French Polynesia is expensive, and lacks the diversity you see as you get closer to PNG, Philippines, and Indonesia, but they do have sharks (and in some places, many, many sharks). Fakarava (in particular) is both far enough off the beaten path that you won't see many other divers, but you will see lots o' sharks, and depending on where you are positioned near the pass, they will can in close enough to fill your frame (given the choice between Fakarava and Pohnpei (which is up in Micronesia, and harder to get to) I would choose Fakarava, but only because the dive operators are better/more professional). 

 

Last - Lord Howe Island is great for a quick getaway, but I wouldn't choose it over any of the other destinations mentioned by others (for a week long dive trip). It was great place to dive when you can't get a week off to go somewhere else. If you do go, ask the shop ahead of time about their trips to Ball's Pyramid - it's about a 45 min trip south of the island, and they only do it during calm weather - truly world class (and the opportunity to see all kinds of large marine animals, including several species of sharks & rays, and occasionally whales).

 

If you are really interested in shore diving in OZ, then you should start talking to some of the local shops. Most of the boat dives/liveaboards in Australia are aimed at foreign tourists - many of the locals dive from their own boats or shore dive. One location about an hour north of you (by plane) is Byron Bay (Julian Rocks, the best of Byron Bay is only accessible by boat however) - has very good diving, with many large animals (incl. sharks, rays, etc.). There is closer diving to Sydney, but not really for big stuff (but still very good, if you know where to go). Definitely a number of locations to shore dive, and the local shops all have their favorite areas to dive.

 

If you really want to shore dive in Australia, then you should look into what the locals call "caravan diving." Western Australia has some interesting reefs north of Perth, close to shore - lots of Aussies grab/rent a camper, a bunch of tanks, and basically camp & dive as they travel up the coast. The western coast is pretty wild - and you will see sharks (including many larger species). I went with a couple of friends on two different trips and we had some "up close and personal" encounters with several large shark species (incl. a couple where we felt it prudent to leave the water). There are enough dive shops along the way to fill tanks every few days, and there are a number of campers that bring their own portable compressors - so getting a fill isn't too hard.

 

One more comment on shore diving OZ - there is one additional dive in Australia you should look into, and very worth the effort. If you get the chance look into a trip to South Australia to dive with the Leafy Sea Dragons (we had the best luck in Rapid Bay). These are amazing creatures, and very unique to dive with.

 

Matt

Thanks again for those very precious advices on Oz diving Matt!! Your comparative feedbacks on the various places really helps driving my choices.

Byron Bay / Julian Rocks looks like a very nice place and accessible for me to go. From what i saw in various photos it has some sort of "Maldives taste": mantas, leopard sharks...

Just below Byron bay i've heard good things about North Solitary islands, but a local here told me he preferred Byron Bay for big stuff - have you tried both?

The Yongala seems amazing to, both a wreck, and very very lively... so much choices around, i feel lucky! But so little time...

I am now thinking i could combine Byron Bay + North Solitary Islands as one trip, or Yongala + Wolf Rock...

 

The caravan diving sounds cool, probably something i'll try with whole family when kids grow older.

I've heard about the leafies in South Australia indeed, but i am not that excited as i am lucky to see weedies in any dive i do here in Kurnell, and they are (almost) as beautiful as weedies ;)

 

I'll email Uepi resort for a quote. Their website is very nice... but i haven't seen prices, which to me isn't good news on that space :D

The 2 dives/day limit may not be a concern if it's just for decompression concerns -> with our rebreathers (provided the Uepi is RB-friendly) we can do 3 hours at 20 meters still in no-deco.

 

I went to Ningaloo last year and quite enjoyed it, the navy pier dive is excellent.  Diving is basically land based and you spend all day to do two dives with the boats I was on.  Most of the reefs you need a boat to get to.  Navy pier you'll be up close with groupers and big 1m long tuskfish, not shy at all, we had a 2m long sea snake there as well.  Visibility is not the greatest on the Navy Pier, we had vis like Sydney on a good day.  Tourist season is Australian winter; Feb-March is cyclone season and Exmouth gets hammered by cyclones regularly.  Water is 21-25° range in winter.  If you want warmer water you could go in April.  I dived with DiveNingaloo.

 

I'm booked to go to Halmahera (Weda dive resort) later this year (Nov) and conditions will still be good in Feb-Mar.  Look it up online and look at this video. 

Thanks for the Ningaloo recommendations Chris, it's also an option on my list though for the first 1 week trip if Australia i may focus on the east coast.

 

The Shark dive with Beqa Island Resort was very well run and I felt very safe. The local Fijian dive guilds know their sharks and were space around us to fend off the Tigers when they came in to close or from behind. They dive this site three times a week so know how to handle the sharks. Talking with them you can tell they are very passionate about the sharks and know them each of the Tigers by name. They only use their hands to push the sharks away because if they use the metal hooks they have the Tiger sharks don't like it. 

thanks for the experience sharing Crayfish, that sounds reasonably safe :D

 



#14 Aussiebyron

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 11:22 PM

For up close photography on large animals I recommend you first start with the local spots like Broughton Island near Nelson bay, Fish Rock at South West Rocks, Julian Rocks at Byron Bay. These places would be suited for a road trip by car. The Secret is to go mid week as both places get booked out on the weekends by groups, especially SWR and Julian Rocks. You can fit North and South Solitary islands in too, but I rate them behind Fish Rock and Julian Rocks and often only have diving available during the weekends as its quiet during the week when it starts to get colder.

 

The next place is Wolf Rock which is about 3.5 hours North of Brisbane.  Which is like a mix between Julian Rocks and Fish Rock as they have Grey Nurse Sharks, Leopard Sharks, Manta's, Groupers etc etc all in one spot and its currently awesome diving there at the moment.

 

The Yongala wreck is a great dive and a must do but the problem with planning a dive there is that its very dependant on the weather and it takes a bit to get there. There are direct flights from Sydney to Townsville, then hire a car for an hours drive south to Ayr to where the dive shop is.

 

Then another place I would recommend is Beqa Lagoon for the the Bull and Tiger sharks.  Its a must dive to do

 

Regards Mark


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