Looking for a liveaboard diving getaway in Papua New Guinea? To help you decide which route is the right one for you, we’ve put together a guide to Papua New Guinea’s most common liveaboard itineraries – highlighting the dive destinations each route incorporates and the sort of season in which they operate.

Milne Bay

Liveaboard itineraries exploring Milne Bay operate during the wet season, between the months of January and March, when the diving is at its best. Trips typically last around 10-days and follow a circular route that starts and ends in the provincial capital, Alotau. From here, the vessel will exit the bay and spend a week or so exploring the greater Milne Bay area. The diverse sites on offer here will delight divers of all kinds, whether you favour powerful pelagic fish or miniature marine life.

Conditions will dictate the exact areas visited, but itineraries will usually try and explore a selection of the region’s best sites. Popular stops in the south of the bay include the manta cleaning station of Giants@Home and the wreck of a P38 Lightning bomber. In the north, liveaboards regularly explore the wide-angle wonderlands of Deacon’s Reef and Wahoo Point, as well as the world’s original muck dive, Dinah’s Beach.

Many Milne Bay itineraries depart from the town of Alotau
Many Milne Bay itineraries depart from the town of Alotau

Milne Bay to Rabaul

This epic one-way trip embarks in Alotau, Milne Bay, and ventures along the south coast of New Britain before disembarking in Rabaul. Again, these trips typically last around 10-days, and operate during the months of March and April, when vessels are transitioning between the Solomon Sea and the Bismarck Sea. At the start of the trip, these itineraries explore Milne Bay’s most popular sites, such as Giants@Home, Dinah’s Beach, and Deacon’s Reef. The vessel will then leave Milne Bay Province and cross the Solomon Sea towards the island of New Britain.

On the south coast of New Britain, diving focuses on an area known as Linden Harbour, where the deep waters of the Solomon Trench come very close to the island. Yet interestingly, it is not the possibility of powerful pelagics that brings liveaboards here, but an abundance of much smaller marine life. A full range of sought-after critters can be found amongst the fringing reefs and lagoons here, including mimic octopus, frogfish, orangutan crabs, leaf scorpionfish, Spanish dancers, and more. From here, Itineraries continue along the south coast of New Britain, stopping at destinations such as Jacquinot Bay, Waterfall Bay, and Wide Bay before entering Saint George's Channel and disembarking in Rabaul.

The Bismarck Sea

Also sometimes referred to as West New Britain, this trip is one of the most popular liveaboard routes in Papua New Guinea. Departing from Walindi Plantation Resort, the itinerary usually lasts around 10-days and explores the vast Kimbe Bay, along with the Fathers Reefs to the east and Witu Islands to the west, before returning to Walindi. To coincide with the optimal conditions in the Bismarck Sea, these trips normally operate from April through June, and again around September and October.

The exact schedule of dive sites varies, but you can be sure this itinerary will factor in plenty of time at each of these three incredible destinations. Kimbe Bay itself is home to an abundance of thriving coral reefs, as well as some stunning off-shore seamounts which are often visited en route to the Witu Islands.

Volcanic in origin, the Witu Islands offer yet more seamounts, often rising within metres of the surface, along with stunning reef formations including coral-clad archways. A selection of black sand bays also allow some great critter hunting during night dives. Heading east, the Fathers Reefs deliver yet more incredible underwater reefscapes and are popular for their pelagic performances, with schools of barracuda and jacks joined by sharks and rays. 

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Kimbe Bay

If you’re a little short on time, it’s also possible to join a trip that focuses on Kimbe Bay alone. Embarking and disembarking at Walindi, these trips generally last around one week and will forgo the Fathers Reefs and Witu Islands in favour of the beautiful sites located within the bay. Boats therefore spend plenty of time exploring the healthy sloping reefs close to shore, before heading to the outer edge of the bay to explore the wild seamounts and coral-clad walls. Popular stops during this itinerary include Vanessa’s, Christine’s, and Susan’s reefs, as well as the wreck of a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighter. But the real highlights are the deep water shoals of Inglis, Joel’s, and Bradford.

Exploring Kimbe Bay's remote islands is a highlight of any trip to PNG
Exploring Kimbe Bay's remote islands is a highlight of any trip to PNG

East and west New Britain

Normally running between April and July, this itinerary links the Rabaul region with Kimbe Bay. Trips typically last around eight or nine days and the vessel can travel in either direction, depending on its schedule. If departing from Rabaul, guests will likely get a chance to explore some of the local sites, which include plenty of macro marine life around the jetty at Kokopo and the WWII Atun Wreck if conditions allow.

Heading west, the vessel will often make a stop around the Baining area to dive around spots like Ataliklikun Bay and Lassul Bay. Next up is the island of Lolobau and the neighbouring Father’s Reefs, known for pelagic encounters and shark feeds. Finally, the vessel will enter Kimbe Bay, exploring the outer seamounts before continuing to Walindi Plantation Resort to disembark.

Islands of east coast New Ireland

When it comes to New Ireland, most of the diving focuses on Kavieng and New Hanover. But during the months of April and October, some exciting itineraries scope out new frontiers along the island’s eastern and western coasts. This particular itinerary typically embarks in Rabaul, taking between 10 to 12-days to investigate its eastern coast, before disembarking in Kavieng.

Destinations visited along the way include the Feni Islands, the Lihir Islands and the Tabar Islands. As a newly emerging itinerary, the region is yet to be fully surveyed beneath the waves. This means the trips are exploratory in nature, with only a rough outline of potential dive sites. Depending on the operatore, the vessel may also spend some time exploring sites that are local to the point of departure and arrival – such as the jetties of Rabaul or the drifts of New Hanover.

New Hanover

These trips last around 10-days and operate during the shoulder months of April and May or September and October. This itinerary focuses on the town of Kavieng and the adjacent island of New Hanover – along with the phenomenal channel diving in between. Embarking and disembarking in Kavieng, on the northern tip of New Ireland, guests will have ample opportunity to explore the town’s abundance of wrecks, including the sunken remains of six WWII aircraft and a scuttled fishing vessel.

Beyond Kavieng, the channel’s many passages offer some fantastic drift diving, with healthy coral gardens, bommies and walls swept by strong tidal forces. These stunning underwater vistas are ideal for wide-angle photographers, while schooling fish, rays, and sharks are drawn in by the current, creating plenty of excitement. Nutrient-rich waters around New Hanover also provide the perfect conditions for an impressive diversity of life, meaning plenty of critters can be found camouflaging themselves amongst the coral.

New Hanover and the Witu Islands

While New Hanover circular itineraries start and end in Kavieng, one-way trips lasting around 12-days travel from New Hanover to the Witu Islands, crossing the Bismarck Sea. Again, these trips are usually offered during the shoulder months of April and May or September and October. Like the normal New Hanover itinerary, this route embarks in Kavieng and spends several days exploring the nearby wrecks and current-swept channels.

But, rather than returning to Kavieng, the boat will then navigate south towards Kimbe Bay, stopping at the Witu Islands en route. Here, guests will get to explore the stunning seamounts and black volcanic sand bays before venturing on to Kimbe Bay for the last dives of the trip. Once in the bay, the boat will visit a selection of the best sites before disembarking at Walindi Plantation Resort.

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Article written by
Marc Rowbottom
Dive travel expert

Marc spent several years exploring Australia, the Caribbean and SE Asia, before finding his personal paradise in Palau, where he lived and dived for more than 4 years. He is our in-house expert at crafting personalised diving holidays, guiding guests from plans and dreams, to the perfect scuba diving holiday. And he loves to talk about diving!

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