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    The Coral Sea
     
     
     
     
    Philippines
    The Coral Sea, and the land forms and reefs that frame it, served as the theater for numerous crucial battles during WW II. Today, this area is a theater of underwater wonder, marqueed by such names as the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Great Barrier Reef. The natural attractions here can be primitive and awe inspiring, and the cultures follow suit.

     

    SOLOMON ISLANDS
    The 922 islands and atolls that make up the Solomons offer endlessly diverse possibilities for diving. However, the best known sites will be accessed from live-aboard itineraries and shore resorts in such towns as Munda and Gizo.
    The Munda area offers a dramatic drop-off at Shark Point, complete with reef sharks, Eagle Rays and large pelagics. A Japanese freighter wreck is easily accessible in shallow water. Rainbow Passage has coral gardens and a gorgonian-covered wall.

    The Gizo area includes a wreck dive on the Toa Maru, a 400-foot freighter lying on its side in shallow depths. You can still find WW II ammunition in the holds. There are two wartime plane wrecks, a Hellcat and a Corsair, and a fish gathering place called Grand Central Station, where rays, sharks, barracuda and even dolphins visit. Kennedy Island is the place where a young John F. Kennedy and crew swam ashore when their PT boat sank. There is also a shallow reef and drop-off.

    PAPUA NEW GUINEA
    When it comes to the wild, primitive and pristine, Papua New Guinea is the poster boy. The remote, jungled highlands harken back to pre-history, and the indigenous people there have hardly been touched by the modern world. Underwater, the power of nature also holds sway, claiming numerous wrecks and presenting the diver with all the big fish action and colorful, exotic species that can be imagined. Live-aboards are the best way to experience PNG diving.

    Some of the most famous diving is found in Milne Bay, at the island of New Britain. Here you will find lots of macro critters, crinoids, Lionfish and reef sharks. If you look closely, you might see a Pygmy Seahorse. Volcanic gas bubbles appear through the reefs, and you may even encounter a Whale Shark, Pilot Whale or Orca.

    Other areas include Kavieng, which offers sharks, schools of jacks and even tuna. Madang is a favorite for nudibranchs.




    Loloata Island is also known for Pygmy Seahorses, clouds of baitfish and numerous cleaning stations, where tiny shrimp get up-close and personal with their fish patients.

    GREAT BARRIER REEF
    Off the Queensland coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef casts its magic for 1,200 miles. One of the first legends of diving, it is known as the “world’s largest living organism.” In reality, it’s a gigantic ecosystem, made up of multitudes of interdependent species. It is estimated there are more than 2,000 different species of fish here, and 4,000 species of invertebrates. There are numerous different environments created by the coral reef, sand patches, and the shoals and mud between the reef and its islands. Underwater visibility can vary greatly because of wave action, runoff and plankton, but Great Barrier Reef diving is always thrilling.

    GBR diving is accessed through dive operations in the larger coastal cities of Queensland, including Cairns, Townsville and Gladstone. Live-aboards also visit the best sites in this area. At the southern end of the GBR is Heron Island, where you’ll find sea snakes, Eagle Rays, Manta Rays and sharks. Farther north are the Whitsunday Islands, where you get all the usual attractions plus the possibility of a Humpback Whale encounter. Farther up is the famous Yongala wreck. Even farther north, at the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, are a string of sites called the Ribbon Reefs. Their proximity to the open ocean ensures good visibility and encounters with large animals, including Minke Whales. At Ribbon Reef number 10 is the world famous Cod Hole, with its resident Potato Cod.
    Moving eastward from the Great Barrier Reef proper are the atolls and reefs of the Coral Sea. Holmes Reef offers sheer walls, swim-throughs and pinnacles. Agincourt Reef is a complex of smaller reefs, and Bougainville Reef offers moored sights and drift dives. Osprey Reef is well known for its shark feedings.



    DISCOVER DOWNUNDER’S BARRIER REEF


    Dive, Snorkel, Relax.
    SV Atlantic Clipper.
    A 140 foot sailing tall ship moored on the edge of the outer Barrier Reef, sailing to a new reef each day.
    • Two to five day
    liveaboard adventures.
    • Dive courses, beginner
    to instructor.
    • Daily Trip Departures
    and courses.
    • Full and half day outer reef trips.

    Toll free 1-800-079-099
    www.downunderdive.com.au

    MV Moonlighting


    Experience exploratory adventure diving with
    MV Moonlighting; the only liveaboard operating out of Madang on the north coast of Papua New Guinea.
    With a maximum of 6 divers, enjoy pristine reefs which offer all the discerning diver could wish for: big pelagic action, macro-photography, WW2 wrecks plus personalised service in air-conditioned comfort.

    www.blueseacharters.com
    info@blueseacharters.com

    Lissenung Island Resort


    Based on a small private island 15 minutes out of Kavieng. Daily trips to the outer reefs and drop-offs. Pelagics and small critters are waiting for you! Family-style set up, excellent food, perfect for small groups.Lissenung Diving, Kavieng, Papua New Guinea

    Email: office@lissenung.com
    www.lissenung.com


    M/V Star Dancer


    Explore the exotic
    waters of Papua New Guinea aboard the 120' M/V Star Dancer while you enjoy the quality and luxury of a Peter Hughes liveaboard.
    Service, safety, special
    amenities and great diving are the hallmarks of all Peter Hughes Diving vacations. Packages include transfers, all meals and beverages, diving and more. Nitrox and E-6 processing available.

    800-9DANCER; www.peterhughes.com;
    dancer@peterhughes.com.