Diddakoi Walt Whitman
Take me home...PNG 2003PNG 2003 Part OnePNG 2003 Part TwoPNG 2003 Part ThreePNG 2003 Part Four

 PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2003 - Part One

This is the Third Annual "2YK" expedition - I have traveled with my two friends, Gary and Mark, to Papua New Guinea in 2001 and 2002 and we're back again for 2003. They are both Jewish, hence the "2YK" moniker - "Two Yids and Kay."

2YK - Gary, Kay and Mark

We began planning this trip at the Port Moresby airport last year when we ran into Alan Raabe, the owner of the dive boat MV Febrina, as we were leaving New Guinea. He invited us back again, and we made the decision to go on the spot. Throughout the past eleven months we have had to contend with uncooperative flight times, changes in airline schedules, re-ticketing problems and a volcano that shut down the airstrip we fly into. And in the week before we left we had the pending war in Iraq, the outbreak of SARS in southeast Asia, and Mark's ex-wife trying to kill him. Boy did we all need a vacation!

Please click on any of the photos for a larger picture. All underwater photos courtesy of Gary Lindenbaum and Mark Zibelman as noted.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003 - Philadelphia-New York-Vancouver
I woke up around 5:30 and turned on the morning news. I got the laptop and finished formatting the St Baldricks Day pictures. Suki let me do that for awhile and then decided it was time to get up.

I got ready for work, ate breakfast, snuggled the cat and took the (heavy) dive duffel downstairs to stow at the front desk. I went to work and accomplished several very important things. I gave my tax stuff to my accountant, talked to Mom and Dad, picked up my sleeping pill prescription, stopped at the bank, and was home by 2:15. Petted Suki, changed clothes and went down to wait for the guys.

The limo arrived promptly at 2:30 - we loaded up the car and were off. Are we there yet???

Gary brought champagne, olives, and bruschetta to snack on. We made it up to JFK around 5:00 and were checked in for our Cathay Pacific flight without too much difficulty. The only problem was that they wouldn't check our bags all the way to Port Moresby - the counter agent said that she could only check them through for 24 hours and seemed to arbitrarily pick Brisbane as the last point to which she could check them. Since we didn't have much time in Brisbane to make our connection, we decided to check them to Singapore - we'll have to work on it when we arrive there.

We breezed through security - well, Mark and I did while Gary's camera bag was searched. We went to the British Airways lounge to wait for our flight. As we sat down, I recognized a business associate from Bermuda - small world. We went to our gate around 9:30 for our 10:15 flight and found that the inbound was late. The plane boarded around 10:20 and we took off around 11:00 for Vancouver.

We are flying Cathay Pacific business class this year. After two years of Singapore Air steerage, I used my British Airways miles for two free tickets and we split the cost of the third. The plane was only half full at best-and there were only ten people in our section. They have brand new business class seats - they recline fully but at slight angle so one's feet slide under the seat in front. There is an "on demand" entertainment system with individual screens.

Once we left New York we had dinner - I had beef stir fry - and I started to watch the latest Star Trek movie but fell asleep. I woke up briefly somewhere over North Dakota, then slept again until we began our descent into Vancouver. We had made up whatever delay we had leaving JFK.

We had an hour layover and then began our longest leg - 13 hours to Hong Kong. The plane was still lightly loaded. I fell asleep soon after take-off and slept for 2+ hours. I watched "Analyze That" with Robert DiNiro and Billy Crystal - eh. I tried to watch "Star Trek" (again) and fell asleep (again). When I woke, I had a chinese beef soup and read "Titus Groan" for a while. I finally watched the middle of Star Trek before they served us breakfast prior to our arrival in Hong Kong. Unfortunately it was quite overcast, so we didn't get a view coming in.

Thursday, March 20, 2003 - Hong Kong - Singapore
We arrived about 15 minutes early, which gave us enough time to go to the Cathay Pacific lounge, "The Pier", take showers and change clothes. Yay. Then off to catch the next flight to Singapore. We all noticed how empty the airport was - the airplane wasn't crowded either. We left on time and flew down the Chinese, Vietnamese and Malaysian coasts to Singapore.

We arrived around noon and immediately went to the transit desk. We explained that our bags had been checked to Singapore, but we wanted them checked through to Port Moresby. The agent explained that since we were flying first to Brisbane and then catching a domestic flight to Cairns, we would have to collect our bags in Brisbane and clear Australian customs. Doh! She also called to see if they could put us on an alternate flight from Singapore directly to Cairns, but they were full. So she checked the bags to Brisbane, taking descriptions of our luggage to have it claimed in Singapore, gave us boarding passes for both Qantas flights, and we went to the transit hotel.

In the past, we have had layovers of eighteen hours or so in Singapore, so we've gotten a day room in town and spent the day there. This time we only have eight hours, so we went to the transit hotel in the airport. They rent rooms in blocks of hours - for about $30 each we got rooms for six hours. I watched a little CNN, noting that war had broken out, and went to sleep.

We all met at 7:30 pm and went to find something to eat. I had some iffy chicken nuggets and an iced tea (sweetened). We boarded the Qantas flight - we are in economy class for the rest of the in-bound flights - but there was plenty of room so we could spread out for the 6 hour 45 minute flight. I had a bite to eat - beef in red wine sauce - and read Titus Groan for a while before falling asleep.

Friday, March 21, 2003 - Brisbane - Cairns - Port Moresby - Walindi
They fed us a light breakfast of fruit and pastry before landing in Brisbane at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning. We got our bags and cleared immigration, then went to the transit desk to re-check the bags. We discovered that since we were taking an international flight from Cairns, we would have to have our bags with us. Argh. So we checked the luggage to Cairns and went to the tram station to go to the domestic terminal. The whole terminal and station area was clean and new and it was nice to be outside enjoying the morning air for a while.

We went to the gate and watched CNN while we waited. The flight was delayed for 20 minutes or so while we waited for two passengers to board. We made up a little time in the air, but it was still a tight connection.

Here's something that we've noticed during our travels. In International terminals, luggage carts are available for free, but in many Domestic terminals, there is a charge. Since we were arriving on a domestic Qantas flight, the use of luggage carts costs money - Australian dollars - which of course we didn't have. I quickly ran to change some money and gave it to Gary and Mark, then went over to the International terminal while the guys waited for the luggage. We wanted to make sure Air Niugini knew we were on our way. We checked in and went through security, arriving at our gate just as they began boarding the Fokker jet.

There were very few people on the Air Niugini flight to Port Moresby, and we had an enthusiastic flight crew that fed us a light lunch and beverages. Once we arrived in Moresby we got our visas, cleared customs, got our bags (again), and checked them to Hoskins. We walked to the domestic terminal and waited in the lounge for our final flight.

In the past, the flight to Hoskins has been on a medium sized jet. Ever since the eruption of Mount Pago last summer, however, they have been unable to fly jet service into the airport - jet engines and volcanic ash don't mix, you know.

We left about a half hour late on a 20 seat Beechcraft prop plane and had a relatively calm 1 1/2 hour flight. My only real complaint was that it was absolutely freezing on the plane! I ended up taking my travel pillow (thanks, Mom and Dad!) out of my backpack and hugging it to my chest to try to stay warm. We landed at Hoskins and were picked up by the driver from Walindi Plantation where we will stay for one night before boarding the Febrina. We passed through Kimbe, nearly hitting several people and three pigs. The hour drive took us past several palm oil plantations - they use the rows between the palm trees to graze cattle.

Once we arrived at Walindi, we were shown to our bungalows. Very nice - big spacious room, a kitchenette, and a little television that picks up CNN. Who would have thought. I had a chance to take a shower and rest for a while before dinner. They had a nice buffet - fried fish, rice, chicken, vegetables, greens, and soup. The three of us ate quickly, and retired. It's taken fourteen time zones, eight cities, seven flights, six countries, four airlines, and 2 1/2 days to get here - I'm tired.

Saturday, March 22, 2003 - Walindi - Febrina
I woke up around 3:30 a.m. and read for a while. I got up to take a few photos at dawn, and found a couple of friendly denizens that wanted to visit.

Sunrise at Walindi - KLM Photo

Sunrise at Walindi - KLM Photo

Sunrise at Walindi - KLM Photo

Sunrise at Walindi - KLM Photo

One of the Locals - KLM Photo

Bungalow - KLM Photo

Bungalow with friend - KLM Photo

Walindi Police Force - GAL Photo

At 7:00 I went up to the main building for breakfast - an American couple that lives in Tokyo had just finished an exploratory dive trip on the Febrina and was leaving this morning. I also met Rob & Rosie, an Australian couple from Melbourne that will be on our trip, as well as Fred, who was born in the states, grew up in Tokyo, and now lives in Port Moresby. They were going to go out to a local dive site for a couple of dives this morning.

After breakfast I sat outside for awhile - got too much sun - and read. We had lunch and met our other divers - in addition to Rob, Rosie and Fred, we have Ed and Suzanne from Long Island, and Neil and Lynn from a town two hours north of Sydney. There are ten divers total for this trip.

Suzanne, Rob and Rosie - KLM Photo

Ed and Suzanne - KLM Photo

Neil and Lynn - KLM Photo

Fred - doing one of his dances in the salon - KLM Photo

The air conditioning on the boat was being repaired, so we didn't get on board until around 3:00 or so. When we finally did, my cabin was still being worked on so I set up my dive gear while I waited.

Walindi Bay - KLM Photo

Sunset with Rainbow over Walindi Bay - MZ Photo

Fishing in Walindi Bay - KLM Photo

Fishing in Walindi Bay - KLM Photo

MV Febrina - KLM Photo

We met the crew - Jack the captain, who, with the addition of an eyepatch and a pirate's hat could have walked off a Captain Morgan's rum bottle (and - per Mark - "into a dentist's office"); Jayne the cook; Digger & Josie, the divemasters; Terrence, dive deck hand; Nelson, the engineer; and "the girls" - Valia, Ludwina & Natasha.

Captain Jack - MZ Photo

Jayne - KLM Photo

Febrina Crew: Jack, Ludwina, Valia, Josie, Natasha - KLM Photo

Ludwina - KLM Photo

Natasha - KLM Photo

Digger, Gary and Terrence - Photo KLM

Nelson - GAL Photo

Digger - GAL Photo

Dive Crew: Terrence, Josie, Digger, Nelson - GAL Photo

They had to go find the AC guy, so we weren't able to do a late afternoon dive. Jayne consoled us with some sparkling wine, and we all sat out on the dive deck and talked until dinner.

Jayne told us about the basic schedule for the rest of our trip: wake-up knock at 6:00, in the water by 6:30, back on the boat for breakfast. Second dive is at 9:00, third dive around 11:30 or so, with a buffet lunch following. Then it's nap/reading time until the afternoon dive at 3:30. A night dive at 6:30 is available to those that want it, with dinner served at 8:00.

The kitchen staff takes great pride in the meals and table settings, with a different napkin folding style every evening. We had chicken with vegetables, and key lime pie for dessert. The AC was finally fixed (or so they said) around 9:00 and we set off for an all night trek.

Sunday, March 23, 2003
The engines stopped around 6:00, and it was pouring rain. But it doesn't rain underwater so we were diving at Barney's Reef by 6:40. It was a nice site with great stuff on the walls - leaf scorpion fish and soft coral crabs - and a few interesting things on the top of the reef. We came up, had breakfast and did a second dive there.

Leaf Scorpion Fish - GAL Photo

Leaf Scorpion Fish - MZ Photo

Long-nosed Hawkfish - GAL Photo

Anemone - MZ Photo

Anemone - GAL Photo

Anemone Fish - MZ Photo

Hi ya! - MZ Photo

Starfish - GAL Photo

Coral - MZ Photo

Reef Fish - GAL Photo

Stonefish - MZ Photo

Lion Fish - MZ Photo

Below are pictures of Orangutan Crabs and a Decorator Crab hiding on a soft coral. The Decorator Crab blends in perfectly with its habitat - it's very hard to pick him out in the top right photo, and nearly as difficult in the close-up below that.

Orangutan Crabs on Bubble Coral

Soft Coral with Decorator Crab

Decorator Crab on Soft Coral

We moved to Lama 2 for our third dive - a very pretty site. There were several shrimp in anemones, cuttlefish and crinoid shrimp. Fred found two Moray eels in a cleaning station - they open their mouths and a troop of cleaner shrimp run inside and clean their teeth, with no fear of being eaten. There was also a "Crown of Thorns Starfish" - a true reef predator. They eat the living reefs and are a scourge of the oceans.

Flatworm - MZ Photo

Cuttlefish - GAL Photo

Moray Eel - MZ Photo

Shrimp on Bubble Coral - MZ Photo

Anemone Shrimp - GAL Photo

Crown of Thorns Starfish - MZ Photo

After the dive, we had lunch - some spicy Asian soup, two salads, pork chops and fruit salad. We had a pretty rough crossing to Garove Island but it was calm when we got there.

The rain didn't let up until the late afternoon, and the clouds make it difficult to see well on the dives without lights. The afternoon dive was a "muck dive" - no corals, and a silty bottom. Not pretty, but lots of little critters - blue ribbon eels, pipe fish, nudebranchs.

Nudebranch - GAL Photo

Nudebranch - GAL Photo

Blue Ribbon Eel - GAL Photo

Blue Ribbon Eel - GAL Photo

Banded Pipefish - GAL Photo

I took a shower and relaxed, talking to Rob and Rosie about Australian wines and wine country. Neil and Lynn did the night dive and we had dinner after they came up. Jayne made roast beef, potatoes, and asparagus. Dessert was an amazing warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Monday, March 24, 2003
We moved to a nearby site called "Dickie's Knob" for our first dive. Lots of schools of baracuda, jacks. After breakfast we did a site called the Arches - two big swim-throughs at about 80' and a wide variety of critters on the walls and top of the reef.

Decorator Crab on Soft Coral - GAL Photo

Decorator Crab on Soft Coral - GAL Photo

Decorator Crab - GAL Photo

Anemone Fish - GAL Photo

Anemone Fish - GAL Photo

Nudebranch - GAL Photo

Nudebranchs - GAL Photo

Oriental Sweetlips - GAL Photo

Nudebranch - GAL Photo

Coral Shrimp - GAL Photo

We moved nearby and did a drift dive - we follow the current along the wall and the boat picks us up further down when we're done. We went in and immediately found two silvertip reef sharks that scouted us for a couple of passes. There were some lovely anemones, a sea turtle, big soft corals and sea fans.

Wiray Bay - 'Shut up and get in the water.' - KLM Photo

Wiray Bay - KLM Photo

The race begins at Wiray Bay - KLM Photo

Lunch was delicious - a cold gazpacho, salads, asparagus, snow peas, and fish. We moved to Wiray Bay, inciting a dugout race among a group of kids as Fred blew up balloons and tossed them out behind the boat. When they came up to the boat, Lynn and Susan had marking pens and hard candies for them.

Ballon Racing - KLM Photo

Balloon Race - KLM Photo

Lynn with children - KLM Photo

Balloon Race - KLM Photo

Wiray is a muck dive site, with a wide variety of critters - loads of pipefish, anemones, nudebranchs, blennies. I was threatened by some aggressively protective clown fish and had two stingrays underfly me - as I swam slowly about a foot off the sea floor, first one and later a second small stingray flashed right underneath me. We stayed down well over an hour.

Robust Pipefish - GAL Photo

Dwarf Pipefish - GAL Photo

Leaf Pipefish - GAL Photo

Pipefish - GAL Photo

I have no idea what this is - some kind of anemone? - GAL Photo

Blennie in Shell - GAL Photo

Flat Worm - GAL Photo

Nudebranch - GAL Photo

Panda Clown Fish - MZ Photo

Anemone - MZ Photo

Blennie in Shell - GAL Photo

Mark got a cute series of photos of a crab - the crab saw him, turned and dug himself into a hole, leaving just his eyestalks showing.

Crab - MZ Photo

Run! - MZ Photo

Dig! - MZ Photo

Whew! - MZ Photo

Coral Shrimp - GAL Photo

When we came up, Dickie Doyle was on board. We met him last year - he's an Aussie expat, living in PNG for 40 years. He has a copra plantation and a great muck dive site in front of his house that we'll dive tomorrow afternoon.

Dinner was roast chicken, rice, vegetables, with apple pie a la mode for dessert. I went to bed right after and went right to sleep.