Other Dive Sites
There are other spectatcular dives accessable by the kalibobo Spirit
This area is particularly sheltered and dives can be made in nearly all conditions except when there is a north-westerly wind. There may sometimes be a slight current on the reef. When the sea is very calm the MTS Discoverer is anchored on a broad coral formation 5 metres below the surface. It is, however, usually preferable to sink anchor in front of Dinah's Beach and transfer divers by dinghy to the diving point, from where they swim towards the beach to the boat. It is best not to anchor over the diving point because there are corals of all kinds, form and colour, some truly singular, and they would be irreparably damaged by the anchor or chain.
The plants growing on the emerging rocks, probably due to particular current conditions and the shade create this concentration of corals and gorgonians, one of which is really huge. If you observe the gorgonians carefully, you will find several types of shell camouflaged; they cover themselves with a mantle that perfectly reproduces the appearance of expanded coral polyps.
The dive can also be made on the wall descending to 50 metres; hammerhead sharks and eagle rays have often been sighted at this point. The wall is certainly less interesting than the top of the reef but with a little luck and an attentive eye you will see the tapering silhouette of a shark in the blue depths. The rocky wall of the coast has numerous crevices, some very deep; there is also a cave that can only be visited with the proper equipment. This dive does not present any particular difficulties and is suitable for all levels. The plateau 8 metres below the surface is also a good place for a night dive.
There is great activity all over the wall and on the upper part of the reef with shoals of fish passing incessantly. As you rise you will see a multicoloured array of crinoids attached here and there like flowers. The dive is not difficult despite the presence of surface current. If you stop along the reef and look towards the open sea you will often see large tuna fish streaking past the wall, probably in search of prey, while small shoals of carangids and fusilierfish swim all around the bank in a whirl of silver reflections.
At depths of 20-30 metres it is fairly common to encounter a stationary group of 4-5 batfish; these will allow you to approach almost until you are touching them.
When the current is flowing from south-east the boat is anchored on the northernmost tip of the reef; the dive is therefore made in the opposite sense to come to the same places. In this case the route is slightly longer.
On return to the top of the reef you will find several anemones with their clownfish and careful observation of the coral reef will often reveal a blenny peeping out of its den. As you have to return to the point of departure, any necessary stops for decompression can be made on the anchor chain or on the trapeze situated three metres below the surface for this purpose.
Quark Rock (Island) - (Egum Atoll)
The boat is anchored on the south side of the island to avoid the current from the north. You can dive all around the rock: the conditions underwater are fairly uniform, a plateau lies at a depth of 6 metres, then the walls, not densely covered with vegetation except for the odd sheltered crevice, drop vertically. Between the plateau and the reef you can see numerous yellow alcyonarians and nudibranchs, lobsters and moray live in the crevices in the walls.
The purpose of this dive is to seek pelagic and passing fish; sightings, however, depend mainly on the intensity of the current which determines and controls the flow of fish around the Rock. If the current is not too strong you can dive from the MTS Discoverer anchored to the south and reach the plateau 6 metres below the surface, move to the northern side and descend along the wall, where shoals of barracuda live. Looking deeper you will make out the silhouettes of grey sharks; it is not unusual on the edge of the drop to meet smaller, white-finned sharks. All around the rocks there are carangids, during the mating period swimming in pairs, the male with dark markings and the female the usual silver colour. Mantas, tuna fish and ocean sharks may arrive at any time out of the blue.
If the current is strong or you want to avoid swimming to the southern side, the best solution is to use a zodiac to reach the diving spot and then drift with the current on one of the two sides of the rock towards the boat at anchor.
Both on the wall and on the plateau at a depth of 6 metres you will spot various types of fish in shoals or alone, dented sweetlips and soldierfish to name but a few. The plateau also has hard coral formations of a lovely green-yellow colour and it is not unusual to see large crabs and yellow hermit-crabs. When the current is strong only the most experienced should dive. No night dives are made at Egum Rock because it is best to moor the MTS Discoverer at Egum atoll after sunset.
Hollis Reef (East Cape)
The bank rises from a seabed at 600 metres to 6 metres below the water surface; the walls drop fairly steeply towards the bottom. All the walls are interesting and rich in vegetation but the south-east one is definitely the most lush.
Below 30 metres you may encounter grey sharks that will maintain their distance. In 1988 Bob Halstead and his wife Dinah accompanied Ron and Valerie Taylor on this bank for a shark feeding experiment.
The main feature of this dive is the forest of yellow and red gorgonians, some truly remarkable in extension that covers the south-east wall.
Dimensions, forms, colours and number are amazing but their singularity lies in the fact that they grow horizontally not vertically as is the norm (probably because the wall is so sheer or perhaps the high waves and rough sea have made them change direction).
There are also barrel sponges, whip corals and alcyonarians; humphead wrasse can be spotted swimming in circles above the gorgonians, as too various species of gregarious fish. Large anemones are also to be found with their clownfish and cowrie concealed beneath their shell.
At the top of the bank there are low formations of hard corals with anthias swimming through them and, if you look carefully, you will also see the odd blenny peeking out of its den.
There is no night diving at Hollis Reef. The bank is a distance from the coast and offers no shelter so the MTS Discoverer is moored inside the atoll.
This dive is suitable for all levels of experience.
Two Tank Dive
After diving down to the sandy bottom, proceed towards the wrecks. The shallow water and type of sea bed calls for cautious movement to avoid raising the suspension with your flippers, thus ruining visibility. Discovered by Frank Butler, an expert on the waters around Rabaul, the two Japanese tanks lie one in front of the other, parallel to the coast. They are in excellent condition despite having been underwater for fifty years; only the two cannons are missing. Around the two wrecks you will see the remains of a landing vessel which, quite probably, was carrying the tracked vehicles to the island; this must have been bombed and sunk, leaving them in their present position.
Swimming around the wrecks, you will also see ammunition, mechanical parts, tin plates, cups and other personal effects of the vessel’s crew. If you have time left after visiting the wrecks, you can explore the whole surrounding area, which harbours many surprises. Besides the small coral fish you will see crocodilefish, dowries, starfish and many gobies. This dive presents no difficulties and can be made even by beginners. The area around the tanks can also be of interest for those who dive without air, a mask, mouthpiece and flippers will suffice for a fascinating perusal from the surface.
Mitsubishi Zero, Rabaul
The aeroplane had a wingspan of 12 metres, was 9 metres long and weighed 1680 kilos when empty. Capable of reaching a maximum speed of 545 kilometres per hour, it was usually armed with two small 20 mm cannons installed in the wings and two 7.7 mm machine guns behind the engine hood. If needed it could also carry up to 120 kilograms of bombs. This plane’s exceptional manoeuvrability and its range gave the Japanese a distinct air supremacy for the first months of the war in the Pacific.