Discovery in the Heart of the Coral Triangle (Flying Squid & Tiny Whales, Oh My!)
Diving and traveling among the preeminent female divers in the world is bliss! These women and their families and friends bring remarkable insights and richness to our trips. Everyone seems always ready for everything and the congeniality is so very high! There is a great depth of experience in sharing dives, meals, discovery treks and hilarity with these scientists, educators, physicians, Navy divers, artists and dive-trainers! WDHOF jaunts are unlike journeying with any other group of divers – the first to come to mind is the sense of fun! It seems divers are always up for fun and our members doubly so! We are sincerely welcome at each resort we visit!
One of our aims in WDHOF is to travel to not only celebrated dive destinations but also to be able to encounter the people, flora and fauna of the place as well! Our WDHOF member Cecilie Benjamin owns the Walindi Plantation in Papua New Guinea with her husband, Max, and she invited us to visit, so 24 of us did for 10 days!
Delight filled the evening air as the young dancing children performed in full tribal regalia, a troupe in training, preserving the traditional art of the native people of Kimbe Bay. Other evening diversions included a visit to the amazing synchronized light show of the fire flies, programs by distinguished scientists on a number of island and local marine topics including the astonishing secrets of the clown fish, one of a plethora of anemone-fish subspecies found in Kimbe Bay. We had a beachfront walk to nearby Mahonia Da Nari (Guardian of the Sea) Walindi Nature Center where we learned about, and even participated in, transplanting mangrove trees, attempting restoration following the emphasis on the lucrative palm oil trees. Other activities included a Hot River tour, mud bath jaunt, visiting the ruins of WWII planes (in the jungle and in the ocean). We marveled at the local birds during guided walks—no wonder it’s a major “birder” spot as well as notable for divers, too!
So many things to talk about! Among the largest oysters and clams I’ve ever seen, huge room-size sea fans, new types of corals (to me), rare invertebrates (a spaghetti worm, tiny tiny shrimp, pygmy sea horse, etc.). And oh my goodness, we witnessed incredible flying squid of all things, avoiding predators by staying air-borne for 3 seconds, new tiny wrasses and, most thrilling to us, was visiting with the small melon-headed whales, aka blackfish, whose main diet is squid, so no wonder those squid were flying, you would be, too!
It was hard to leave the water, some of our dives extended to 90 minutes—it was that fascinating and the water was that warm! Our dive-masters / guides kept us completely captivated. The underwater terrain is remarkably lovely, with sea mounts and walls with pelagics (wonderful huge, flowing schools of barracuda), caves, tunnels, caverns, swim-throughs as well as coral reefs, even some spawning going on, mysteriously streaming out from somewhere deep in the reef.
Our Walindi, Papua New Guinea holiday will long be recalled as enriching, exciting, enchanting, and great good fun! The gang, in no order, was Maida Taylor, Ed Kelly, Jennifer King, Joe Stich, Robin and Kiwi Parish, Michelle Pugh, Maureen Langevin, Michele Chan, Bonnie and Doug Toth, Pat Fitzgerald, Laura Rogers-Bennett, Susan Bangasser, Karin Lynn, Susan Kayar, Susan Copelas, Sue Morra, Sally Bauer, Lila Harris, Sherry Tamone, Mary Connelly, Steve Johnson, and Erin O’Neill. What a splendid group!
With the review and recommendation of Cecilie and key staff and scientists of Mahonia Da Nari, WDHOF awarded a special Basic Scuba Diving Training Grant to Liz Metta, a young woman from PNG who has shown a lot of enthusiasm for helping out with the Marine Environment Education Program (MEEP) for youth conducted at Mahonia Na Dari (MND) Research and Conservation Centre. She wants to complete her PADI diver Open Water Certificate and we are thrilled to be able to give back to the island and help her on her way.