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DOING IT TUFF IN TUFI – PART 2

By Nigel Marsh & Helen Rose

 

We always enjoy a diving destination with a house reef. There is nothing better than spending a relaxing hour, or two, on a shallow site and shooting photos to your hearts content. On a recent trip to Tufi we spent every afternoon exploring the house reef and found a magic muck spot with something for everyone.

 

Tufi Resort is located in Oro Province, on the north east coast of Papua New Guinea, and is set in a very unique location, in the middle of a region of ancient fjords that are fringed by coral reefs. The resort has 23 air-conditioned bungalows and caters for divers or anyone after a little adventure, be it bushwalking, canoeing, bird watching or visiting some of local villages.

 

We of course came to dive and had a fantastic time exploring Tufi’s offshore reefs each morning where we saw beautiful corals, abundant fish, turtles, reef sharks, cuttlefish and even hammerhead sharks. But every afternoon we had time to ourselves to either relax around the resort or explore the Tufi house reef.

 

The house reef is located right in front of the dive shop, in the fjord below the resort. When we first arrived it didn’t look that appealing, with green water on the surface and a muddy shoreline. But once under the surface layer the visibility cleared to 15m and a whole world of muck critters were waiting to be found.

 

There are a number of areas to explore on this house reef, which has muck, reef and sea grass beds. The bottom here quickly slopes away into 45m, but the best critters are found above 12m, and one of the most interesting spots was only 2m deep, right under the two jetties. In the rocks under the jetties were hundreds of pipefish, plus nudibranchs, moray eels, lionfish, anglerfish and numerous cardinalfish. Also hidden here are spectacular Mandarinfish, which emerge at night to feed and mate.

 

Turning left from the jetty is the most popular dive on the coral gardens. We were surprised how rich this reef was, and found several species of anemonefish, mantis shrimps, hermit crabs, shrimp gobies, crocodilefish, octopus, lionfish, flatworms, crayfish and a group of flashing file shells. The silty bottom here is also home to a surprising number of twin-spot gobies, the most we have seen on any muck dive.

 

Heading right takes you deeper into the bay, where sea grasses dominate the shallows. It is quite a lot of fun to swim amongst the long strands of sea grass, where sea horses are said to be found. We didn’t find sea horses but did see cuttlefish, shrimps, lionfish, upside down jellyfish, scorpionfish and nudibranchs. There are also numerous coral outcrops here, with one home to a group of beautiful pyjama cardinalfish.

 

The Tufi Jetty is a bit of a junk yard, with most of this junk now covered in coral and home to marine life. But some of the most interesting junk here dates from World War II, when Tufi was an American PT Base. As you descend down the slope into deep water you will see 44 gallon drums, old steel beams and even a Landrover. But the best is at 46m, where the remains of two PT boats lie, having been destroyed by a fire that engulfed the jetty. Most of the timber in the hulls of these boats has disappeared, but there is a machine gun and two torpedos to be seen.

 

We had a wonderful week toughing it out in Tufi and explored only a tiny percentage of the amazing dive sites in the area. We will definitely be returning to dive more of its reefs, fjords and two of the best wreck dives in Papua New Guinea - S’Jacob and Blackjack.

 

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