New Britain is PNG’s largest island. East New Britain Province is the eastern part of the Island, where Rabaul is located, about 2 hours flight North East of PNG’s capital, Port Moresby. Since three of the volcanos which surround the caldera erupted simultaneously in September 1994, business and the airport have been relocated to Kokopo which is 20 km south east of Rabaul.
As with other PNG towns, Rabaul was the scene of WWII conflict, and war wrecks litter the land and surrounding reef systems. Many documentaries have been filmed in and around Rabaul. It has a history of strategic battles and volcanic eruptions, creating both amazing scenery and world-class diving.
At Bitapaka War Cemetery over 1000 Allied war dead are buried. The hillsides of Rabaul are honeycombed with nearly 600km of tunnels and caverns built by the Japanese. One huge passage cut into a hillside still houses five barges lined up in readiness for emergency. Avoided by the local people, many of the tunnels have not been entered since the war. Whole hospitals, living quarters, storage and workshop systems exist…many with natural ventilation that bears testimony to the industry and ingenuity of the Japanese. Coins, uniform buttons and buckles, bicycles, bottles, chains and ammunition and other relics are still being found by intrepid torch bearing tunnel explorers on the organised tours. Bats and the occasional pig add to the thrills!
Rabaul has long been known for its spectacular fish life and WWII shipwrecks and planes that litter the coastline. With countless pristine reefs and excellent visibility these waters boast a diverse array of pelagic and critters providing amazing underwater sightings and extraordinary photo opportunities. (Not to mention the added attraction of diving near an active volcano)
Simpson Harbour boasts a multitude of ships and plane wrecks from WWII when Rabaul was the biggest Japanese Naval and submarine base for the South Pacific. It was the fortified base and staging area for Japan’s invasion of Papua New Guinea.
However since the volcanic eruptions in 1994 only a handful of these wrecks are accessible to divers today and offer unique experiences enhanced by exhilarating reefs, walls and drop-offs. It is truly the Mecca for the adventurous scuba diver. The wrecks are in depths from 5 to 50 metres. You can penetrate through the bomb hole of the “Italy Maru” and wander down its huge empty corridors, or reflect on the fate of the Japanese Zero’s pilot from his seat in the cockpit.
Bi Plane Peter
This Mitsubishi World War II Japanese spotter aircraft which stands upright in 27 metres of water is in excellent condition. View colourful and beautiful corals and a wealth of marine life including moray eels, featherstars and puffer fish.
Tom, Dick and Harry
Three unique reefs joined by a submerged 15 metre- deep ridge. At this site, you’ll find large plate corals and barrel sponges, diverse critters, large schools of trevally and rainbow runners, plus if you hover at Tom you’ll be rewarded with mackerel and eagle rays passing by in the current.
A 5859 tonne Japanese transport vessel sunk December 27, 1943. The ship rests on her starboard side. Depth range is 31 metres to the topside and 45 metres to the sand. Visibility is usually around 15-25 metres and some good fish life inhabits the wreck.
The twisted steel and gaping holes tell their story of the vessel’s fate on November 2, 1943. It is home now to trevally, emperor, coral trout and moray eels who have located themselves on the remaining deck winches. The Manko Maru is an easy wreck to penetrate and a memorable dive.
This Japanese fighter plane, once a master of the air in the South Pacific arena, now lies on the sandy bottom. This is an example of the very last zero model ever manufactured. Virtually intact, divers can sit in the cockpit and pilot themselves back into the past. Depth range is approximately 32 metres to the bridge, 50 metres to the deck and 63 metres to the sand. Visibility is usually around 10-30 metres.
Pidgin Island Reefs
Dive a couple of spectacular walls and drop offs in a tidal current. Diving starts in 6 metres of water and increases. Visibility is usually around 15-25 metres.
Duke of York Islands
Several off shore reefs give divers a wide range of diving conditions including spectacular corals and diverse fish life. The dive starts in 6 metres of water. Visibility is usually 20-30 metres.
Two Japanese wartime tanks can also be dived in shallow water. Arrangements to land on the beaches to visit the villages between dives are an added bonus.
Originally a Japanese cable layer, later converted to lay mines. The vessel rests upright on a 35 degree slope. Depth range is 12 metres at the bow and 60 metres to the sand at the stern. The bridge area is around 30 metres. Visibility is usually 20-30 metres.
A reef to complete your safety stop has abundant sea life.
Sub Base Wall
A sheer coral faced wall which drops 200 metres to the bottom. It is right in front of the Sub Base Resort and has abundant marine life. Pontoons over the reef allowed Japanese submarines to replenish supplies and have relative safety from attack. Depth is 12 metres onwards. Visibility 20-30 metres.
Midway Reef (dive 1 West Wall)
Dive a spectacular wall with all types of fish. The dive starts in 6 metres of water and carries on. There are small interesting caves at 20 metres and the drift back to the boat affords all kinds of marine life. Visibility 15-25 metres.
Midway Reef (dive 2 East Wall)
Dive amongst spectacular Gorgonian fans and a coral wall with all types of fish. The dive starts in 6 metres of water. Visibility is 20-30 metres. Bring your camera!
Best time to Dive
With a tropical climate, warm waters averaging 29ºC, Diving can be done all year round.
Rabaul is located in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
Fly into Rabaul Airport from Port Moresby (about 2 hours).
We can organise a taxi/shuttle/boat transfer to the resort.
Rabaul beach front accommodation including studio rooms, large and small bungalows and budget guesthouse accommodation.
We'll find you the best value deals in the most amazing destinations. Let your active travel journey start with us!