Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Barracuda Point, Pig Island, Madang
On my trip to Madang in Papua New Guinea in October 1996, I did a total of 22 dives over a period of nine days (the other three days of our trip were spent travelling and sightseeing). While eight of the dives were on planes and shipwrecks, the remaining 14 dives were reef dives. These ranged from monster 60 metre dives down almost vertical walls to a shallow reef with a maximum depth of 12 metres. The one main thing that all these dives had in common was that they were drift dives.
As I have indicated in the other articles relating to this trip, I was staying at Jais Aben Resort which is about 16 kilometres north of Madang township. Most of the diving from here is done straight out, only five or ten minutes run from the resort. The quad harbours of Madang, Nagada, Mililat and Sek are created by a series of islands and a coral reef that connects these islands like a piece of string. The islands from the south near Madang are Kranket, Paeowai (Leper), Masses, Pig (Tab) and further to the north, Wangat (or Wangad). All the diving is on the outside of these reefs and islands or on the passages into the harbours.
There are a number of dive sites around Pig Island.
At the southern end of Pig Island there is a small passage between this island and Masses Island. Unlike most of the other passages around Madang, this is not a real deep pass and the depth is only five to ten metres at the most. While all the other passages are done as drift dives on an incoming tide, this dive has to be done on the outgoing tide to get the best out of the site.
As it is a fair bit shallower than other dives, it is almost always done as a second dive. After having a break off the small beach on the western side of Pig Island, you motor the 100 metres or so to just before the passage. Entering the water you find the depth is about nine metres which comes up to three metres in the middle of the pass before dropping to seven nine metres at the end of the pass. In this area is the Eel Garden.
he eels at this location are, as strange as it might seem, garden eels. Garden eels are very small eels that look more like large worms than eels. They live in a snady bottom and stick their heads and body up out and wave in the surge. As you approach the eels, they greadually retract back into the sand until just their tiny heads sitck out. When you get close they disappear completely.
I have only ever seen gardens eels in the Solomon Islands. As you swim out to the wreck of the Boeing B-17 bomber, Bessie, Jap Basher, off Dome (or Ndomo) to the north of Honiara. As you swim out to the plane from the shore you pass over a huge area that is totally covered in garden eels. Like that location, there are hundreds of eels but you cannot get close enough to see or photograph them no matter how careful you are.
The depth at the end of the Eel Garden is about 14 metres and past here it reaches 18 to 20 metres. After the garden you swim with the current to the north towards Barracuda Point. After about 25 minutes you will come across the wreckage of a very large catamaran. This reaches from 11 metres at the stern down to about 20 metres on the bow. You can swim into the hull of the vessel with no problems and it is quite an interesting bit of wreck to view. It was obviously scuttled as the engines and props have been removed.
From here you can swim a bit further to the south and the reef drops away to much greater depths. However, by now you will be short on air and bottom time so it is far wiser to ascend into the shallows where there is some very nice coral and excellent fishlife. A very easy, relaxing dive.
The water temperature was in the range of 28 to 29C. In the shallower sections the temperature was more than 30C. The sea conditions were always millpond, with no sign of a wave. The water conditions were quite good, although the visibility in the shallower sections was not as good as we might have liked or imagined. Nevertheless, it was still better than the average Sydney visibility (which is normally pretty good anyway).