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Heaven on Earth

Papua New Guinea
Mar 09 2009 Written by: Pedro O'Connor

If there is a Heaven on Earth I think I found it.

Located on the north east coast of Papua New Guinea is the amazing geological region known as the Tufi Fiords. They are not glacial fiords, but riais, formed eons ago when three massive volcanoes erupted simultaneously spewing fingers of molten lava down the slopes into the crystal clear waters of the Solomon Sea. These calm water havens are home to the Oro people who still live a self subsistence lifestyle in this Peter Pan movie backdrop. The verdant, equatorial jungle marches to the ocean shore, where you can swim in the shade of forest giants at high tide, bathe beneath plunging waterfalls while on the bow of your boat and dive in the most fecund waters on the planet.

Offshore there are 2,000 individual reefs, many of which have never been dived. The biodiversity underwater is staggering; from the tiniest, most colourful nudibranchs to marauding schools of 6 ft long barracuda. A first for me after 30 years of diving was swimming in close proximity to a 12 ft albino hammerhead shark. I did not know they existed, never mind that I would be sharing the water with one that day. You cannot underestimate what one might see in PNG waters.

One of the enduring highlights for me is the local people. They are well mannered and have no agenda. They do not try to hawk anything as they have nothing to sell. What they give in abundance is a big smile and a friendly wave of the arm to make you feel at home. I took parcels of my children’s old school books and clothes to give to villagers and had one of the best days of my life interacting with the children and adults alike. You give a little and get a lot.

Although there are no roads to Tufi, there is a hidden gem to rest your head. Tufi Dive Resort, an ambience-filled lodge perched on the cliffs overlooking one of the coral fringed fiords, is stunning. The timber bungalows are very comfortable, clean, secure and ideally situated to take advantage of the tropical panorama. The service comes with a heartfelt smile. You just can’t help but be warmed by the locals’ genuine beauty of character. If crayfish, coconut and fresh reef fish are to your liking, you will not go hungry. The quality of the food is outstanding for a remote outpost in the wilds of this water wonderland.

We all have a Bucket List and the Tufi Fiords are causing mine to overflow, just like those volcanoes a million years ago.

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