At breakfast one morning during our ten day live-aboard dive trip, we learned the trap, lowered the night before and baited with chicken yielded a chambered nautilus. Cousin to the octopus, the nautilus lives at depths of 2000 feet but rises to about 500 feet at night to feed on crab and shrimp. No telling us twice to suit up. We descended to 60’ to photograph and examine the mysterious creature who occasionally peeked out of his creamy shell with tanned markings.
Although my husband and I were both nearing 100 dives when we arrived in PNG, we had never encountered a seahorse before. Knowing they were at Observation Point, we carefully combed the area. Just as we were ready to give up, I looked down to find a yellow seahorse clinging to a bit of reed in the sand near where my hand rested. We were as excited as the shark hunters who had spotted some hammerheads a few days earlier or the photographer who ended up in the middle of schooling barracudas.
No one missed the 5:30 a.m. call to rise before breakfast and go ashore to visit the Bunama hot springs before the heat of the day made it impossible. On shore, a mother and her children greeted us. “My children want to see the white people,” she said. They followed us through their village to the path leading to the hot springs about a half-mile into the jungle. The tall grasses and bushes gave way to a clearing steaming from the boiling springs of hot mud and water bubbling through the stone floor. We waited a few times for the geyser to perform, took the posed tourist shots and then left as the sun was beginning to heat the morning sky.
On the way back through the village, a friendly teenager, proud of his pet, allowed the braver souls to hold his five foot green tree snake. I marveled at the simplicity of their life as we passed by the huts on stilts, mostly open with cloth draped for some privacy, and the “kitchens” separate from the sleeping huts that were equipped with a fire pit and some pots and pans.
A manta ray cleaning station was scheduled for our last morning dive before returning to Alotau and the trip home. We dropped to 30’ and surrounded a small bommie that the mantas were known to frequent. All of us knelt in the sand, bowing to the slight current, watching the waters around us wondering if they would come. The sun shone down, it’s rays playing on the bommie. I suddenly realized it was Sunday. We looked as though we were worshipping at an altar. The mantas never appeared but there was ample opportunity to give thanks for the wonderful sights we had seen and the people we had experienced in the paradise called Papua New Guinea.