Our hiking adventures have slowed down as we made it to the coast of PNG this week. The last few months have been mountain and jungle intensive so I was eagerly awaiting the coastal change. We were warmly greeted by a man with a quirky hat and a name badge lettering ‘BUSY BEE’. Each region of PNG we’ve been to has had its own local legend, Busy Bee was the local legend of Madang.
I’ve definitely become a lover of the mountains this year but being by the coast always excites me. Driving through streets lined with endless tall palms made my tropical heart sing. This week we’re staying at Madang Resort, a fantastic resort with a focus on diving and island-hopping.
Back down at sea-level, I woke up with a resting heart-rate of 35. Maybe the benefits of the ‘altitude training’ at Mt. Wilhelm were already paying dividends. It was time to hit the water and see what the reefs and islands of Madang had to offer. From the pictures we had seen, I knew we were in for a fantastic day. Despite spending so much time in the ocean and doing plenty of free-diving, I am yet to acquire my scuba diving certification. Thankfully, Madang Resort had a full team of dive operators and instructors that would run me through the basics and take me out for my first ever dive. I was slightly excited and nervous about the thought of scuba diving, I have always been using to exploring off the capacity of my own lungs.
The plan was to explore a sunken ship-wreck and crashed fighter jet from WWII. I couldn’t believe where I was about to do my FIRST EVER scuba dive. The boys ran me through the basics and safety of scuba and had me prepared for the wreck. The feeling of being able to breathe underwater for the first time was strange. A good kind of strange. My ability to consume the air slowly was poor but they said all first-time scuba divers are like that. Accompanied by Jackson and our divemaster, we set off to a depth of 20 metres to explore the shipwreck. After freediving on shipwrecks in the Philippines early this year, I knew that it was going to be fascinating. Trying to imagine the real-time moment that the ship sunk blows my mind, I really can’t fathom the turmoil of the war. The scuba dive was short but that was due to my newly limited skill-set. After settling at the bottom of the ocean, I started to enjoy the relaxing nature of scuba diving. In contrast to free-diving which is a very athletic endeavour, scuba diving was tranquil. After the shipwreck, we set off to find the crashed fighter jet. What a way to start my scuba diving adventures, the bar has been set high early.
Whilst on the water, we made stops to other reefs and islands. PNG has continually blown me away with its an array of landscapes that cover everything from coral reefs to high mountain peaks. We kayaked and climbed palms, it was a brilliant day out with the Madang Resort dive boys.
CAVE JUMPING – HAILIKU VILLAGE
The next day, our new friend Busy Bee picked us up and took us to one of the local villages in Madang. We had no idea what we were in for no matter how many times Busy Bee tried to explain the upcoming activities.
We drove along the infamous bumpy PNG roads until we eventually found ourselves in a local village. Again, the greeting from the village made us feel like we’re already apart of it. We set off through their crops and along jungle paths, slowly growing our squad as the walk went on. At the end of the path, we came to a halt. What we found was a large and very dark cave that seemingly presented an opening to the abyss. Around stood all the villagers who were equally intrigued about the cave as we were. The base of the cave was filled with water but nobody knew how deep it was. We were told that no-one from the village had ever jumped in before. We were about to be the first people to jump into this mysterious cave but not before doing a depth check. To do the depth check, the local diver brought along his dive watch and tied it to a rock which he would then lower down on a piece of string. It was an exciting contraption but no-one else had any other ideas. Discovering that the water in the cave was deep enough to jump into, Jackson found his footing and launched off. Locals cheered, smiled and laughed as his head resurfaced in the dark water of the cave. I was next and then the locals followed. A new area to play was now open.
As the day continued, it appeared we had been adopted by the village. Our initial squad of 8 had grown to nearly 50 as we walked along the rivers and paths of their village. Everyone wanted to be in on the fun; we swum in waterholes, found more caves to explore and watched young children climb tall beetle nut trees.
I would have never imagined at the start of the day that I’d jump into a dark cave. It wasn’t an adventure you’d find on your typical itinerary but it will be one I’ll remember for a long time.
Our time in Madang was short and sweet, I can’t wait to continue exploring the oceans of PNG.