Snorkelling in Milne Bay offers a whole host of diverse sites, from World War II wrecks, to reefs with steep drop-offs, and shallow coral gardens. Milne Bay snorkelling will be for many people their most cherished trip, swimming among the incredibly biodiverse coral reef systems of Solomon Sea.
Milne Bay is located in the south-easternmost reaches of Papua New Guinea in Milne Province, and was named after Sir Alexander Milne. The bay is 35 km long and 15 km wide, encircling a deep water harbour that is surrounded by the dense forests of Stirling Range to the north and south. To the north, a mangrove system is located in the shallow waters of the shoreline. The bay comprises over 600 islands and atolls, of which only around 160 are inhabited, scattered over an incredible 250 000 square kilometres.
Milne Bay serves as a site of great historic significance, being the location of the Battle of Milne Bay that was fought in 1942 during WWII. The deep waters harboured a fleet of an estimated 140 vessels in 1944.
Marine life in Milne Bay
Naturally, Milne Bay is the final resting place for many ship and plane wrecks, creating some incredible snorkelling. Three planes were ditched in the bay, including a B-24D Liberator heavy bomber, 'The Leila Belle', which remains missing to this day. War memorabilia remains strewn upon the sea bed throughout much of the bay, and has slowly been reclaimed by the reefs in many areas.
Pods of juvenile dolphin are frequently seen in the bay, attracted by the rich mangrove system. They often enjoy interacting with kayakers and snorkelers alike. The reefs feature many small table coral structures of a beautiful pink, as well as red branching corals. The highly territorial sergeant major, a species of damselfish, works to tirelessly guard its eggs and are very prevalent on the reefs here. Snorkel sites in Milne Bay hold many smaller and larger varieties of angelfish, often vividly coloured and a real treat for photographers. Lionfish remain largely motionless, primarily being a nocturnal hunter, allowing for really easy close-up photos to be taken (although be cautious not to touch its spines!).
Best snorkel sites in Milne Bay
Michelle's Reef is a stunning little wall that runs to maximum depth of 25 feet (7.5 m) and features an incredible array of macro species, including nudibranchs and even the occasional mimic octopus.
Taniaís Reef is a relatively large seamount, rising from the ocean seafloor before peaking just 8 feet (2.5 m) below the surface. The mount is densely populated with vibrantly coloured soft corals. Turtles frequent this mount, and are often curious of newcomers, providing excellent opportunities to take some fantastic photos.
Best time to snorkel in Milne Bay
It is possible to go throughout the year, although the best time to plan your snorkel trip to Milne Bay is during the dry season that lasts from June until September. Water temperatures average a very comfortable 82 Fahrenheit (28C) during the dry season, and dip slightly to 75 Fahrenheit (24C) in the wet season that lasts from December until March.
How do I get to Milne Bay?
A major attraction to Milne Bay is its remoteness, that provide some of the best snorkel spots in Papua New Guinea. As such, to reach your snorkelling tour, several connections will be needed to arrive at your departure port of Alotau. Long haul flights will usually connect via Singapore or Dubai before heading to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. From here a further connection can be caught to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, before your final flight to Alotau. Liveaboards are the ideal mode of transport for your snorkel tour in Milne Bay.