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Surface shot of the Japanese Submarine Base - Courtesy of Rik Vercoe

Scuba Diving in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Submarine Base

Location: Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

Description: Reef / drift

Depth: 5 - 50 metres (16 - 164 feet)

Visibility: 25 metres + (80 feet)

Rating: *****

The Submarine Base is quite literally the location of an old submarine base used by the Japanese in WWII. Located on the shoreline at Tavui this is where Japanese submarines would come right up to the vertical reef wall before crew literally ran across the reef top and into tunnels hewn out of the rock face - there are hundreds of kilometres of tunnels all around the Rabaul area. The Japanese soldiers used the close vicinity of such depth to bring the submarines to within metres of the shore and load torpedoes.

We arrived at the site by truck and entered the water from the shore. After swimming just 5 metres over the reef top it plummeted away and the sheer depth of the vertical drop made it feel more like BASE jumping than SCUBA divng. Glancing over my shoulder whilst still on the surface, I could see the entrances to at least 4 tunnels disappearing into the rock face before we began our descent. We dropped like stones following a large gouge in the reef where a dropped torpedo had sliced its way down before coming to rest precariously at around 20 metres. We reached our maximum depth of 52 metres and could easily see all the way to the surface - the colourful reef above was almost obscured by the plethora of marine life. The current was effortlessly taking us along the reef wall past huge gorgonian fan corals and fields of pink and blue soft corals as we gently ascended. Black-eye trevally, tuna and jacks were in large shoals near the vertical wall and as we rounded the point at 25 metres the action really started. First there were numerous white-tip sharks patrolling the reef above and below us, and then as we looked out into the blue there were larger grey reef sharks cruising in the current, easily identifiable by the black strip which runs down the rear length or their tail fins. At first we saw 2 quite close to us as they came in for a closer look, then as our eyes adjusted to the blue there were dozens alongside us, around 3 metres in length and gliding effortless against the current which was taking us past their hunting ground. As we excitedly ascended to 6 metres, small clownfish darted out of their anemones keen to show us who were boss and a large hawksbill turtle munched on the hard coral before swimming towards the surface. Damselfish, purple tangs and anthias covered the stony corals and just as we were about to finish our final stop and head for the surface a solitary 2 metre long bumphead wrasse came in to feed, crushing coral on the ash covered slope with its ominous looking parrot-like beak.

Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor

Just wondering if there is still diving on the Haki Maroo or the Kensen (sorry if the spelling of these is very wrong). Both are in the harbour, one at 130 feet and the other down to about 180 feet. I used to live to dive these in the early 80's.

Mark Hinton

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