(Mostly by Simon. Lauren doesn’t tend to write about toilets.)
Papua paradise resort is everything you would expect, looking at their website online. Tropical beach with palms. Idyllic bungalows over the water with little sharks swimming between the pilings. Smiling faces. Diving.
What makes Papua paradise different, for Simon anyway, was a US one cent coin placed on the desk in our bungalow. We assumed a previous guest had left it. About an hour later, as we were assembling our cameras and underwater housings, Simon needed a small coin to use on the camera mounting screws. It then became apparent just how thoughtful and accommodating the staff here are for divers. There is even a room with A/C and all of the tools and gadgets needed to clean, service, and charge underwater cameras, which we have made good use of already!
We were having (delicious!) lunch when some kids exclaimed that they saw something in the water. “What’s that over there?” “I think it’s a manta ray”, Lauren said. After watching this thing (or things) move around for a few minutes, we could clearly see the rise and fall of pairs of wings, followed by a small, curved fin. Mantas. 100 meters away. Lunch was abandoned as we ran over and grabbed our fins and the camera.
Swimming out to sea, we found that the shallow reef flat in front of the resort abruptly ends and deep water begins. Beams of sunlight sparkled down into the depths. The rays seemed so tantalizingly close. We pressed on. We were almost there when the rays disappeared from the surface, presumably because we were making such a commotion. Turning around, we noticed that we were quite far from shore now… Suddenly, a black shape materialized into view. A single, large, and completely black manta swooped past us and disappeared into the deep. Fantastic.
We returned to the pier, where the kids had convinced one of the staff to ready a boat to find the mantas. We hopped on and joined the effort. It became apparent that the mantas don’t like boats and would quickly disappear when approached. After failing to get near them twice, we watched them from about 30 meters away, happily grazing on the surface. Lauren & Simon quietly entered the water and slowly swam towards them, the family following close. We were finally rewarded. The rays were feeding on dense numbers of little blue amphipods on the surface of the ocean. They would pass us, skimming the surface with their giant vacuum cleaner mouths, before flapping their wings and gliding away.
Overall, yesterday was a near perfect day. In addition to the manta encounter and constant delight over the perfection and thoughtfulness of Papua Paradise resort, we had three amazing dives near the house reef. The sheer number of fish, cryptic animals, and cool invertebrates was astounding. By dinner, we were writing to the grandparents’ “resort” requesting that Joey be sent over with diapers and sunscreen because we were never coming home.
(Just kidding – please don’t give our jobs away!)
There was a storm this morning. About 4:30 AM the wind and swell suddenly picked up. The bungalow, which is made from palm leaves and wood sourced from the local jungle, doesn’t exactly remind you of a sturdy fortress. The wind and rain were driving into the side of the building with scary force and causing the building to sway. Sitting on the toilet, you could feel the seat move as the pipes under the building were hit by swells!
Incredibly, however, not a single drop of rain came through the roof. After the sun came up, an inspection of the bungalow revealed no damage. While the place looked a little fragile, the quality of its construction became apparent to us when we saw that it had emerged from the squall unscathed.
We are enjoying the views and schooling baby black-tip reef sharks under the bungalows while we wait for the all-clear to get in the water again. Word is that the dive boats should be running again after lunch.