Monday, May 12, 2008

A whale of a time

By ANGE HELLBERG (all pictures of Orcas at Kimbe Bay by THOMAS KULN)

It may come as some surprise to realise that Orca, normally seen in documentaries featuring ice floes, penguins and cold water can be found in the Bismarck and Solomon Seas.
Guests of Walindi Plantation Resort in Kimbe Bay had the pleasure of seeing these fantastic animals close-up!
Resident within the huge area of the Bismarck and Solomon Seas, the Orca is an unusual sight in our beautiful tropical waters as they prefer to hunt far out to sea.
Occasionally though, there is the once in a lifetime opportunity to see these utterly spell binding creatures closer to land.
Kimbe Bay, home to Walindi Plantation Resort, is a favoured haunt of the Orca, with regular sightings throughout the year.
Staff and guests of Walindi enjoyed their first sighting in June 2006, when a small pod of six Orcas, intrigued by the thrum of the engines, came to investigate the dive boat and its occupants.
Specially designed boom nets which extend from the boat allowed guests the opportunity to examine the Orcas from the water, hanging onto the boom nets, snorkels firmly in place.
The boat cruises slowly through the water, with the Orca surfing in the bow wake scant meters below the entranced guests.
The Orcas spent about an hour playing in the waters around the boat, before, as if obeying an unheard signal, they turned to resume hunting, disappearing as quickly as they had appeared.
With a maximum length of 10m and weight of 9t, the Orca, whose proper name is Killer Whale or Orcinus orca, is the largest representative of the Delphinoidae.
The characteristic black-and-white pattern and a vertical dorsal fin that can reach up to 1.8m in height on a male mammal make it easy to identify this species.
Other typical features include an elliptical white patch over each eye and a white patch on the underside.
Orcas are very playful and inquisitive.
They often breach, spy-hop and perform other acrobatics.
They are fast swimmers, reaching speeds of up to 55km/h, although the average speed is around 15/20km/h, according to Whales & Dolphins, Cetacean World Guide by Ralf Kiefner.*
The guys and girls on Mike Ball’s Paradise Sport got to enjoy the visit of another large creature.
A whale shark came to say G’day at Tingwon Island, west of New Hanover in New Ireland Province.
When I talked to Skipper Pete, he told me that Peters Patch “went off”!
It was like all the fish in the area were having a meeting right there, even a marlin came in to check things out.
The 17 guests on board were also treated to huge schools of Barracuda that were following them around on a number of dive sites.
We, too, had a slightly unusual sighting with a 3.5m Hammerhead scaring the wetsuits off some divers, enthralling others.
Guests from Lissenung Island Resort were diving Nusa Blowholes, off Nusa Island just opposite Kavieng, when the shark came along, having a good look at the divers, and then deciding that they probably would not be very tasty in their rubber suits.
Our Italian friend Guiseppe got this great shot with his small digital camera!
Last but not least, we saw some great things on land, too.
The local Malagan Show was held in Kavieng for the first time in many years on July 17 and 18, 2006, shortly after the Rabaul Mask Festival.
Sing-sing groups from New Britain, the Highlands, of course New Ireland Province and other regions descended on Kavieng to perform during the show.
The costumes were fantastic, very colourful and with lots of eye for detail.
One of the local groups performed a dance that celebrates the famous Shark Calling tradition.
All the tools needed were included in the dance and they even had a carved shark “swimming” around the podium.
Locals and tourists alike enjoyed the festivities and we almost had to drag our guests back to the resort at the end of the day.
We sure hope that many more Malagan Shows in Kavieng are to come!
Happy and safe diving again this weekend!
· Ange Hellberg is the Marketing Manager for Lissenung Island Resort in Kavieng, New Ireland Province. You can contact her on and have a look at their website on .

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