The flight into Tufi
We’ve come off our Kokoda trek in the last 24-hours and are continuing on to Tufi for some diving and relaxation. Our trekkers are over the moon because it’s their first time to be visiting one of Papua New Guinea’s scuba diving and fishing gems. It’s 22nd July 2015 and the flight from Popondetta’s Girua Airport is just minutes from touch down. They are wiggling in their seats just to catch a better glimpse of the breathtaking aerial views. And they can’t wait for their first dive of the turquoise waters and coral reefs below.
The PNG pilots show extreme discipline and focus, the touch down on the local strip is as smooth as silk. After disembarking, we are met by an employee from the boutique Tufi Resort who shows us to our accommodation which will be our home away from home. After checking-in and welcome drinks, we head straight for the resort balcony to catch a glimpse of the majestic Tufi fjords. Tufi basin is the only place in PNG with fjord lands which are huge networks of narrow inlets carved by what scientists believe to have been retreating glaciers from the world’s Last Ice Age.
The touristy hub
It’s obvious with the influx of tourists streaming in and out of the area that Tufi has come of age. Tufi in earlier years hasn’t experienced anything of this magnitude. Business is booming in Tufi due to tourism. The former commercial fishing hub back in the 80’s has been transformed into a sought-after destination for tourists from around the globe – mainly Australia, the Americas, Europe and Asia – wanting a piece of Tufi’s scuba diving, fishing, snorkelling and cultural experience. Small and medium enterprises are ripping the rewards from the local tourism trade. Its airstrip is abuzz with regular flights from third level airlines. Of the 70,000 tourists that visit PNG each year, it seems Tufi is getting a very good percentage.
Tufi and the Kokoda Track
Tufi and the Kokoda Track share a bond because they’re both in PNG’s Oro Province. In fact, Kokoda sits on the very doorstep of the iconic WW2 track. It’s a fantastic destination for trekkers to relax and chill after nine to 10 days of arduous trekking through the rugged and muddy jungles of the Owen Stanley’s. Tufi is located 130 kilometres southeast of the Kokoda Track and 237 kilometres east of Port Moresby.
You can’t get there by vehicle or boat unless there are roads and you own a yacht or are visiting on a cruise ship. The only passenger ferry service, Rabaul Shipping, servicing Tufi with ports along the north coast such as Alotau, Oro Bay and Lae stopped after one of its ships, the MV Rabaul Queen, sank in 2012 killing 140 passengers on board. But you can get there by air. PNG Air has weekly flights into Tufi from Port Moresby on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s. If you plan on visiting after walking the Kokoda Track, we’ll fly you out of Popondetta’s Girua Airport. The airline has flights on Monday’s from Popondetta.
Tapa cloth notoriety
Tufi and the Oro Province are notorious for the production of tapa cloth. It’s produced from beating drenched strips of the fibrous inner bark of trees from the Moraceae family (commonly known as the Mulberry Tree). Tapa cloth is a traditional dress worn by males and females during important cultural festivals.
A diver and fishermen’s paradise
You need to have Tufi on your bucket list if you’re a diver or fisherman. Apart from its cultural attractions which makes it such a unique destination, it’s one of the world’s best diving and fishing locations. We uncovered from the dives ourselves and contact with other divers that Tufi is an underwater natural and historical oasis. Its ocean floors are covered with war relics such as boats, ships and vehicles, from its military past as the location of an Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) station, and a US Navy patrol torpedo boat base in WW2. You can also dive offshore reefs which are habitats to rare and exotic marine plants and animals apart from the wreck dives. Or muck-dive back at the fjord which provides a mesmerising contrast of life underwater before and after dark. We are told muck diving is a favourite among semi-professional and beginner divers.
You must not forget to go bottom, game and estuary fishing which is one thing we didn’t do. We can organise fishing tours for groups and there is a tour quota for the charters. Tufi’s waters are amassed with big fish species such as Yellow Fin Tuna, Spanish Mackerel, Trevally and Barracuda. Try out different artificial lures and live baits and see which ones work best and for what fish species. We suggest game fishing if you’re a recreational fisherman. And the best time to fish is during the Mackerel spawning season from September – January.
You can also get yourself on less intrusive holiday activities like swimming and be sunbathing on a beautiful sandy beach and enjoying the sunshine and tropical warmth. Here’s is a list of activities you may be interested in:
- Take a traditional outrigger canoe and explore the coast.
- Snorkel clear crystal waters with friends.
- Go birdwatching to spot different bird species.
- Stay in a village overnight and experience the traditional lifestyle.
Staying in Tufi
We stayed at the beautiful Tufi Resort which has deluxe air condition and fan bungalows with a restaurant and a fully-stocked bar. You can do what we did or stay a few nights in a village guesthouse away from the resort. You’ll get the opportunity to experience the culture, interact with the locals, and learn their way of life.
Visit and afterthoughts
We suggest that you visit Tufi at any time of the year except July, August, and September which are windy. There are two seasons in PNG – the dry season (May – October), and wet season (November – April). These seasons are driven by the north-west monsoonal winds and south-east trade winds. PNG generally has a warm tropical climate and temperatures can range anywhere between 25 – 32 degrees.
Would we recommend Tufi as an ideal destination for you? The answer is an absolute yes. In contrast to other PNG destinations, Tufi’s got the whole package. It’s a great place to relax and unwind with family, friends and people who share your interests.
See our Tufi-Kokoda getaway trips in our tours page for tour ideas.