I agree with odinnthor about being careful whilst swimming in this area.
Planet Rock in Astrolabe Bay is renowned for it's beauty and plethora of fish,coral and other sea creatures.I have not snorkelled or dived in this place so am unable to advise you but I have been out on a boat when others have explored under water.They say the starfish are incredible.
Like most places you need to be aware of sharks but as odinnthor already mentioned the bacteria is usually from the coral.You can protect yourself somewhat by wearing a wet suit or by being aware of the tides etc.
Enjoy your swim at Madang and watch out for the amazing sunsets.
Being the capital of PNG, Port Moresby is highly populated compared to other regions of new guinea and hence crime rate are very high here. Like any place, surround yourself with lots of people and you should be generally fine, however stay away from backstreets and generally isolated places, expecially at night. Woman should always be accompained by at least one male. Many blame the high unemployment rate into driving adults and youths alike into powerful raskol gangs.
Avoid driving at night..car hijackings have been reported
In the 2 weeks I stayed there, our group never experienced an incident of crime, then again we were only there for two weeks...
from my own experience the locals there are lovely human beings...but just with any place there is good and bad everywhere and it is important to exercise caution expecially in an unknown city.
Forget car jackings, armed robbery, murder by decapitation, police brutality and the like (although these are problems). The two biggest hazards in PNG are being spat on with beetlenut juice and road rage. Being spat on with beetlenut juice is akin to someone spitting a mouthful of blood at you. Get that out of a pair of white boardies! The other problem road rage - not others but controlling your own. Drivers in PNG for some reason think it to be acceptable to drive at 10km (their time is plentiful, their petrol ain't) and to stop in the middle of the road to say g'day to someone walking on the street. In fact, not just saying 'hi' but having an extended conversation. People also jump from the sidewalk in front of your moving car to cross the road. They don't wait for you to pass. Driving can be like playing that 'frogger' arcade game, only you in the car are the frog dodging the pedestrians who seem to show no concern for their safety. It's unbelievable. Police roadblocks are aso a pain. Carry your licence, a pack of ciggarettes or spare kina. The police will accept all of the above as identification.
There were robberies, mostly at night of course, because of the financial differences between the average Papuan and the expatriate community. Generally it was not too bad at that time - it is worse now. Another major problem was if you were involved in an accident of some sort. There was a custom of 'compensation' or instant justice. The rule of thumb was to head for the nearest police station before the gathering crowd decided to mete out their own justice. One of the Australian engineers that I worked with was roughed up quite badly after an accident in the mountains above Moresby - and it could have been worse! Photo of a fishing village on the outskirts of Moresby - not a good place to wander around in at night.
I wasn't brave enough to actually take a photo of the large, bloodstained stones (very faintly stained) where some of the Middle Sepik villagers told us their parents or elders once eddied up their enemies' bodies...
I did take this photo from a distance of one such village where the natives were not at all ashamed (nor should they be, since that was part of their cultural practice) to describe how they viewed cannabilism and why they once practiced this activity...it was fascinating to hear them speak of it, really.
We learned that the villagers didn't engage in random acts of cannabilsm; rather, this was reserved for special occasions, marking the defeat of their enemy which they did by carving their bodies up and eating them - it was thought that they would assume the warrior aspect of their enemy and further subdue the enemy tribe in this way.
Every Sepik village seemed to have a stationary, carved out canoe and paddle. To announce warfare, someone would approach the canoe and knock the paddle back and forth against the insides of the canoe which resulted in a loud, echoing noise - kind of like an alarm system if you will. The sound of the canoe being beaten like this was a signal that a fight was about to break out, so get prepared.
It's been at least a generation (maybe two) since these tribes engaged in cannabilism, so we weren't scared nor did we feel threatened in any way.
Here we see a sign in the airport that basically states that no beetlenut chewing is allowed. This is because the beetlenut, when mixed together in the saliva with a mustard stick, takes on a narcotic effect and many PNGers go around stoned on the stuff.
But that's not the offensive part - what annoys everyone is that the person chewing beetlenut has to eventually spit it out, and most PNGers spit wherever they feel like it, making an unsightly mess not to mention the damage and teeth rot imposed upon the person doing the chewing.
This sign also serves as a cool example of the curious "Pidgin English" widely used throughout PNG. (if you click on the photo you'll see both the pidgin version and the regular English version of the Beetlenut warning)
Sometimes our desire to travel overrides our sense of self-preservation.
In this case, I figured the best thing to do was to fall asleep and DREAM that I had a seat belt to buckle....
Then again, if there was to be some unforeseen accident, I suppose the loose bananas or other boxed and bagged cargo could always serve as a buffer between self and the fuselage.....
I'm sure that's what the pilots also had in mind when flying the plane.
In any event, my neighbor obviously didn't seem to be too bothered by the absence of standard safety devices.
At our lodge in the Karawari (Lower Sepik Region), this little lorikeet was a big moocher! He swooped into the dining hall every morning, looking for handouts.
Obviously he got them!
Moral of the story: be on the lookout for hungry birds hoping to join you for a bit of breakfast....
I brought some of these home-made cigarettes back to the States with me because I found it so curious that they wrap the tobacco in newspaper....and the newspaper itself was pretty interesting (of course I couldn't understand a word).
But use caution if you actually want to try smoking them....remember that this is raw, unprocessed tobacco and extremely carcinogenic.
The locals warned us that you can get a slight buzz off of them.
My camera battery ran out 3 days into our trip, and we hadn't even left the Highlands yet. (like an idiot, I'd forgotten to check battery status or bring extras).
Of course there weren't any shops up there in the Highlands and our next destination was to stay at another wilderness lodge along one of the Sepik river tributaries, so I knew my luck had run out. I could not believe I was going to be facing 2 weeks without my camera...no photos to bring back with me as a reminder of this trip....
Well, our guide must have contacted someone who contacted someone who put in a call to someone who knew someone in Port Moresby (pause for air!), because the day after I made this discovery, we were headed to the airport strip in Tari ready to take off for the next destination, when a local villager came running up to me excitedly waving his hands in the air.
I was escorted to a makeshift office where lo and behold - there was a new camera battery, sealed in its package - waiting for me to claim it before boarding the plane.
It was the talk of the airport. Everyone apparently knew about this special delivery (it must have come in with the flight from Moresby).
Needless to say, my vacation was saved by this miracle and I learned the valuable lesson about how important it is check my camera batteries and even bring an extra one along, just in case.
This is a true story. Even as I relate it, I can't believe it happened. It was what I call a strange miracle.
Miracles like this don't happen every day!
Amongst other crimes, carjackings are common in Port Moresby. The raskals are nearly always armed. Their weapon of choice is a bush knife but many are armed with home made or factory made pistols and shot guns.
Remain vigilent when driving around Port Moresby, particularly when getting into and out of your car. It's not about being paranoid. It's about reducing your chances of being a victim of such a crime. Also be aware of road blocks (anything that's been placed on the road to get you to stop.)
Getting to the airport is proving a little ominous though. During clan disturbances in the night, a bridge was burned on the main road, so we have to take a diversion through the outlying villages and some rather narrow, rudimentary tracks. Again we pick up a few police constables for protection during our journey. David and I are both enjoying the change of scenery and a different route, and view the whole thing as an adventure, but Peter is once more fearful for our safety. Obviously we are far too naïve to realise the dangers we are in. At the airport, Peter is concerned when we meander around chatting to the locals, and makes us enter the locked and barbed wire protected airstrip enclosure until the plane arrives.
The walk from the village to reach the road is at best described as ‘interesting’. The 45° slope down to the river is mainly compacted mud, and even though Erewan tries to cut ‘steps’ in the mud with his machete, we slip and slide all over the place. It takes an absolute age to get us all down and then we have to cross a fast-flowing river by jumping from stone to stone. It’s a miracle that none of us ended up covered in mud or soaking wet. Mark has radioed ahead for the bus to pick us up; he has decided to cut our walk a little short today as the conditions are so treacherous.
At the lodge gates, a bilum (string bag) seller joins me, or rather, follows me, all down the track to the hotel. He doesn’t speak to me and persistently walks three steps behind. It is very unnerving and I tell myself that ‘if he was going to attack me, he would have done so as soon as we got round the first bend, out of sight of the road and the lodge.’ It doesn’t really convince me that he is harmless, but I get less and less nervous the nearer I get to the reception. In the car park he joins the lodge workers who are having a fag break and I breathe a sigh of relief as I enter the bar.
There is much consternation in the bus when a fracas is spotted ahead. A man from Medang, driving a hire car has been robbed at knifepoint. Unfortunately he fought with the robber and ended up badly injured. The locals love a drama and are revelling in this tale. The raider has driven off in the hire car, and we make a road block with the three buses to try to catch him. Peter holds his machete tight and admits that “we are very scared”. Luckily (for us) the local inhabitants trap the gangster first, tie him to the bumper of the car and beat him senseless. They are now waiting to hand him over to the police, who will probably batter him further. We gingerly move on, willing the throng of people to disperse so that we can get through. Peter is still scared and keeps sounding his horn to break up the crowd.