Dan Johnson is the man in charge of MV Oceania, co-owner, and captain of this beautiful vessel, and joins me to kick off Season 4. MV Oceania is a liveaboard scuba diving vessel that operates out of Walindi Plantation, New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea
Located in the Coral Triangle of the Asia Pacific region, is situated just south of the equator and 100 miles north of Australia. The country encompasses the eastern side of New Guinea Island and 600 smaller islands and atolls. Known for its rich indigenous cultures, Papua New Guinea is home to over 800 languages, making up one-third of the world’s languages, and boasts the largest area of untouched rainforest outside the Amazon.
Bucket list diving
PNG offers incredible scuba diving opportunities with its untouched coral reefs, diverse marine life, and unique culture. The diving hotspots in PNG include Milne Bay in the South, Kimbe Bay, and Kavieng town or Lissenung Island. Divers and underwater photographers come from all over to witness the coral atolls and walls, WWII wrecks, barrier reefs, and other underwater photography subjects the Indo-Pacific region is renowned for. The country also boasts beautiful tropical jungles and mountain ranges on land.
With 28,000 miles of reef systems, divers are unlikely to encounter other groups, making it a perfect destination for those looking for a secluded diving experience. The country offers various dive resorts and liveaboard options catering to all levels of divers and is renowned for its spectacular scuba diving.
“Having lived and worked in PNG, I personally rate it as my top hotspot for tropical diving. A must for any avid diver!” (Matt Waters)
Dan the man
Dan is a well-respected figure in the diving industry, known for his extensive knowledge and expertise in navigating the waters of Papua New Guinea, particularly the spectacular reefs of New Britain.
In this 2-part series, we discuss MV Oceania’s past, present, and future plans for exploration scuba diving in Papua New Guinea, as well as Dan Johnson’s journey and experience as a dive leader. So, join us as we explore the depths of Papua New Guinea’s ocean and the story of Dan Johnson and MV Oceania, the ultimate liveaboard scuba diving vessel in this region.
Don Silcock (Senior travel editor of Scuba Diver ANZ) and Matt Waters discussing diving in PNG
Speakers: Matt Waters / Dan Johnson
Matt Waters 00:09
Hey, there dive buddies and welcome to season four of the Scuba GOAT Podcast. I’m excited to kick it off with Dan Johnson, co-owner and captain of the MV for Brina, which is based in Papua New Guinea. Dan explores the vast Scuba diving playground which is known for its incredible diving opportunities and unique marine life based out of well Lindy resort, New Britain. And today, he shares his insights and experiences from captaining the MV for breonna. And diving in such a beautiful location, his professional journey that brings him to PNG, and what He has planned for the future of the MV for Brina. Get ready for an adventure filled season of the Scuba go podcast.
Dan Johnson 00:47
I followed you on Scuba go with the Oceania webpage, page Facebook page, I actually got admin to it. So I’m now a fully updated admin administrator of the Oceania Facebook page which is fairly scary because I have absolutely no idea how to use Facebook. Now petrified I’m gonna press a button and delete everything that everybody has ever done on it. So that’s fun.
Matt Waters 01:27
Maybe I wouldn’t even try getting down that rabbit hole. It’s I’ve got like, I’ve got Facebook for nomadic Scuba, and obviously for Scuba goat. And then I’ve got the Instagram and Meta everything. And it’s nothing short of a fucking nightmare, quite frankly.
Dan Johnson 01:48
Living in Papua New Guinea you might as well live in a cave technology. You know if you can get into net worth Oh, yeah, depends on how cloudy it is and what’s going on in the world at the time. Yeah, how many earthquakes I’ve had recently. That’s a good one.
Matt Waters 02:08
Mate when we when we were when I was living it to fee the cell tower that was the only cell tower and yours was diesel generator and so the local diesel and thought Fuck it. I need a bit of fuel. I got Nick it and that’s it. No internet.
Dan Johnson 02:28
Yeah, no, no, no, we completely understand that the bloke next door to the resort who had the tower on his property would sell the diesel for the tower to the local PMV cars coming up and down the road. They don’t be there to his place. And then they’d be there. Fill them up with the Digi cell fuel and they’d bugger off and then we’d lose or phone reception for a week. Got a special Hi, is real special. So what were you doing over in two? Three? You weren’t manager one thing?
Matt Waters 03:07
No, no, there was the resort manager and his wife. And then I was running the dive operations and both side of things.
Dan Johnson 03:14
Oh, yes. What was the name of the resort manager at the time? Wasn’t Simon was it?
Matt Waters 03:23
No, no, Simon was long gone. I know. Yeah, that’s what I had. Yeah, yeah. I had Tony honeys. Brother was in looking after the place when I got there. And then Brian. Brian came in with with Roya a couple of weeks after I got there. And he he took over as the manager of the resort.
Dan Johnson 03:47
Okay, yeah. And I’ve not met them. Yeah.
Matt Waters 03:53
Yeah, good. Good. Giggle classic kalasha read and
Dan Johnson 03:59
doesn’t everybody doesn’t always a year the morning. Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Okay. Yeah. So how long were you there for?
Matt Waters 04:12
I thought it would the visa was for a year. But because of all the political faff and getting the paperwork. I think I was 10 and a half months. I just shot a velopment Yeah, I felt like a year though. Yeah. Yeah, it was awesome. To be honest, it was really really good. But you know, at that time was a single bloke and there was only one bar which was the resort resort bar and if there was no guests in everyone a bugger off home. So you know, six, seven o’clock at night is sitting around with the thumb up your ass and not lots of no
Dan Johnson 04:45
no internet. Yeah. I know the feeling.
Matt Waters 04:52
Yes. Yeah. But it was on the on the professional side of things. It was absolutely fucking awesome because The owner, Tony, you know, when he first told me on, I was keen as mustard to get out there and have a look for new reefs. And that’s exactly what he said, you know, if there’s no one around or if you get the opportunity to slow down and find some more, spread the word get as much as you can. Yeah, so we, me in the local DMS we went out and explored another 12 reefs and, you know, it was it was quite nice to map it out with the boys and get all the coordinates done, but also to put their the local family names on the reefs. Okay. was quite a quite a big deal for the boys. It was nice. I really enjoyed it. Yeah, awesome. Yeah. Okay, cool. Have you been there yet?
Dan Johnson 05:43
Yes, I have been there. Unfortunately. I heard what they’ve dredged the dredge the harbour. To me, I was there before they dredged it and I still reckon that is one of the top MCQ dives anywhere in the world. Definitely. In Papua New Guinea I was blown away by trench.
Matt Waters 06:08
Trench the harbour. You mean the where the where the dive shop is?
Dan Johnson 06:14
Yeah, so you got the little dive shop down at the bottom of the wall there. You had the P PT boat down at 50 metres whatever, had all of those old drums from the Second World War or the 44 gallon drums Land Cruiser or the Jeep whatever it was up in the shallows all the mandarinfish there and everything that entire area has been dredged.
Matt Waters 06:39
When was that then?
Dan Johnson 06:42
Two Three years ago apparently.
Matt Waters 06:45
Second, sorry, two or three years
Dan Johnson 06:47
Matt Waters 06:50
Really? Fuck. Yeah. And I used I used to jump in there. And in fact, there’s a very very good photographer from Singapore. Shout out Catherine Lowe. She would jump in though she was there for a week and every single night she’d be in underneath the wharf and it’d be down for our two hours just getting all the macro time macro absolutely
Dan Johnson 07:12
unbelievable dive and they Yeah, they dredged it
Matt Waters 07:18
Yeah, it broke my T boat actually. I think the PT boat that actually disappeared into the into the sands. I went down to take Kevin green the captain of attacker jumped in there to take him down to see it in 2019 and it was it was gone. So it was already you know the only photos I got a bit were of the of the ribs and the skeleton with it. With the gun. The gun on the time.
Dan Johnson 07:50
Yeah. Yeah, but that’s Oh, wow. Okay.
Matt Waters 07:56
Yeah. Well, that’s a shocker dredging it,
Dan Johnson 07:59
but yeah, hell yeah. Apparently they addressed it. This is all secondhand information. I’ve not had the opportunity to jump back in there in the last few years. I think the last time I visited to fi was back in. Or Blimey? 2012 or so? So about a decade ago? Yeah.
Matt Waters 08:21
Yeah. I love it. I mean, we’d Yeah, well, well, I got told about the Lucy Lucy stick Hammerhead you know the rumours of Yeah, I was always kept dry. Cut you show some video footage
Dan Johnson 08:41
Awesome. Nice one.
Matt Waters 08:44
Very cool. And it’s not just not just one animal either. I counted for individuals which is amazing.
Dan Johnson 08:51
Very, very cool. Did you did you get yourself over to the Jacob?
Matt Waters 08:58
I did yeah. Brian and Brian and I went and dived it yeah, probably about midway through my term. Just to get some some footage and lo and behold, you know, we go down with a camera and both cameras go tits up. So unfortunately, it was experience only but it was an is an exceptional wreck. And it’s one that I want to revisit and and get some proper data because some prepper footage done. So one day, but that was it was because of the you know where it lies to everyone who’s listening to the SS Jacob was a merchant ship in the war that sank and it’s huge. And it lies offshore away from all the rave so it’s just on sand. And the I think the I think the seabed is at around about 5758 metres something like this maybe even a little bit deeper. But because it’s out on the sand on its own, the the quantity of fish that it attracts is insane. I couldn’t believe it. Huge schools have literally everything you could think of. Pop from the ticking the bucket list items like Whale sharks and mantas and stuff but huge, huge barracudas and, you know, massive shoals of reef fish. Absolutely awesome. Have you had the opportunity to dive it as well?
Dan Johnson 10:33
Now? Unfortunately, not. That is one of the dives I’ve been trying to try and work out in my schedule of the way of just skimming past this and the problem is, as you said, it’s 5860 metres to the sand there. As a recreational dive there, so we’re all diving on night drops, 32%. Say and I head down to you for two metres. Yeah, sort of pushing your boundaries as it is so Yeah, unfortunately not. But I imagine it’s going to be on the same par as yongala. Except bigger and better. Yeah, I hospital manner.
Matt Waters 11:17
It’s huge, ridiculously huge. I loved it. But even you know, recreational depths, I can remember, you know, slowly coming back up and around 30. You can still see the entire ship which is fantastic. Yeah, what about the what about the blackjack? Have you managed to do the blackjack?
Dan Johnson 11:37
Yes, I took me down to the blackjack when I was there. It’s a very long boat ride to freeze. The main thing I remember about it. But it’s a long ride from anywhere it seems to be. It’s right in the middle of to Ali and Sophie, isn’t it? So you know, you’ve got a long ride either direction. The funniest thing was during COVID, the Oceania went there. Of course, I wasn’t on the boat. And they all went down there. They’ve done several dives on it. So my dive guides, of course know better than I do. These dives down to 1015 minutes. As they came back, and then of course, my bloody boat goes down there. And everyone jumps in and has a epic time on it. So yeah, okay needs to be revisited. Don Silcock has been trying to convince me to take the boat there. I might, I might swing past it. Because we’re doing a one way from Milan Bay, which dawns on Milan Bay ground to rebel. And so it’s a very good chance. I’m going to throw that in. It’s one of the early morning dives type of thing and give everyone 28% Something like that to just make it a bit more accessible to the divers. Yeah. Yeah. Got some fun.
Matt Waters 13:05
Well, you know, if you need an expert dive guide for that. I’m more than willing to come back up. They the owner of the best video footage that there’s currently out there for the blackjack.
Dan Johnson 13:20
Okay, yeah. All right. Yeah, no, there’s half traffic at Don’s friends. He’s doing all he’s doing all the summer cinematography of it doing all 3d exposures and everything. Have you seen any of the shots Don’s recently been doing with his friend? His name escapes,
Matt Waters 13:42
not that. Yeah, not the not the 3d stuff. But I am catching up with Don next week over a few beers. So East he did tell me he’s got a lot to talk about. So our show that’s filling me in on all that kind of stuff.
Dan Johnson 13:54
It’s amazing. It truly is. I’m trying to get him up for a charter to do the Rex and rebel. And because for what they’re doing, you know, obviously they want a highlight if they’re going to charter the boat and so are we gonna go down to the black jackets like have a look at rebel? We’ve got the twin tanks. There’s plane wrecks every way. You know, you go down to the back deck, you have the one wreck and that’s just the blank Jack and yes, it’s an awesome wreck. But then we have a dozen class wrecks in Rebel which we can easily access and I think would be absolutely awesome for doing.
Matt Waters 14:37
Yeah. Yeah, there’s another good mate of mine Miko party. He’s based out in Thailand and was part of the Thai cave rescue. And we were talking about coming up. Or he was asking me about doing the blackjack some years ago just before COVID actually. And that’s all 3d. Was the was the front He’s for the photography I should note by now, I’ve had so many people on the podcast talking about it. I’ll find it. I’ll find it. Yeah. But he was he was asking me about it because that’s exactly what he does. And he is he’s doing a lot of deep rec exploration and rec finding. And this is the stuff that they do they go down and do all of this photography so that they can get the 3d element of what it’s actually looking like. Yeah, flat image.
Dan Johnson 15:39
And then they do all the layers and I know they’ve, they were up doing the mini sub, the top of new island. Some of the images I’ve got from it. Just enrollment
Matt Waters 15:51
that’s what yeah, that’s what he was. He was just at the recently doing that, isn’t it? Yeah.
Dan Johnson 15:55
Yeah. Literally before it came over. So May at the end, or in the middle of December. So we’ve been there beginning of December doing it.
Matt Waters 16:07
And let’s, let’s take it back a little bit how you you know, took all these steps through to where you are now. So you say was it 2015 You became an instructor
Dan Johnson 16:15
2004 or became an instructor? Yep. 15 years. Now, is it something 16 Sending is instructor not very good at that. I need fingers
Matt Waters 16:36
so where were you or where did you learn actually work? Right ticket right back to the start? Where did you first jump into water and give it a go?
Dan Johnson 16:45
I was a very so my first time or Scuba was in a swimming pool in England. Many many years ago just as I don’t even think I was a teenager at the time. But I did all my open water training my advanced all in Thailand before it became popular. That was yeah as CO coping. Yeah. Copan Yang? Yeah. coping. Yeah, that was it. There was only three dive centres on the island. When I learned to dive there. I think it’s now more dive centres and people. From what I understand. I’ve not been back as long
Matt Waters 17:29
as you thought it was Copan Yang arcotel
Dan Johnson 17:31
kotel as coetail copay. Yeah, Costa Marie is the party Island.
Matt Waters 17:39
Nope. Costa Mesa Koh Samui is the one that’s all built up with all the modern stuff. And you’ve got Copan Yang, which is where you go for the full Moon Party, and everyone gets fucked up. Yeah. Koh Tao, which is where everyone goes to go dive in and get fucked up.
Dan Johnson 17:54
Thank you. That was me. That the latter option? Yeah. Coachella. Thank you. Hey, guys. It was a long time ago. I was on my honeymoon. Actually. My first honeymoon already. Yeah. And it was very, my ex my first wife was very, very kind. And let me go and do my dive course. Unfortunately, she was a non swimming asthmatic. And probably that’s probably what pushed me to become a full time instructor was I knew that after I broke up with her, it’s the last place I’d ever meet her. Yeah, so far, it’s worked pretty well. Do you remember which? Dive Shop you were at? Big Blue? No. Yep. Seriously? Yeah. There was you had a bit of you big blue. And then there was one on the opposite side of the island, which can’t remember the name of but I was big blue actually had a picture of me many many years ago with all of the guys in the background and the shop. Was there one second? Let me see if I can find it.
Matt Waters 19:13
I’ve lost a video stream at the moment anyway.
Dan Johnson 19:15
That’s cool. That’s okay. This is
Matt Waters 19:20
Yes, big big blue is a big part of my heart. I was I was permanent staff there
Dan Johnson 19:25
are true. Okay. Yeah. Hey guy. Can you see anybody there in the picture?
Matt Waters 19:35
I’ve lost the video feed me Ah, fantastic.
Dan Johnson 19:37
That’s that’s terrible shame. Okay, so that was a I think is Swedish from memory Stefan or something. And okay. So, do you recognise anyone there?
Matt Waters 19:57
It’s a bit blurry. I can’t make it out is that tall dark fellow in the middle at the back, isn’t it?
Dan Johnson 20:02
The tall good looking one with the bleached hair. That’s me. The one with the red hair. That’s my first wife. And that fella there. He was, I believe was the owner or manager of the shop at the time. This would have been going back. Blimey, I don’t know how many years ago was this? First train up. When I first got married it would have been like late 90s 1998 Maybe 97. Around there. Yeah.
Matt Waters 20:53
Well, the guy that the main owner of Big Blue. Michael. He’s a Swedish guy. And he apparently apparently what he did was he visited Koh Tao fell in love that would place like a small. Yeah, like they got a small loan and went straight back to Kotel and opened up big blue. So he was I’m not entirely sure if it was second or third, but they were in the first three of the dive shops.
Dan Johnson 21:26
Yeah, I think but if he would say first one.
Matt Waters 21:30
Now the other way around, or their coats out divers was the original. Okay, cheers with the one that Miko now owns and think I think Buddha view and big blue opened up more or less. relatively the same time. Yes. But yeah, yeah. So Michael, bless him. While he passed away this time last year, my Oh, yeah. Lovely, lovely fellow. And he went on to be a very, very successful businessman with lots of other businesses. And even with the pandemic hit, and all that kind of thing, the very last thing that he would allow to disappear off his portfolio would be Big Blue. Its heart was always in that original shop. Which,
Dan Johnson 22:11
yeah, yeah. That’s, yeah. Yeah. So that’s kind of like a few years. So
Matt Waters 22:18
yeah, that’s a very small world. You know, this, this podcast bringing us together never spoken to you about any kind of your diving background. And lo and behold, you you learn in the place that I used to live and work and love was fantastic.
Dan Johnson 22:33
Yeah, yeah. Okay. Go, hey, go. It’s six degrees of separation, isn’t it?
Matt Waters 22:39
It is smaller every day. Really? So after after big blue and kicking out the first wife and becoming an instructor did you did you teach back over this way or
Dan Johnson 22:54
so I came, came to came to Australia did my dark masters and instructors work for a company pretty much every company in cares actually jumped between boats and always having fun. But my main employer would have been deep sea divers den. And that was where I was doing a lot of my teaching, I went over to pro dive. And then I got into the Liveaboards. And that’s where I really enjoyed myself. In between that I short lived to Mexico for a little bit of time. in Playa Del Carmen where I did a lot of my tech diving, cave diving and everything started a small dive business there. Which didn’t go quite to plan a couple of things in the life I’ve learned is never trust a fat Mexican. And they’re just not meant to be fat. But the fact that reconcilement off never and the older and the other one was like, pause 1960s porn star big starch and everything. Yeah, that just went horribly wrong to maybe make for quite a bit of money. And, but we struggled on and I believe he’s still going RIF quest divers out in Playa Del Carmen. If they had ones around, or over that say good eight is named Steve. Sacred eight to him for me. And yeah, I sort of cracked it after about 15 months and decided to call it a day it was just just a bit too hard there. Had a lot of partying. Very true drinks and spring break. But all the rest of it, it was it was playing up to the wrong side of my personality. Let’s put it that way. So I came back to Australia where I met my second wife. And we ended up as working out on the old game road explorer out on the Coral Sea, doing Bowgun, Ville Osprey and the ribbon reefs and those runs. And then I’ve, we’ve decided, you know, let’s get a job together. And we put our resume out in the world. And long story short, we’ve ended up at Papua New Guinea at will Indy resort. And yeah, I remember Max saying to us, it’s so we went there, you know, as you do when you first rock up to p&g. She arrived a week ago, the males, they think they’re using my passport to prop up the table. So my work visa didn’t come through at the same time, obviously. And so I remember my first experience coming into Papua New Guinea, he was, it feels very surreal to me back then. Back in 2008, this would be and you know, I got off the plane ride, okay, this is interesting in Hoskins, and the buses come picked me up, driven us out at the airport. And as we’re driving down the road, I’ve looked out the window, I kid you not, we have four or 500 metres out of the airport gates. And there would have been a kid probably six, maybe seven years old. And he’s standing there with a bush knife, holding it like it’s a broad sword head, you’d imagine the old knights to be in the in the mid mid century type of thing holding this bush knife like this and are just going oh my god, we’re not in us anymore, or for Yahweh. That was my first inception impression of Papua New Guinea was this child with this giant Bush knife, which I would never have been allowed to play with as a kid. Probably for good reasons. And that is how I ended up in Papua New Guinea when there weren’t for Max Benjamin at the willing to resort as a diet manager for five years. And yeah, he asked, he asked him like, what are you looking for? What would you want from us when we got there? And I you know, a year would be good. And yeah, five years later, we said goodbye and parted ways. And not in a bad way. Obviously, I’m back there now. Yeah. And then obviously, my career progressed, I came back to Australia did all my tickets, engineering ticket, captain’s licence and everything else and I don’t drive in the tanker. And the brief boats out of cans. Taking the tie. When they sold the tanker, they basically sold me with the boat. Been there for two years working as the engineer. And there’s a first mate and they went right. We’ll buy the boat. And can we have him? And they basically went, Yeah, sure. So I started the boat over there and spent just under two years on the tacrine Solomons, which was an adventure in itself. So yeah, after coming towards the end of the two years, I got the phone call from Max and Alan, we’ve got a great idea. As like, great. What is it? How would you like your own boat? As like? Ah, yeah. So this is why I’m here on your show. Now, I said yes, at the wrong time. It was two years before the pandemic hit. So I had a year to spend a lot of money and then about a year to make a little bit of money back and then three years or two and a half years of
Matt Waters 29:23
Dan Johnson 29:27
which would hurt any new business. So yeah. But you know, we made it through thanks to a lot of hard work from the guys in Papua New Guinea, a great team that’s behind the Oceania. Big thank you to all of those guys who made it possible for us to still be here and operating.
Matt Waters 29:47
Yeah, yeah. We’ve got a we’ve also got to give a big shout out picked up on there Max Benjamin, blasphemies. He’s passed away now as well as me. Yeah. But I think in the in the diving LM into Papua New Guinea. They’ve got a sticking right up there on the pedestal as one of the founding fathers of why people go to Papua New Guinea to dive now
Dan Johnson 30:08
100% unfortunately passed away about three, four months into the pandemic. Nothing that COVID related or anything like that. But yeah, that was a timing is everything. Yeah, so he passed away. But truthfully, the marketing his he wasn’t just said, talking about will indie who would never talk about will indie per se. He would always talk about Papa New Guinea. He, he went over there, oh, God, Cecily, oh, shoot me if I get these numbers wrong. Approximately 40, maybe 50 years ago as a demon. So an agricultural officer. He worked for New Britain Pall Mall, and him and Cecily bought a plot of land, expect 200 hectares, or something like that, where they will, indeed, resort now sits. And from what I understand they were off diving in the Red Sea. Say, Ah, because the Red Sea was the best place in the world to go diving and the pair of them are there again. We’ve got better, better out on the reefs in front of us and what they’ve got here. And they really did. And that was when they changed everything and decided to become a dive destination. And his years of hard work and promoting the country, as well as promoting obviously, willing to resort was, yeah, just unbelievable. A very clever man, very passionate about the reefs is one of the reasons Papua New Guinea has environmentally friendly moorings throughout the entire country, you would have seen them yourself, maybe even put a few of them in with the big drilling machine, which there’s two of them in the country, which goes around. And if someone needs to put a few new moorings in, you take it out, you drill a hole, you stick a steel pin in and fill it up with cement. And so you never have to drop anchor anywhere. So the entirety of the roof system is looked after and managed, unlike anywhere else in the world. You know, it’s a fantastic system. And that is thanks to Max. The whole Papa New Guinea and diver Association was founded by Max. And unlike so many other countries, where you have a lot of operators who sort of butt heads. Papua New Guinea is not one of those places. It’s given us freedom to roam. On the Liveaboards we’ve no one. Oh, that’s feedback.
Matt Waters 33:23
Is that, can you hear that? Yeah. Yeah,
Dan Johnson 33:27
I can hear that. Yeah.
Matt Waters 33:29
Okay, well, we sought out that annoying background noise, let me just proudly announce that the Scuba goat podcast has been ranked among the top 3% of podcasts on listener notes, a platform that hosts over 3 million shows. This is a huge accomplishment and a reflection of the hard work and dedication that goes into producing the show, and of course, the support of all of our listeners. So I want to express my gratitude to all of you who tune in, share our episodes and leave us with ratings and reviews. Quite honestly, we couldn’t do this or I couldn’t do this without knowing that people want to listen to the content we produce. So thank you to all of our guests and more importantly, all of you listeners out there you absolute Bloody Legends.
Dan Johnson 34:13
We’re talking about the late departed Max fee.
Matt Waters 34:15
Yeah, bless him. Bless him. I never found a legend in his own lunch break. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet him. But I’ve certainly done a fair bit of chatting with with the staff at will nd with sending customers up there. Through my little travel company, but yeah, yeah, it’s a shame I would have loved to have met him.
Dan Johnson 34:40
He was a very passionate man and a very intelligent man to be said. He. Yeah. And it was all very much about Papua New Guinea and the diving that we have there. The one thing you could always upset him with. If you ever mentioned the no word withdraws, bleaching, he would go completely nuts. And it used to drive him mad that No, I would always put up a GRR mass bleaching event. And we never had any bleaching. We had few signs of stress is here, and they’re completely natural. But no one took into account that the ocean rat. The Bismarck sees a warm mist ocean in the world. It runs on average between 27 and 33 degrees, you know, as a year round temperature. So yeah, he’s struggling. That’s a strange fact about Mr. B. Was that he was actually a honourable Mr. B. He was, I think, I think he was knighted or something. For an order of Papua New Guinea, really? For? Yeah, he never, never mentioned it. You know, he was those. But that was Max all round who was never one to blow his own trumpet.
Matt Waters 36:12
I think that’s what, that’s where you find the best people. People with humility. High levels of humility are the ones that are the best people to be around.
Dan Johnson 36:21
Oh, 100%, where I just humiliate myself? Is that the same sort of thing? Yeah, pretty much, pretty much.
Matt Waters 36:38
Well, let’s, let’s catch up from Yeah, talking about. So, Mr. B, he got in touch with you. And about mvrc on it.
Dan Johnson 36:48
Yeah, well, at the time it was. So Maxim, Allen, the my other business partner decided that they wanted to run a, they believe the market was strong enough for a second bezel to go into the marketplace in Papua New Guinea. They tried once before with the star dancer, and being a franchise and everything else that that entails. ran into trouble with that. So I got the phone call. And they said, you know, we’d like like you to come over and be a partner in starting a new dive. Venture? And, yes, that’s how the Oceania came about. Yeah, they weren’t interested in doing it with anybody else. So that was fantastic. They said I had the right qualifications and was just mad enough to actually possibly accept an opportunity like this. You know, basically, I think my sort of qualifications were, I went into business, or I would go into business with the two matters people I’ve ever met in my life. I could die I could build and I could drive both.
Matt Waters 38:07
Myself. So it all goes together.
Dan Johnson 38:12
Yes, there is definitely a degree of madness to work in a place like puff, and you can is you know, yourself. If you are mad, but when you go there, you will be met by the time you leave. Yeah.
Matt Waters 38:24
Yeah. I mean, it’s got to be said that Papua New Guinea is very much an emerging country still. And there’s a lot of people that want to try and escalate or, or accelerate that modernisation of the country, and I am massively against it. I think that the beauty not only the physical beauty of the country, but the beauty of being in Papua New Guinea is that it’s decades behind where we are now, which gives it that charisma, and its unique qualities. I absolutely fucking love it. And I don’t want it to change.
Dan Johnson 38:57
I, I agree. To me being there every day presents its own challenges. Nothing is boring. You don’t get up at night and come home at five doing the same stuff. You You get up when you get up and go to bed when it’s all done. And it could be something which is so simple to achieve in Australia, but you don’t have the resources. You don’t have the technology. You don’t necessarily have the training in place to make these things doable. So you make it work. And I love that challenge about it. It’s yeah, as I said, it’s awesome. And it’s very challenging. Logistically running a business in Papua New Guinea is a nightmare. Everybody thinks, Okay, it’s probably New Guinea where a developing country thinks should be a lot cheaper. Except Papua New Guinea doesn’t make anything, they make billions and grow beetle nut, and oil palm.
Matt Waters 40:24
And there’s also, there’s also that major factor of logistics of getting all the shit that you want. So you’ve got your customers that want Wi Fi, and they want long distance range on your boat, where’s the fuel coming from? Where’s the connectivity coming from it all, just that simple litre of fuel, it could be $1, or two over here is four or $5 Over there, because it’s got to be flowing in all boats
Dan Johnson 40:48
shipped up there. You know, the even O rings for the dive tanks, you know, here they are five, six cents each. For me to get them to then get them shipped up to Papua New Guinea, cleared customs or the rest of it, they double triple in price just for a simple wiring, which will burn through so many in a day, you know. That’s the simplest thing I could actually think I could pick, you then go on to maintaining a vessel to a high standard and to make sure that everything is always working, carrying all the spares and the entire work, basically entire engine room in her forward cabin. Because I can’t just come back to port and expect there to be a row of fleet engineers from different companies who will jump home with all the right bits to fix the boat. When I finished the the boat show in Germany, I’m going back up there, backup to Papa New Guinea, beginning of February and relocating the vessel from Kimby Bay, which is where we’re based out of for about 60 70% of the year, down to Milan Bay for two months. And that on its own presents a whole new set of challenges because I lose the small support infrastructure that I have at will end with logistics, my vehicle, the workshop, guys who know everything works on the boat to a place where I’m away from home for the next two and a half months with no support. It’s fantastic. I’ve been madly planning this, we’ve madly planned this trip. And we’ve got new generator going in all sorts. And the hope is that everything holds together for the next two months without any problems. If not, then it’s trying to get skilled labour in and trying to find people who can actually do the job for you in a completely different parts of the country, which doesn’t necessarily have the skill set you’re chasing. Or the trade people embracing. Yeah,
Matt Waters 43:25
and yeah. For people that don’t know Papua New Guinea, the point A to point B that you’re talking about isn’t just down the road. Is it was it
Dan Johnson 43:35
two hours? I think it’s gonna take me just a quick overnighter. Yeah, yeah, so it’s, I’ve got to run up from Kimby Bay run up to rebel, which is 24 hours, which is the next town closest to can be where I’ll be swapping out my life rafts. And then from there, I’d like 70 Maybe 60 to our six year run down to Milan Bay. And yet to arrive there, hopefully with a day before the charter start so that we can then prep the boat and do a bit of food shopping and outs that were there. have checked with the local landowners and and everything else that we have to do to get the boat ready and to make sure that things run smoothly for everybody involved. And the last time I was down there. I had to cancel one trip, which was the return trip from Milan Bay to rebel because of COVID. And yeah, that was my very last trip down there. So although I have great memories of Milan Bay The whole process being down there, it’s still man, marred by the Memory of the World lockdown.
Matt Waters 45:15
The pandemic, it’s a nice way to start it back up there, isn’t it? From the start back up from the point where it?
Dan Johnson 45:21
No we started up in middle of August, August 16. We started running again. So yeah, we’ve had some fantastic charters in and around the can be Bay Area running our signatory trips between father’s away to Ireland’s I’ve been putting a bit of exploratory work in for my next year’s itinerary. Is it next year or the year after actually might be 2024? We’re pretty booked this year. Yes, 2024. I’ve put a couple of extra charters in where I want to get off into a bit more exploring. We twos and beyond. There’s a few islands out there, and some saying Kazan’s very interesting stuff that I’ve been discovering.
Matt Waters 46:12
But tell you what, I’ll tell you what, before we get on to it, because I want to ask you about your little discoveries and what you got planned. For, again, people who are listening to this podcast may have not visited Papua New Guinea yet. So let’s give him a little bit more of an audible kind of picture of of what we’re talking about. Now. If I can start on that, I’ll say that to get to Papua New Guinea, most people or all people are gonna have to fly into Port Moresby, which is the main city and then there’s no roads that lead out of Port Moresby. So you’ve got to fly. Again to Yeah, so any other dive resorts you want to go to? You’re gonna have to fly again internally. Now, there’s a number of ways of doing that. But we don’t need to go into that. It’s simple. It’s a flight, but to where Dan has the vessel and will end resorts you have to fly from Port Moresby to New Britain, which is if you look on the Atlas, you’ll see a larger islands directly well, more or less directly north of Port Moresby, would you say that’s fair?
Dan Johnson 47:17
Slightly northeast, yeah, no offence to Port Moresby.
Matt Waters 47:22
All right, Captain guy it’s probably about
Dan Johnson 47:30
two degrees south southeast a little bit more than that. Yeah.
Matt Waters 47:38
Yeah, so do you want to take it from there, Dan? You know if if guests fly into hot skins Hoskins? Sorry. Made up you guys.
Dan Johnson 47:49
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So obviously picked up the airport, run out to the resort. Spend a night or two in the resort. Check out what they’ve got going on. I believe you’ve been too willing to yourself.
Matt Waters 48:01
I’ve now you know, it’s one that drew I’ve tried. I’ve tried to go so many times. But for whatever reason, there’s always been something that’s got in the way as a blocker. It’s been a fucking nightmare. And I’m determined to get there. And I will. Well, I in fact, I spoke to Liz Cotterell so many times. About about coming up there but never had the opportunity
Dan Johnson 48:22
yet. Well, you know, someone who’s up there, works up there now. So you still keep in contact. I’m sure we can make something happen.
Matt Waters 48:30
Hell yeah. I want to run some expeditions up there, mate. That’s the thing. I’m gonna be bringing people up there. I did it successfully in 2018. We got like 23 guests came to two feet with me. For lending. Yeah, yeah. So we’ll make that happen. Well, the
Dan Johnson 48:49
Oceania hold 16 guests. So if you can make that happen, you’re more than welcome to click on and say G’day. Yeah, yeah, as I said, we we, we do a little bit of this share this little bit of the same diving, but the result does, but We by no means get out to all of their sites by any stretch of the imagination said they have. I think there’s over 14 mooring pins out there. And again, when things change over time, and they always have their sort of favourites, set ones that big pinnacles that they have there with huge amounts of fish around are always a crowd pleaser. The rest of Ireland if the visibility’s good, there is phenomenal. year so we do a couple of those but realistically for ourselves on the Oceania we’ll be heading out to the Father’s wreaths which is South out Lindy we head over to where there’s a large volcano, Alou becomes that right? There’s volcano everywhere they throw a stick and hits a volcano is a ring of fire for a reason. And I do believe that what we’re actually diving on is the edge of a very large volcano. from many years ago, there’s just see Pinnacle’s coming out from 1500 metres of water, or 500 metres of water in places up to within four or five metres at the surface. And that’s what we’re diving on. And the pinnacle sea mounds, whatever you want to call them. And we get a lot of a lot of schools of barracudas sharks good action out there. And then we’ll spend a few days then we head over to the wheat two islands. And that is again another extinct volcano. And that is northwest of will indie. Or north northwest of will indie head out there and the diving changes completely again, where we get a huge amount of diversity we do the Kretser diving which is sometimes phrased as MK diving paper always strive to do that term. So I tried to call it Chris the diving more than Mark diving because you were not jumping in a muddy puddle is as the terminology of Mark diving. bring to people’s imagination. We’re jumping in there and we’re going down checking out for frog fish and the associated critters, which live in the in the area.
Matt Waters 51:59
And that’s two islands. That’s where the black sand is, isn’t it? Black Sand dive sites.
Dan Johnson 52:04
Yeah, that sounds like a sand volcanic sand areas. Yeah, we get some fantastic diving there. Ribbon eels. Manta shrimps packers stick everywhere you find them. A lot of frog fish and other bits and pieces depending on what time of year it is. And of course, we dive the llama shows which was named by Jacques Cousteau which is which we call by a different name. I’m not sure I’m allowed to mention that the name of it on a podcast but I’ll go for it. You can always edit that. It’s called cracker fat. Listening.
Matt Waters 52:46
You’re gonna have to explain that.
Dan Johnson 52:50
Well, so Alan didn’t like the name llama shows and he jumped in. He has a look at Eddie came back. And he said Blimey, even the jelly fish ABS defeats any Americans listening you might go by the name of Popper, chubby, I think, because I got translated into the other day for a couple of the guests. So yeah, and that slide is just magical. And there’s lots more sites like that. So I generally do we only run four dives on the boat a day. That way, we get plenty of surface interval. But the 70 Minute dives. You know, for diver 70 minutes, we give good two to three hour surface interval between each dive. And we’ve obviously we feed you in between every dive what dive boat doesn’t. And, yeah, it’s a good experience. We like the way it runs. So we’ll do a couple of big fish dives in the morning. And then onto our critter diving in the afternoon, where we may open up the dive deck, depending on how people feel and just say Yeah, go for it. We’ll see you back for dinner.
Matt Waters 54:19
Yeah, well, it makes sense. I mean, if you’re going to be doing the pelagic dive in and out in the morning, and then people are going to be really low on details for the afternoon. Kind of get the credit diving done. And then those people who don’t like the creditors can start their JNT while the sun’s going down early.
Dan Johnson 54:33
Yeah, pretty much and we get a fantastic sunset there too. So
Matt Waters 54:38
so it’s nice. I can only imagine. Yeah. So let’s have a little bit more about the boat. What where she come from? How old is she? What size is she? How many people can you take how many chefs have you got on board? How many donors have you got to share? Give us the gossip. Okay, well,
Dan Johnson 54:57
here we go. Some shameless of shameless self publicity. So the boat was built in 2001 was refitted back in 2017 when we bought it from a private bloke marked keel as sharp as in Egypt, looking at other boats to bring across and then my my friend, Mark decided to sell his. So came over, have a look and when we can work this, I then spent the next eight months gutting it completely and turning it into what she is today. So what she is today is a eight cabins vessel. We have five twin twin cabins, three queen, Queen cabins, the cabins are the same. They’re all ensuite. I’m sure you don’t have to sit on the toilets take a shower, which I always find advantage, everyone is oceanview. And the twins will have wardrobes in and they’re very comfortable and refitted with individual Air Con in every cabin. So you can set it to the temperature that you want to be at. And the temperature which the Eskimo in the cabin wants to be Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that’s the and that’s all on the dive Deck level. We then go up a level internal staircase takes you up to the saloon area where we have a large saloon dining area we have it’s an open galley. So you can see into the galley so you always know the food is prepared. And the house girls are always clean. You can see how everything’s being prepared, and you get to chat with them. How often have you been on a dive boat and the foods just come out of the dark room has got no idea what’s been going on behind that door. I like to be a little bit more open and make sure that everyone can see what’s coming in and out. So yeah, we’ve got a toilet on the upper level as well as obviously a toilet on the dive deck with showers. Yeah. nitrox air on board the boat. Yeah, modern facilities USB chargers in the room. International plugs sockets to take everyone’s different plugs so no adapters required. What else have we got? We’ve got to dive tender, which holds eight divers or 10 divers at a time. It’s a 10 metre rigid inflatable with twin twin outboards on the boat back of it which she can go a good pace. She’s great. She’s great, great bike to dive out of she’s got a full dive ladder very easy to climb in and out of the water with. It’s not one of the rubber inflatable ones, but you’re going to try and pull yourself over Oh, blimey, here we go. Where else? Outside areas we’ve got an outside back there area and then we’ve got a full sunroof, which takes up the entire top deck. The vessels 27 metres long and nine metres wide. It’s a really it’s a good boat. It really is a boat. Yeah.
Matt Waters 59:03
I I do remember it coming. Or kind of advertising that it was coming into Papua New Guinea. I was rather excited about it. And like I say meant that COVID has. But so the routes that you’re doing at the moment are in and around the islands and down to Milan Bay. You’re planning on doing a little bit of cheeky exploratory work.
Dan Johnson 59:36
Yeah. And so over time, everything changes slightly. There is so much of Papua New Guinea which has not been dived, or it may have been dive but not by me. And it’s not commercially run. And so, there’s a couple of routes I’ve got sort of I’ve got planned for the upcoming years. One of them is a east coast down new violence. So there’s loads of little islands running down there. I’m only doing one of those a year. And I want to try and explore. That’s more of the South Pacific side.
Matt Waters 1:00:17
Punches. Yeah, I’m just looking at a map. Now. Did you say that was the east coast of New Island? New York,
Dan Johnson 1:00:23
the app? So you see live here and all of the little islands down the side there? Yeah, and reef systems and all bits and pieces. I believe there could be some interesting diving down that side of the island.
Matt Waters 1:00:40
Definitely. I mean, look at those. I’ll have to put these into the podcast. And you know, so people can have a look at them as well. But those, those channels that you can see in the in the C beta, massive. Yep, it’s kind of one. Yeah, there’s gonna be some good currents going through there.
Dan Johnson 1:00:58
That’s it. So yeah, we’ll be running down there. Running from caveum. Round to rebel. Will Indy rebel is one of our regular mid year itineraries to get away from the winter. Cold in Australia, we run that but and where else? So many bucks in arrears, it’s ridiculous. Oh, we can, it’s all editable. So heading out to where to where to and beyond. So this is my idea that, yes, diving, the farmers is fantastic. But there is also great diving ash that the way to Ireland and I’ve been sneaking out a little bit further over the last couple of months to open up a couple of reefs, which we’ve not done before. There’s the island out there, which is uninhabited. And there’s a couple of safe Anchorage is around. And so at some fish, it’s in the middle of nowhere. There’s a large sang que, there. From the small experience that we’ve had halfway to the island. We’ve been jumping in cracking the plastic bottle, if you know what I mean. I’m sure you’ve seen it done. And we’ve been mobbed by sharks. On average, we’ve been getting 12 Plus grey, grey reef fees swimming around and three, four Silvertips coming in and investigating. At that point, I tell the guys to crack the bottle some more and they just look at me like I’m an idiot and and offer it to me. You bloody do it. And as we’ve been finding some really good diving out there. I’m hoping Don’s got some cracking shots. He was on the last chart with us where we did a couple of them. Yeah, we found one. Call it middle of nowhere. And the other one is middle of nowhere. And then the other one. Yeah, still trying to work out names obviously for them all. And there’s one which is just like the cast or it’s like a starts from 40 metres soft corals or all over this huge Pinnacle coming up to sort of 50 metres of water. And it’s a soft Coral Ridge running down and this healthy, magnificent car everywhere. I’m hoping that it’s going to turn out to be a re cleaning station. She big currents come through there and they got to get clean somewhere.
Matt Waters 1:03:54
I’m gonna I’m going to mention a name out of an island and I’m going to edit it out. So sorry listeners. You’re not going to you’re not going to hear it. Dan, are you talking around? That’s it for part one, folks. Stay tuned for part two and more exciting episodes. And don’t forget, added in your library so you get notified with each episode drop.