Jen... I'm baaaack!
The trip was FABULOUS!!!!!!!!
The only problem is that I wasn't ready to leave and I'm sad
that it's over!! The boat was absolutely terrific and Alan
is definitely one of a kind! The service was excellent, attitudes
couldn't be better, diving as clear and easy as it gets!!
I did 31 dives and passed the 200 mark! Of course I met lovely
people and just couldn't have enjoyed it more.
Cheers and thanks for everything!
BOOKING PNG via JEN DARBY
If you're looking for the best liveaboard diving of your life,
let Jen Darby book you to PNG. I have been on many liveaboards
in most of the "hot spots" of world diving (Red
Sea, Palau, Cocos Island, Socorro, Caymans, Honduras, etc.).
The only place I've gone twice is PNG (and I've already made
plans to go a third time next year). I take both UW photography
and video, and for either one, I think PNG has the most pristine
and ideal UW environment anywhere.
But knowing where to go is only half the task. Jen is the
only agent I'd consider booking PNG diving. Having booked
trips through other dive travel agents, as well as directly
through the Aggressor and Peter Hughes offices, I can honestly
say Jen is the best way I've found to book liveaboards in
general, and especially PNG.
PNG is more "third world" than most places you've
probably been. Its remoteness is the reason you find plush
reefs and thousands of fish, but you want to make sure you're
dealing with someone who really KNOWS the country. Jen has
spent many MONTHS in PNG and been on all major PNG liveaboards
(some numerous times), so she really knows the pros and cons
of each dive operation. For example, while I was diving there
on a boat Jen booked for me in June, another PNG liveaboard
was operating without any of its female crew because they
just didn't show up. PNG's culture is very unusual, and Jen
can help make sure you dive with people that have established
good relationships with locals and reliable crews.
Jen's experience will also help if you plan to schedule land-based
side trips, layovers, etc. Her close relationship with tour
operators helps facilitate smooth arrangements (and if something
doesn't go as planned, can make a big difference in resolving
One last thing regarding booking via e-mail. Although I was
skeptical at first, my experience e-mailing Jen has been extremely
positive. Rather than having to try to reach a particular
person by phone (when they're NOT on the phone with someone
else), I can e-mail Jen with my questions at my leisure. Jen
answers e-mails promptly, and it gives her a chance to look
up and include useful background information in her responses.
If you haven't booked via e-mail before, give it -- and Jen
-- a try. I'm confident you'll like it, and that you'll have
a great dive trip in PNG. I know I'll be having many more!
it comes to tourism, Papua New Guinea is something special.
I heard that not many people were visiting the country but
could not believe the incredibly small numbers. Apart from
peace corps volunteers which spend their Christmas holiday
there, I met exactly two other tourists during my five week
stay. Not that I have been to extraordinary places - no! Most
of the time I have been in tourist areas! I have been travelling
for 20 months right now - visited every continent. But PNG
is a once in a lifetime experience. Pretty rough, wild, hard,
and dangerous on the one hand, but on the other, absolutely
the last 20 years I have traveled extensively to a variety
of tropical destinations. My most memorable to date was arranged
by Jen Darby of PNG Expeditions. Never before have I witnessed
such attention to all of the details. She delivered exactly
as promised, on time, and without hassles. I plan to book
through Jen again and again and again!
Mark Speno, Bellevue Washington.
can we say about PNG except that it was one of the best experiences
of our lives. This was the first time we've ever traveled
when we weren't a member of a group, and as you probably gathered
from some of our correspondence, we were somewhat apprehensive
about having to deal with things on our own. But as you said,
TNT was there for us every step of the way, and they were
just great. Maybe we were just lucky, but we had absolutely
no problems at all--even all our flights were on time! (or
at least very close) We enjoyed meeting the people much more
than we anticipated (as you said, they are wonderful), I don't
believe we've ever been around friendlier people. At the end
of our week in the highlands, we could have gone home and
felt like we'd had a fantastic vacation.
As expected, we really enjoyed the diving. In our 8 days,
we managed to squeeze in 34 dives; on one day we did 6, spending
over 5 1/2 hours underwater. We had 2 very nice dolphin encounters,
several good shark encounters, and of course all the "regular"
reef fish, plus the warmest water we've ever dived. The crew
on the FeBrina was just excellent, and what can you say about
Alan. We thought we'd met some characters on other dive boats,
but he's in a league of his own; we haven't ever enjoyed being
around someone as much as we did him.
We want to thank you one more time for all your efforts in
making this happen. Once we started planning the trip, we
could tell there were a huge number of things that had to
fall into place in order for things to go smoothly. It seemed
almost impossible that some detail somewhere wouldn't be overlooked,
but as far as we could tell every "i" was dotted
and every "t" was crossed. Not just us, but every
member of our group was where they were supposed to be at
the appointed time.
We'd really like to visit again, but we'll have to let our
bank accounts recover before that can happen; we'll be sure
to contact you when we're in a position to go back. In the
meantime, if we hear of anyone thinking of going to PNG, we'll
give them your name.
Doug Schaaf & Judy Nyman-Schaaf
Submitted To: UNDERCURRENT
This was my third dive trip to PNG, and my second aboard Febrina.
My first PNG liveaboard was the Chertan, a very well-run boat
with plenty to see. That experience (four years ago) was enough
to bring me back to PNG again last year(something I haven't
been inclined to do with other dive destinations, even good
ones like Palau, Red Sea, and Cocos Island). And my experience
last year aboard Febrina was so great that I immediately booked
another trip this year (and brought friends).
PNG is a great place to dive (as well as do some land-based
touring), but it is still very much a third-world country,
so make sure you deal with someone who really knows the country,
dive operators, and tour companies. I (and my friends) had
very good results with our travel arrangements made through
Jen Darby (pngexpeditions.com), who has personally been on
all the PNG liveaboards, most multiple times.
Febrina is an ideal liveaboard for experienced divers who
want great things to see/photograph, a dedicated crew, outstanding
food, and a great overall experience. Accomodations are good,
albeit not as spacious as some other boats (some Peter Hughes
boats, for example). But the boat is solid and
thoroughly adequate, and what little it may lack in facilities
(which isn't much) is far outweighed by the rest of the experience.
on both of my Febrina trips (11 divers this year, 12 last
year) was extremely satisfied with the trips. Febrina's biggest
asset is the experience, dedication and personality of Captain
Alan Raabe, but he has established a solid and responsive
crew as well. Their determination to make sure everyone has
a great experience is apparent in dozens of little things.
For example, in order to get in 5 dives/day (if you want to),
the first dive is at 6:30AM. Because of that early start,
the day's final (dusk/night) dive is at 6:30PM (BEFORE dinner),
a great practice that enables everyone to finish diving for
the day, then shower and clean up for dinner. Other liveaboards
should take a lesson. Also unlike many boats, which remain
at one site as long as possible so the crew doesn't have to
work as hard, Febrina often moves after one dive if they think
another site will be better diving than second dive in that
Other evidence of extra effort is daily laundry service, and
ready access to fresh water (without constant warnings not
to use too much, another common liveaboard annoyance). Finally,
this is one of the few boats I've ever been on where the trip
doesn't end with a "guilt speech" about tipping
the crew, and how if you don't leave at least 10% of the trip
cost, you're punishing the poor crew, who don't get paid decently
otherwise. Alan - if you push him - will simply say, "I
don't suggest particular amounts - do what you want - anything
is appreciated." What a classy way to handle it. (Are
you listening, Aggressor and Peter Hughes fleets?) By the
way, I (and I know others) left higher tips on Febrina than
I ever have on any other liveaboard - not because we were
pressured into it, but because the service and diving was
great enough that we just WANTED to. And the diving really
There's plenty to see - huge schools of jacks and barracuda,
soft as well as hard corals, and profuse fish life and reef
creatures everywhere. We saw several sharks (silver-tip and
gray as well as white-tip), dolphins, 4-foot bumphead parrots,
numerous turtles and cuttlefish. On the smaller side, macro
photographers have ample material, from pygmy seahorses to
harlequin ghost pipefish, blue ribbon eels, colorful mantis
shrimp, a dozen kinds of nudibranchs, and anemone clownfish
galore. Thankfully, El Nino seems to have totally spared PNG
(at least the Bismark Sea, where Febrina dives). The reef
is still wonderfully healthy and vibrant - several times,
I was conscious of not being able to find even a tiny spot
of dead reef to rest a stabilizing finger while taking photos.
Diving is done from the mother boat (not zodiacs), but is
made easier by well-placed mooring lines. Readers should note
that this is not a boat for novice divers - some dives have
current, no one is going to baby-sit you on depth/time, and
buddying is informal and loose.
Also, anyone who is particularly sensitive about language,
off-color humor and/or political correctness would be well
advised to stay away. Much of Alan's charm (and indeed Febrina's)
is the fact that he is completely genuine and totally uncensored.
No one who has been on Febrina - no matter how vivid their
imagination - could ever picture Alan working in an office
in corporate America, not even for 5 minutes. He epitomizes
the classic "old salt" boat captain - unconcerned
with being "proper," but totally devoted to his
boat, crew, and passengers. Combine that with some of the
best diving locations in the world, and you've got the makings
of a great liveaboard experience (which it was!).