Customer Comments

 

Hi 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!
Martha



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 problems).

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!

B. Yates
Seattle, WA


When 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 beautiful.

Júrgen Merzaros


Over 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.


What 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.

Regards,

Doug Schaaf & Judy Nyman-Schaaf

 


From: Bruce Yates
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.

Everyone 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 spot.

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 is great.

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!).








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