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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 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