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Dive Review of FeBrina in
Papua New Guinea/South Coast of New Britain

March, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Nannette & Bill Van Antwerp, CA, USA (2 reports)
Report Number 3476
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Caribbean, Cocos, Galapagos, Channel
Islands, CA
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
82   to 88    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Don't get bent  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
There are two large camera tables above the gear cubbies that were great to
work on, but the compressed air fittings on both sides were broken.  There
is a good-sized rinse tank which the crew kept filled with clean fresh
water.  The crew handled the cameras with great care.  There is a large
charging station on the dive deck with both 110 V and 220 V outlets.  Dry
camera towels are provided throughout the day.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
5 stars    
Can you actually see too many ghost pipefish? After 10 days on the FeBrina
with Alan Raabe maybe the answer is indeed yes.  We had originally booked
the trip with Alan on the Star Dancer but because there were only going to
be four guests on the boat we ended up on the smaller FeBrina instead.

The FeBrina (named after iron and salt water) is a fairly old steel boat
built in 1972. She is 72 feet long and has a 20 ft beam. The boat is very
stable at sea and is quite comfortable but needs a bit of TLC to really
shine.  The boat was scheduled for maintenance after our trip.  There are
seven cabins in total, all with individual A/C and three with en-suite
baths.  We had the owners stateroom in the bow, which was very nice with a
comfortable double bed and separate toilet and shower areas.  It was fairly
roomy and had a small closet and a few shelves, but minimal storage for
gear bags and larger items.

The food on board the boat was just okay. There was always plenty to eat
but the choice of provisions was not terribly varied and the cooking was
acceptable if a bit bland.  Partly this was due to Rabaul being fairly
isolated, but compared to Loloata or the Paradise Sport in Kimbe, the food
was not very interesting. The cooking was mostly western style with
occasional local specialties, which were generally better.  Wine and beer
were available, and since we had gotten bumped from the Star Dancer, we got
it at no cost along with complimentary Nitrox.  The wine was fairly generic
Australian red, not great, but not bad at all.

Meals were served in the main cabin, which is nice and quite spacious, but
with no ability to show photos except on a TV hookup.  There were minimal
plugs for charging laptops or other gear that stayed inside, since the main
charging station was on the dive deck.  There is a very nice library of
underwater books and magazines and the crew kept everything very neat and

Tanks and BCs are kept in bench racks on the back of the dive deck.  Each
diver has a cubby for their mask, fins, booties, etc. and hangers are
provided for wetsuits.  There were not many places to sit to don wetsuits
on the dive deck, so getting ready with a full boat might be a challenge. 
During the first two days, there were lots of little screw-ups like low O2
in the Nitrox mix or partly filled tanks, but after the first two days
things improved greatly.  All of the above issues were truly minor
annoyances since both Alan and the crew were outstanding as was the

Our trip was to the south coast of New Britain, a relatively unexplored
area where they only run a few trips every year.  The area has some nice
reefs, but the best dives of the trip were in the sand or the muck.  The
trip left from Rabaul under the glowering auspices of the Tavurvur volcano
where you could see house-sized rocks getting thrown into the air, and lots
of ash everywhere.

We began our diving in Waterfall Bay on coral bommies and white sand slopes
and saw and assortment of nudibranchs and flatworms, soft coral cowries,
squat lobsters, pipefish, upside-down jellyfish as well as a myriad of
small crabs and shrimp plus a couple of octopus and cuttlefish.

After Waterfall Bay, we moved to Lindenhaven where we did several dives on
a silty sand slope and began to see ornate ghost pipefish everywhere. By
the end of the trip we werent even taking pictures of them, we saw so
many.  This area was great for critters as we also saw snake eels,
dragonets, pipehorses, frogfish, orangutan crabs, blue boxer shrimp, quill
worms, flatheads, stingfish, waspfish, file clams, mantis shrimps,
cuttlefish, ribbon eels, twin spot gobies, sea moths, robust and halimeda
ghost pipefish, plus lots of unusual nudis including a giant melibe.  In
addition to the muck we dove a couple of really gorgeous walls where we saw
eagle rays, sharks, bumphead parrotfish, barracuda, leaf scorpionfish,
porcelain crabs, garden eels and lots of fire darts, often in big groups,
not just in pairs.

After Lindenhaven, we motored to Tavalo, which was primarily hard coral
walls and slopes.  There we saw a big wahoo, a turtle, cuttlefish, longnose
hawkfish, squat lobsters, jawfish, batfish, flying gurnards, eels,
porcelain crabs, clownfish, nudibranchs, and more ghost pipefish.

All the diving was done directly from the back deck of the FeBrina.  There
were always at least two dive guides in the water on every dive and they
worked hard to find interesting critters for us.  One of the divematers,
Jose, had particularly amazing eyes and was always finding really tiny
critters everywhere she looked.

We also did one shore excursion where we hiked up from a village to a
waterfall with a beautiful freshwater pool where we took a refreshing swim
which was well worth the hot trek through the jungle.

No trip report on the FeBrina is complete without some words about Alan
Raabe, the skipper. Alan is a pioneer of PNG diving and one of the great
characters of the diving world.  He is full of colorful tales about the
folks and the area. There are also lots of stories about Alanask him about
riding down the street in a dinghy being pulled by a horse.  Alan and crew
made the trip a delight and if you can book a trip with him, we highly
recommend it.  So, if you like muck diving combined with some big walls,
unusual critters, warm water and a warm-hearted friendly crew, try the
FeBrina to the South Coast.
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