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

FeBrina, Mar, 2007,

by Nannette & Bill Van Antwerp, CA, USA ( 2 reports). Report 3476.

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

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 82 to 88 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Don't get bent
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments 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 orderly.

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 diving.

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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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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