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Dive Review of Peter Hughes Diving/Star Dancer in
Papua New Guinea/Kimbe, New Britain

June, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Sherwood & Judith Smith, WA, USA
Sr. Reviewer   (7 reports)
Report Number 4374
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Much of the Indo-Pacific, a lot of the Caribbean, Mozambique, Alaska,
British Columbia, Puget Sound
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
sunny, windy, rainy, dry  
Seas
calm, choppy  
Water Temp
82   to 86    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
1
Water Visibility
30   to 80    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
yes  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
controlled only by our computers  
Liveaboard?
yes 
Nitrox Available?
N/A 
What I saw
Sharks
Lots 
Mantas
None 
Dolphins
Schools 
Whale Sharks
None 
Turtles
> 2 
Whales
None 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 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  
Comments
Large camera table on the dive deck. Good facilities for recharging both in
cabins, salon, and on dive deck. Dive guides well aware of what
photographers want to see, and showed us many "special" things,
mostly macro critters, that we would otherwise have missed.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Accommodations
5 stars
Food
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
N/A  
Snorkeling
N/A  
 
 

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
Beginners
3 stars   
Advanced
5 stars    
Comments  
After the 2008 SPUMS meeting, we were among a group of  9 passengers who
embarked on a 9-day cruise on the Star Dancer, on which we had spent
several days day tripping during the meeting. The boat has a capacity of 16
divers, and had a crew of  approx. 10. 

We had booked this boat, in preference to another, based on our previous
experience with, and the reputation of, Peter Hughes Diving. What we found
was a tired, aging boat, sincerely in need of a refit, both mechanical and
decorative. As experienced sailors, and having enjoyed numerous liveaboard
experiences, we were extremely concerned with the alarming condition of the
boat, and the problems which were encountered over the week. Although the
following is an incomplete list of problems, the major health and safety 
issues included:

·	Lack of a functioning depth sounder on the ship, in this
reef-strewn environment.
·	Malfunctioning of the ships radar.
·	One of two generator sets out of service.
·	One of two water-makers out of service.
·	Malfunctioning of the Nitrox membrane such that the pO2  of the
Nitrox varied from 25  33 over the trip, and the O2 analyzer itself was
intermittent.
·	Explosion of a high pressure air line near the deck manifold, with
several people on deck nearby.
·	Failure of the wire rope which elevated the dive stairs, narrowly
avoiding injury to two crew members
·	A leak/blockage in the sewage system producing unpleasant aromas
on the passenger cabin level, until finally managed by the crew over a
two-day period.
·	Pump failures, and a broken pipe in the water supply which caused
failure of the toilets to function, and ultimately loss of the ships
entire water supply, necessitating our return to Walindi for repairs,
water, spare parts, and an engineer, in order to complete the voyage.

Fortunately, the captain and crew proved resourceful in dealing with these
issues, so that we missed a three or four dives only, over the course of
the trip.  

Food was quite good, and varied, including light breakfast before the first
dive, then a full cooked breakfast of your choice, a mid-morning dive, a
full cooked lunch, an afternoon dive, and then a late afternoon, or
dusk/night dive, followed by dinner. Soft drinks, beer, and wine were all
included for the price of the cruise. Snacks, and freshly baked goods were
readily available. Dining service, and cabin service was beyond reproach,
as was whatever assistance was required on the dive deck, by crew who were
enthusiastic, capable, friendly, and eager to accommodate the preferences
of each diver. This was a crew equal to any we have experienced.

Diving began on the outer reaches of Kimbe Bay, with a shark dive at Inglis
Shoal (see my report of  our land-based week). After several dives in this
region, we sailed for the Witu Islands, and ultimately to the reefs in the
Fathers group, off the west coast of New Britain, about half way between
Hoskins and Rabaul.

Most dives were on seamounts, though in the Witus, we did several drift
dives along the coral-encrusted rock walls of  islands. We had the
opportunity to visit two villages, always a rewarding experience.  Quite a
number of the seamounts were covered with venomous corallimorphs, which
encouraged us to be meticulous with our no-touch diving technique. 

The dive sites in the Witu group were quite lush with soft corals, fans,
and attendant macro critters including, ghostfish, hawkfish, pipefish,
pygmy  seahorses, and dozens of species of shrimp and nudibranchs. At
Crater we anchored in an old caldera, and did a muck dive to rival the best
of Mabul, with crab eye gobies, jawfish, octopus, and several types of
mantis shrimp.

The Fathers group was disappointing, in that the lushness seen in Kimbe Bay
was absent. The seamounts are more isolated, with bare, current-swept tops,
save for the ubiquitous corallimorphs. We did, however, see bigger schools
of jacks and barracuda in this area, and one morning, three of us tore
across the bay in the dinghy, toward a collection of fins, and were
rewarded with the opportunity of snorkeling with a pod of dolphins.  My
personal highlight was the chance of swimming with three silvertip sharks
on a night dive, and to pass some time sitting on the hang tank while being
buzzed by these giants, who passed close enough to touch!

Overall, my suggestion to prospective divers would be to do Kimbe Bay as a
land-based trip via Dive Walindi, as the overall richness of the dive sites
is just as rewarding, at a significant cost saving.

As an aside, on our return we reported our boat experience in detail to
Peter Hughes Diving. Peter and his staff initially responded with
skepticism, telling us that Howard Hall had been on the boat just a few
weeks before, and that everything had been perfect. One of his staff
members followed with an email strongly implying that we were making this
all up, and containing not-so-veiled threats, were we to publicize our
findings. All we can do is to report our experiences. 

However, Peter Hughes himself subsequently visited the boat in August 2008,
and has recently emailed back to us, as he had promised to do, assuring us
that almost all repairs have been completed, and that the boat will be in
dry-dock for a further refit in the near future. It would appear, then,
that our observations and criticisms have been validated.

Nonetheless, I would recommend that inquiries be made directly to Peter
Hughes, as to the state of repair of the boat, before booking this
charter.
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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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