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Dive Review of Mike Ball SpoilSport in
Australia/Yongala Wreck & Coral Sea

Mike Ball SpoilSport, Nov, 2002,

by James & Kandace Heimer, TX, USA (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 10 reports). Report 328.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, Malaysia, Hawaii, Mexico (E & W Coasts), Bahamas, Aruba, Grand Cayman & Cayman Brac, S. California, Norway (W. Coast), GBR Australia, Belize & Honduran Bay Islands
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 80 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 70 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions First dive of the day needed to be deepest; max depth and total dive time was recorded after each dive; allowed to dive your own computer profile
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 3 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 Shelves for cameras with adequate space to set-up were provided, as were dedicated rinse tanks. Facilities were available to review video after shooting.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Warning: As has been reported elsewhere in Undercurrent, Mike Ball charges Americans (North and South), Japanese, and some others a surcharge over the price available to Australians, Europeans, and others from the rest of Asia, unless you are booking your trip in Australia (and taking the chance that the cabin and dates you want will be available after you spend the airfare to get downunder). This surcharge is in the hundreds of dollars (about $800 per person, when my wife and I went); it has nothing to do with the exchange rate - it is purely based on nationality, if you are booking from abroad. As another person stated in a related Undercurrent report, we will not be diving with Mike Ball again as long as this policy is in effect. There is an article in Cyberdiver at [cdnn.info link], which you can check.

That said, the SpoilSport was a first rate operation with a well trained, experienced, and friendly staff that went out of their way to be helpful and make your trip pleasant. This extended from the dive staff (who would dive with you on the harder dives) to the cooks (excellent food - except for the chocolate chips in the pecan pie), and to the marine crew. We did suffer some equipment outages to the vessel (Zodiac davit went out and we were on one engine). This caused some re arrangement of the sequence of the sites visited and a quick return to shore to pick up a part, but this was only a minor inconvenience. The ship was spotless and the rooms relatively spacious and comfortable. The AC and plumbing all worked. The dive deck is well laid out for storing gear, for gearing up and entry and exit. There are showers on the dive platform. The crew charges your tank at your dive station and sets your gear up for you.

We did our first dives on the legendary Yongala wreck in extremely high current (i.e. the hang bar was waving behind the boat), but we were given good tips on how to safely decend on the down line and how to keep out of the current by planning our route around the wreck. (This same information was provided for subsequent reef dives, as well.) This was undoubtedly the hairiest night dive I have ever done, with time only for a quick fly-over of the entire wreck before grabbing the up line at the other end to surface and flap about waiting for the zodiac pickup.

The Coral Sea soft and hard coral and tropical fish life is abundant and nearly pristine - much better than the Caribbean, but somewhat less spectacular, coral-wise, from what I have experienced in SE Asian waters. Sharks were seen frequently, as were other pelagics like very large tuna.

We did the SCUBA Zoo shark feeding dive, which is a Mike Ball exclusive. The divers decend to 50 feet and lay on top of submerged shark cages while the food goes in the water in a sealed can. The sharks show up in mass and do 15 minutes or so of swim-bys (overs and arounds, as well), before the divers are directed into the cages and the food can is opened for the frenzy. When the food is gone, the sharks depart and the divers ascend. The boat moves off a little ways and a night dive is done there as well. I thought that chumming the sharks before the night dive was a little excessive, but it does make for an exciting safety stop on the hang bar. All divers returned with limbs intact.

An excellent, excellent dive operation and dive environment - too bad about the surcharge for the rich folks from the Americas, Japan, etc.

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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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