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

November, 2002, an Instant Reader Report by James & Kandace Heimer, TX, USA
Sr. Reviewer   (10 reports)
Report Number 328
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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

choppy, currents  
Water Temp
80   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 70    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
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  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
Shelves for cameras with adequate space to set-up were provided, as were
dedicated rinse tanks.  Facilities were available to review video after
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
5 stars    
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 [ 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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Other dive reports on Mike Ball Dive Expeditions

All Australia Dive Reviews and Reports
Diving Guide to Australia
Diving Reviews for All Dive Destinations

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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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