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Dive Review of Mike Ball in
Australia/Great Barrier Reef/Coral Sea

November, 2005, an Instant Reader Report by Mort Rolleston, DC, US
Report Number 2777
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Ko Samui Thailand, Nassau Bahamas, Bonaire, Key Largo FL, NC wrecks, Santa
Catalina CA, Brockville Ontario wrecks
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
Water Temp
78   to 80    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  4 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
You could download digital photos on a computer on the ship.  plenty of
camera only shelves above dive stations and plenty of camera only wash
tanks.  Several on board had multi-thousand dollar cameras and video
cameras and had no problems.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
4 stars    
We embarked on the 1-8 November 2005 liveaboard trip out of Townsville on
the Spoilsport.  It visited sites in the Bowl, Dip, ANZAC, and Wheeler
Reefs within the Great Barrier Reef; Flinders Reef out in the Coral Sea;
and the world famous Yongala wreck.   It was our first liveaboard
experience and we definitely got hooked:  nothing to do but eat, sleep,
relax, and dive  almost like camp for adults.  Most days had four
opportunities to dive  to include night dives.  Other than a very small
treeless islet in Flinders Reef, at which we stopped to explore for a few
hours, we did not see land for a week. The night skies were unbelievable so
far away from the lights of civilization.  The crew, most especially its
leader AJ, was top notch, worked hard, and took care of you.  They provided
as much assistance as you wanted and would guide you or dive with you if
you requested or lacked a buddy.  With our eternal gratitude, they also
delayed departure to wait for us as our flight was very late.  One of the
crew ran various diver education courses and photos throughout the trip. 
Dive briefings were detailed and useful and even included detailed site
maps on chalkboards.  The food was somewhat straightforward, but very good
and quite varied.  The crew also conducted various fun group activities on
some nights.  The diving ranged from surprisingly average to the best.  The
Yongala wreck is truly world class and worth the hype as one of the worlds
great dives.  Because the wreck is an oasis on the otherwise bare ocean
floor, was unknown for decades, and has been protected by law for many
years, marine life has been able to evolve unmolested.  They included mass
upon mass of overgrown jacks, jewfish, snapper, pufferfish, sea snakes,
turtles, moray eels, Napoleon wrasse, groupers, huge bull rays at night,
barracuda, mackerel, baitfish, and on and on.  A few bull sharks apparently
patrol nearby, though I never saw them.  The coral on the ship turned
bright orange at night.  Unlike the reefs, the coral on the Yongala is
mostly soft coral, including some that looked like purple leaves.   The
coral covering is so dense you hardly know there is a large intact
freighter there.   In sum:  absolutely unbelievable.  Not far behind were a
few dives among truly pristine fields of hard coral(though some was pure
white  I assume bleached) of all shapes and sizes as far as the eye can
see.  The shark feed at Scuba Zoo, while somewhat contrived, was also quite
enjoyable as it drew a dozen or so blacktips and reef sharks.  Unlike my
experience in Nassau, this crew doesn't handfeed the sharks.  They instead
put the sharks' natural food in a garbage can that they move around for
10-15 minutes on a pulley system around the group perched on top of shark
cages along the bottom to attract the sharks and give everyone a chance to
get up close and personal.  They then mechanically lift the lid, from which
a long chain with fish on various hooks extends.  At that moment, the
sharks very quickly pounce on the food in a "frenzy" and after
several minutes disappear.  A couple of dives involved some impressive
steep walls and interesting rock and cave formations.  Most of the rest of
the diving was among spur and groove like groups of bommies or rock
formations that raise off the bottom with small canyons in between, some
better than others.  Most of the usual suspects you see in any tropical
waters were there.  Shark encounters averaged perhaps one whitetip per
every other dive.  In addition, we did see completely new types of fish
compared to the Caribbean:  fuseliers, giant clams, sweetlips, napoleon
wrasse, unicornfish, moorish idols, clownfish, cuttlefish, large red sea
cucumbers, lionfish, batfish, triggerfish, and large bumphead parrotfish. 
Noticeably missing for the most part:  lobsters, crabs (and most any
critter at night for that matter), as well as eels and soft coral.  In sum,
while the Yongala and perhaps a half dozen of the other dives as well as
the liveaboard experience with Mike Ball were worth the trip, maybe half of
my 20 dives were surprisingly not significantly better than my Caribbean
diving experience as far as fish life.  We had a great time overall.

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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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