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Dive Review of Mike Ball in

May, 2004, an Instant Reader Report by Rick Sterne/Chris Button, AR, USA
Report Number 1074
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
 Bahamas, Bay Islands, Belize, Cozumel,Sea of Cortez, Tortola
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
calm, surge, currents  
Water Temp
77   to 78    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
 130 feet or MOD for Nitrox  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
 We were using an underwater camera for the first time.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
4 stars    
     This journey to Australia was our first "big" trip.  And it
was big indeed, surpassing our every expectation.  We booked the trip with
Rick's Dive'n Travel in North Little Rock and were very pleased with the
price of a package that included five days' activities on land as well as a
week aboard the Spoilsport.  Queensland is well worth a week above water. 
Our vacation did have a rocky beginning, since Continental Express left the
baggage of half our group in Little Rock while we were fairly comfortably
transported to Cairns.  Our introduction to South Pacific diving, however,
was wonderful.  We were blessed with perfect weather.  The Spoilsport took
advantage of the calm seas to begin our week with two days on the wreck of
the Yongala.  As the DM promised, everything on the Yongala was BIG and
indifferent to divers.  We saw numerous cleaning stations nestled among the
hard and soft corals.  At night we saw turtles sleeping in the holds of the
ship.  One morning we encountered "pancaking" marble rays: 16
rays swimming in a compact stack with a grouper worrying them.  Did I
mention the really large groupers that hung out at the stern watching
divers descend and ascend?  There were lots of tropical fish which we were
unable to identify beyond general category since we had never been in the
Pacific before.  The nighttime crossing to the Coral Sea was rough, and
several divers were seasick for the first time.  The diving in the Coral
Sea was worth the trip.  Although we encountered some strong currents in
this area, we loved the soft corals and the many gorgeous, gaudy fish.  We
saw two kinds of lionfish and a couple of clown triggerfish as well as
many. many anemone fish.  There were large bright sea fans, several kinds
of nudibranchs, feathery stars, a variety of sea stars, bright-colored
worms, shrimps galore,  lobsters, assorted crabs, sea serpents, and
numerous sea cucumbers.  The Spoilsport does a weekly shark-feeding dive,
something we had never experienced before.  As advertised, there were a lot
of sharks at Scuba Zoo.  The best part of Scuba Zoo for us was doing the
night dive on a nearby wall and enjoying the sharks swimming near us as we
hung on the deco bar.  All the night divers did either very short or very
long safety stops that evening.  We also enjoyed several dives on the Great
Barrier Reef, our favorite site being Wheeler's Reef, a group of coral
bommies bright with aquarium fish (and apparently hosting a sea cucmber
convention the day we dove).  We spent much of our surface intervals poring
over the Spoilsport's good library of marine ID books, trying to figure out
what we were seeing.  As for the Spoilsport itself: WOW!  This was our
seventh liveaboard, and it quickly became our gold standard.  The boat is
comfortable and clean.  We treated ourselves to a premium cabin, which was
comparable to a cruise ship cabin.  There is an actual thermostat in each
cabin, remote control no less.  The salon was spacious, with comfortable
couches, two TV's with DVD players, a light table for film photographers,
and a good marine library. The dining area seated all 22 divers comfortably
at three long tables.  Chef Rob produced three generous gourmet meals a
day.  All three main meals were culinary events.  We enjoyed fresh-baked
breads every time we sat down.  Veggies were fresh and beautifully
prepared. When lamb or fish was served, there was a chicken or beef
alternative.  The soups at lunch were a highpoint of the day.  Breakfasts
were varied and creative.  Australian wine was served with dinner each
evening.  Lest we go hungry, fresh-baked snacks appeared as morning and
afternoon tea.  And you could have all the Vegemite you wanted.  The dive
deck was comfortable.  Each diver was assigned a tank staion with underseat
storage.  A towel, tagged for each station, was dry and fluffy at dive's
end.  Dive briefings were thorough, and the level of sevice on the dive
deck was impressive.  Every crew member acted as if he actually enjoyed his
job. We were served ice water before and after each dive right on the dive
deck and especially enjoyed the bowls of fresh sliced oranges apres-dive. 
During morning surface intervals, there was a series of reef ecology
lectures.  I noticed that even the guys with 1000-plus dives were taking
home reef ecology certificates.  While it is theoretically possible to do 5
dives per day, the schedule is set up so that it is very easy to do 4 dives
a day.  That number may be safer when diving in such a remote location. 
The daily schedule was site briefing and dive #1 , followed by breakfast,
with the dive deck open until lunch.  The boat often moved to a new site
while we ate.  After a new site briefing, the dive deck was open for entry
until 1830.  Dinner follwed the night dive. Midweek the ship has a Party
Night, which was fun and enforced a more extended offgassing period.  The
dinghies took us to a sand cay inhabited by black-footed boobies and hermit
crabs.  We toasted the sunset with champagne.  Back on board, we played
silly summer camp games and enjoyed dinner from the barbie.  EAN 32 fills
were $20 Australian per day.  Divemasters were always available to serve as
buddies or to guide dives.  All this and Cadbury chocolate on your pillow
each evening!  On a scale of 1-5, our week oaboard the Spoilsport ranked

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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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