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Dive Review of Spirit of Freedom in
Australia/GBR and Coral Sea

Spirit of Freedom, Sep, 2010,

by Sandra Tullis, CA, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports). Report 5720.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Have also been diving in Belize, Bonaire, Red Sea, Maui, Kona and Indonesia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas calm, choppy, currents
Water Temp 72 to 75 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40 to 90 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions 40 meter limit on first dive of the day and no more than 30 meters on subsequent dives. No reverse profiles allowed during dive day. They check computers for ascent rates. No less than 50 bar or 500 psi at the end of a dive.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Only lower ratings on facilities due to space. If you have more than 2 or 3 large setups, it gets very crowded. 110 and 220 voltage available on indoor camera table. Dry table with air gun on dive deck. CDs can be burned to back up photo cards. Bring your wide angle lens! They will also make a CD for you of pictures the divemasters take if you do not do photos of your own.

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments My husband and I booked the trip through About Australia Diving as they are very familiar with the boat and were able to get a spot on the boat for the time we wanted when no one else could. Friends of ours were on the boat in Feb 2010 and loved it. We were picked up promptly at our Cairns hotel for the 7 day trip up the Great Barrier Reef to Cod Hole and then to Osprey reef in the Coral Sea. During that time we only saw the competitors boat once. We had the reefs to ourselves.

The Boat
The boat is slightly smaller than the other liveaboard boats in the area, but never seemed crowded, even with 23 divers. It is very well laid out for diving and relaxing. Tanks are aluminum 80s and Nitrox fills are done quickly at 32%. Weight belts were already prepared when we arrived and we found the 6 kilo weighting with a 3m suit to be perfect. Rental gear is available and those who rented seemed to be happy with it. Our stateroom had the best shower I have ever used on a liveaboard. We are vegetarians and we were well taken care of with plentiful and delicious food. Someone had a birthday and the chef made a chocolate cake that we all fought over for second helpings.

The Staff
The staff is nothing short of outstanding in managing the boat and its divers in and out of the water, regardless of the diving skill of the guest. Eveyone was pleasant helpful and enthusiastic. The captains and mates were the most accesible and visible of any liveaboard I have ever been on. Even though I would not recommend this itenerary for beginning divers (hence the 3 on beginner rating) there were several divers on board with 15 dives or less. A couple of the dives had very strong current and very rough sea at boat re-entry. Despite this the staff made sure that everyone got in and out safely using tenders, john lines etc without being overbearing about it. More diving detail below.

The Diving (aka the fun part)
As cold water divers, we were thrilled to be back in 70+ degree water. The fish life was outstanding both small (anthias,damsels) and large(potato cod, sharks). At most sights we agreed it was simply raining fish. Coral formations looked healthy. Visibility varied from 40 feet to over 80 feet depending on the site. They use mooring lines only, no anchors. The conditions along the GBR were pretty calm and this is great but can be misleading. At Cod Hole for the cod feed dive (yes giant potato cod eat right in front of you!), we had current of 3.5 on a 5 scale. The crew dropped us from tenders down to the sight with the dive masters and brought us back on a series of lines (which we hung onto for dear life)with dive masters at various points along the lines to assist.
After 4 days on the GBR, we steamed from Lizard Island to Osprey reef. This reef had fascinating swimthroughs and canyons. Conditions were more choppy here but there were sharks on every dive. We saw a few mantas, stingrays and devil rays as well. Again, great coral and it was raining fish. On the shark feed dive (about 20 reef sharks and a few potato cod fighting over bait, right in front of you!) there were 6 foot waves breaking on the back of the boat. Toughest boat re-entry I have ever done. My husband needed 2 tries to get on. Again the crew was outstanding in getting everyone back on safely.
They account for divers and their dive statistics carefully. The boat does not move until everyone has signed back into the log. We sat out one dive to take a nap and they held the boat until one of the crew came into our cabin and received our signatures so the boat could move to the next site.
This is not a location for muck divers looking for tiny things everywhere, but we did that already in Lembeh so were ready for more coral and big animals. We got all that we could have hoped for and more. I cannot recommend this boat enough.
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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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