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

Mike Ball, Nov, 2005,

by Mort Rolleston, DC, US . Report 2777.

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

Weather sunny, dry Seas
Water Temp 78 to 80 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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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