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Dive Review of Mike Ball in

Mike Ball, May, 2004,

by Rick Sterne/Chris Button, AR, USA . Report 1074.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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 9.

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

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, surge, currents
Water Temp 77-78°F / 25-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40-80 Ft/ 12-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 130 feet or MOD for Nitrox
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 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments We were using an underwater camera for the first time.
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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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