The Great Barrier Reef with Mike Ball

Luxury afloat!

A few weeks ago I packed my bags and headed up to Cairns to spend 2 weeks on board Mike Ball’s acclaimed live aboard boat ‘Spoilsport’. The first thing that struck me when I showed up to the boat was its size! It is a 30m catamaran (nice and stable so no sea sickness! J), with a huge dive deck, spacious dining and living room with alfresco deck and a sundeck up the top to relax between diving and eating.

We set off on the Thursday night for a 13-hour steam to the back of the reef where the diving is the most pristine, and woke up with the Cod Hole on our doorstep! This trip was the first I’ve ever done on the Great Barrier Reef and it was an unforgettable experience.

Potato Cod, image by Gary Brennand.

A giant stride off the back of the boat and I was in the water at the Cod Hole. My buddy and I descended into about 18m of beautiful, clear water and swam over to where the onboard videographer was surrounded by a group of divers and loads of Giant Potato Cod that were almost the size of most of us! They hung around us for the whole dive and were very comfortable coming right up and saying hello. For my first big fish experience, I think it will be a hard one to beat. After the diving we were out of the water with fresh oranges, cold water and hot towels in front of us.

Between the dives there was plenty to do, whether it was relaxing with a book on the sundeck, chilling out in front of a movie in the living area or spending some time downstairs in the cool air-conditioned cabins. Then it’s time to jump back in the water for another amazing dive. The days pretty well continues on in that fashion; dive, eat, sleep, dive, eat, sleep… It’s the kind of life I could get used too!

The marine life was amazing, it was really colourful and diverse. The reef lines were packed with bright, soft and hard corals, creating habitats for fish life such as the famous clown fish, angel fish, huge schools of bright yellow sweet lips, butterfly fish, schools of barracuda, lion fish, mantis shrimp, reef sharks, and of course the famous Potato Cod! These were just a few of the standout species that you can see up there on the reef, but there is literally thousands of fish species that call the Great Barrier Reef home.

Not only was the diving superb, but the food made by the on-board chef was fantastic as well. The days begin with a hot cooked breakfast and a selection of fruits, cereals, juices and yoghurt. Lunch usually consists of a fresh buffet style selection of foods and the dinners are always delectable and followed by a great dessert. The last night on board is Aussie barbeque night, where they cook up a selection of Australian BBQ favourites, drink a few beers and celebrate/commiserate the end of a fantastic trip!

Not only are the in-water sites great, there is plenty to see above the ocean as well. Lizard Island is another of the many attractions this trip offers. It‘s a small island off the coast of North QLD with 1013 hectares of National Park and 24 beautiful sandy beaches. This island is the halfway point of the 7 day Mike Ball trip. This is where the low level scenic flights offered as part of the trip fly into and out of. There is opportunity to take a tour around the island to have a look at the scenery and spot some of the local lizards.

The trip back to Cairns from Lizard Island is equally as spectacular, with just as much to see! Some of the dives sites you will do on this trip include the world famous Cod Hole, Challenger Bay, Lighthouse Bommie, Pixies Pinnacle and Steve’s Bommie. There’s also opportunity to do night dives, and they’re something not to be missed!

The diving on the reef during the day is great, but it is also definitely worth checking out at night. This is when all of the nocturnal critters come out to play and a lot of the fish such as the Trevally are on the prowl for dinner. It’s always amusing to spend the first few minutes of the dive spotlighting the smaller fish with your torch and watching as the Trevally make their move.

On the last day of the trip, when everyone is out of the water, the Aussie BBQ is served and then it’s time to head off for the 12-hour steam back into Cairns. It’s nice after a few days at sea to wake up in the morning to dry land, where you have a nice hot breakfast, say goodbye to the crew and catch the complimentary transport to wherever you need to get to in Cairns!

All in all it is a fantastic trip and the best diving I have seen in Australia. I have so many memories and photos of the two weeks I spent on board the boat and I can’t wait to do it all again – this is a trip you will go back for!


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