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Gina, Joe and Justin's Backpacking Experience

Mike Ball Diving Liveaboard (Full Report)

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 24 January 2009 | Views [4591] | Comments [5]

Beware!  this is a long one ;)

The day has finally come!!!  The apex of our adventure, the Great Barrier Reef liveaboard.  For anyone reading that hasn't heard about this facet of our trip; to make a long story short, we originally had plans to go diving off a boat called the Nimrod.  Unfortunately this boat was sold to the Solomon Islands about 3 days after we paid our bill off, figures!  Lucky for us our superman travel agent was able to strike up a deal with the operator of Mike Ball Dive Expeditions to get us on board his boat at an affordable discount.  Mike Ball Dive Expeditions is like the Ritz Carlton of dive boats for this area.  Second only to having your own yacht, this setup is the top of the pyramid.  The company even appropriately dubbed the boat “Spoilsport” after it's dual aspirations.  The voyage was to be 7 nights and 8 days (actually 6 full days) with top shelf food and top shelf diving, what more could one ask for???

I can honestly say that our main concern prior to boarding the ship was the people we were going to be shipmates with.  Given that this operation is the “nicest” it is also the most expensive of all the options leaving Cairns.  Unfortunately when it comes to somewhat pricey luxury boating one immediately assumes an older crowd.  However when we got on board we were defiantly pleasantly surprised with a mix of people from all ages and even more countries, things are looking good.  It only took about 30 minutes for the whole group to become instant friends and everyone to realize that this trip was going to be one for the record books!  So with our new friends and a belly full of delicious champagne and cheese we set sail! 

At 6:30 am the next morning we found out how serious these guys were about their diving.  Richard, our fearless leader, used his internal air horn to announce it was time to get up and get wet....ugh...6:30 am...its gonna be a long week.  In hindsight i think Richard really got some sort of cheap thrill out of punishing those of us who decided to stay up a little late at night with his crack of dawn shenanigans...some people are just sick!  The plus side to the early wake-up was what we referred to as “Breakfast 1.”  Nothing like rising out of bed to hot coffee (or MILO...lol...don't ever say you dont know what Milo is or your will suffer the Aussie wrath), croissants, fresh fruit, and yogurt.  And then after our sermon-esque dive brief it was dive time!  And there's nothing like a 7 am dunk it the water to wake you up if the coffee didn't do the trick. 

After our wake-up dive the day improved dramatically.  Waiting for us on deck after we got out of the water was a mountainous spread thenceforth dubbed “Breakfast 2.”  After all, any good breakfast deserves an encore! Breakfast 2 put breakfast 1 to shame.  There was bacon, pancakes, eggs, tomato's, beans, and even mushrooms.  I think there might be something to this 2 breakfast a day thing ;).  After the schmorgasborg we donned our sopping wet dive apparel and were back in the water (2 dives by 9 am...that's serious business). 

After dive #2 we had our daily “free time” which amounted to about an hour and a half while we motored to the next diving location.  And then the cycle was repeated...snack...dive...lunch...dive.  Unfortunately there was only one lunch every day, but i don't think anyone noticed because i'm pretty sure no one was actually hungry 3 hours after eating 2 breakfasts!!   But don't believe for a second that stopped anyone from having at least one full plate of food, with the likes of pumpkin ravioli, smoked barramuni, and FRESH MADE tomato soup...who could resist! 

Ok, now we're up to 4 dives and its mid afternoon.  Time for a 30 minute nap (for the non-diving community a nap is definitely needed after breathing 4 full bottles of air at 100 feet in 6 hours time)...and then it's time for the night dive!  PS night dives are the best...even Gina who swore up and down that she would never do a night dive even fell in love after her first go ;)...me and joe love being right! 

After our night dive was DINNER!  I think anyone reading could probably guess at this point how dinner went.  I'll save me the typing and you the reading...it was everything you could want it to be and more...my compliments to the chef! 

So this little daily sequence was followed pretty much to a T for the next 6 excruciatingly exhausting days to a grand total of 26 dives or 25 hours spent underwater.  That is if you didn't skip any dives...cough cough Beata, Ron, and Marsha cough. 

Another benefit to paying a little more for this boat versus other cheaper options was their ability to go to reef locations that are MUCH more remote and therefore more pristine.  Several of the spots we went to are only visited by their ship.  There was even one site that we visited, due to the near perfect weather conditions, that has only been visited on 3 other occasions ever!!!  How cool is it to think that we were probably in the first 50 people to visit the sight!  The captain told us that that point we were about 2/3rd's of the way to Paupa New Guinea...hows that for off the beaten path!!!  The name of this site was Shark Reef (ooohhh scary huh) because on previous stops they saw some of the biggest tropical sharks the crew has ever seen on the reef.  We weren't quite so lucky (depends on what you consider lucky i guess), but it was still a beautiful wall dive.  There's something erie and awe-inspiring about diving on the edge of the continental shelf where the ocean goes from 80 feet deep to over a mile deep almost instantly...

Another noteworthy dive site we visited was Cod Hole.  At this site there where these HUGE potato cod (see the pics) that inhabited the area and due to the traffic seen at the location were quite tolerant of divers.  We were able to swim right up next to these massive beasts who were as docile as a puppy...definitely made for some great pictures.  We went back down at night here and got to see why these guys are so tolerant of us divers.  It turns out that they don't have the best night vision in the world...but no worries...divers carry lights...queue the bloodbath.  You've got to give them credit they're smart ;).  They would wait for our dive lights to illuminate their dinner and WHAM, Joe actually accidentally sacrificed an entire school of fish...albeit on accident...sicko!!  These cod also had no regard for us divers when it was feeding time either.  I actually got headfirst smashed by one in pursuit of a hopeless fish.  They also had a knack of being right next to you.....just outside your peripheral vision until you turned and almost had a heart attack!  Nothing like seeing a 200lb fish 3 inches from your face in the middle of the night when your not expecting it!!!!!

We also had a shark feed site...This was great!!!  They arranged all us us on the reef wall like a little diver auditorium and waived around a bucket of tuna heads until all the neighborhood creatures were interested.  They then opened the bucket and watched as the frenzy ensued!  It was something to see these sharks go after the fish heads ripping them apart like you see on the discovery channel.  For all the mom's and girlfriends reading...don't worry they don't attack humans.  In fact there terrified of us and we couldn't get within 10 feet of them without them scurrying off.

I could go on for days about all the different amazing dive sites, but that would bore both of us so i think thats good for now ;).  I will mention real quick that we were again super lucky when a juvenile whale shark swam up to our boat.  This didnt mean much to me at first, but we later found out that NOONE on the boat had ever seen one before and the divemasters and such had been diving the reef for 10-15 years each!  So i guess we were pretty lucky!!!

After the 4th day of the adventure half of the group had to disembark and allow another group to take their spot (you could purchase a half trip).  The night before they were leaving we learned that the camera guy had been shooting a video the entire time!!!  It turns out that Joe and Gina were aware of this, due to the fact that they made up 75% of the video by themselves!  Myself and my new cronies were disappointed and made a pact that the next video would be much more entertaining.  We now had a mission!

I can say with certainty that we accomplished our mission to the utmost extent and i think they sold a record number of trip video's after our (and the crew's) effort to raise the bar!  To make a long story short the troublemaker (and Diva....hahah Beata) group, comprised of: John, Marsha, Claire, Ron, Beata, and Myself, devised a few cheeky underwater shenanigans.  the first was a 6 man pyramid from the deco bar.  Number two was our underwater poker game complete with cards, beer (cans anyway), hats, sunglasses, and a bit of NARCOSIS.  Unfortunately our well planned poker game had one flaw...the sand was at 110 feet...oops...too late to back out now!  So we had our fun little game and got the whole thing on video...I think my favorite part of the whole bit was john saying “I wasn't narced” and then seeing him in the video holding his cards with the numbers facing the group...completely backwards!!!! hahaah suuuuuuuurrrreee you weren't narced John ;).  We even finished the bit with a little dance (lol at Claire on this one) and some YMCA...Yeah...the video is funny ;)

Ok one last thing and then I'm done ;).  We decided to get our advanced diving certification on the trip to avoid pointless hassles when trying to do more advanced dives.  I want to take a second to thank Shae for teaching us the most useful diving skills to date such as underwater air “smoke” ring blowing, advanced front flip water entry procedure, and my person favorite that just by strapping a compass on Gina's wrist she becomes 10x less nervous and fidgety even though she still has NO CLUE WHERE THE BOAT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



I'm glad you all had such a wonderful time and mostly glad no one got hurt/eaten!

  Mickie Jan 25, 2009 4:06 AM


Couldn't have written it better great fun had by all and if your ever back over this way hook up with us you'll always be welcome. Not narced!!!!

  John Jan 26, 2009 4:05 PM


hahah...i have proof that you were narc'ed....what do you have!!!!! noooothin!! lol john...good times...we just booked another liveaboard in thailand! no chance its gonna live up to the EPIC one we just had!


  gborchers3 Jan 26, 2009 9:06 PM


Hey - for the record, I missed one dive, which by the way I recall you described as a bit lousy due to the strong currents! Really enjoyed reading your blurb about the trip and had a few laughs. I'm curious as to why you didn't tell anyone about the couple of attempted shark attacks.....?

  Marsha Jan 30, 2009 10:09 PM


Hi, It sounds like a fantastic trip. I'm trying arrange 4 night live aboard to Coral Sea. I was wondering what tourist agency you booked the trip with? Thanks,

  Mehpare May 14, 2013 12:51 PM

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