By Blake Crossingham
From the moment I started diving the only place I ever wanted to dive was the Great Barrier Reef, I always heard the best way to explore and dive the reef was on a liveaboard boat. I could not think of anything better than travelling around the reef on a big boat, no land in sight, diving 5 times a day in tropical water, drinking and eating.. and more eating… Every divers dream, right?
I was lucky enough to be leading a group of 15 divers to the tropical waters of cairns, on Mike Ball Dive Expedition’s boat “spoilsport”. With a name like spoilsport I knew we were going to be spoilt with excellent diving and service. The excitement grew as we touched down in cairns, the sun was shining and the water looked inviting. A few of us went down a night earlier to relax and unwind before our big trip on the reef for five days! Waking up in cairns we were all excited we went straight to the Mike Ball office to check in and drop our bags off, we could not wait. Everyone started arriving and we all met at the local to meet each other and the crew. We could all tell this was going to be a once in a lifetime trip with amazing people.
The reason we were up there for this trip was to dive with the Minke Whales, at this time of the year the whales make their way up to cairns where a select few boats are allowed to dive and snorkel with the whales! I have dived with sharks, manta rays, dolphins but never a whale, I think I was more excited than anyone else! We jumped on the boat at around 6.00pm on the Thursday night, found our rooms and started to unpack, my luggage consisted of mainly dive gear so I went straight to the dive deck and set my gear up for the next morning, my clothes can wait =)
We all had a quiet night and went to bed nice and early after a few drinks, The excitement had worn everyone out and we were all pumped to get into the water for our first dive. The service on Mike Ball was brilliant, you wake up and first breakfast was ready, you do a dive and second breakfast was ready, you do a dive and morning tea was ready! I could get used to this. Even the 6.45am wake up got everyone into the mood to go diving! Gooooooooooooooooooooood Moooooooooooooorning. WAKEY WAKEY! Cried down the hallways and everyone jumped out of bed for our first dive!
Dive brief was done and everyone scrambled to be first in the water to go for a dive, the water was WARM, it was CLEAR what else could you ask for. There was a few people on the boat that had never done a tropical dive trip so I was very happy to take them for a dive and show them how good the tropics were! As soon as we descent there were huge schools of tropical fish, white tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, stingrays, sea snakes, and also little critters like mantis shrimp, lionfish and garden eels. I have been around the world diving in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Thailand but I still think the best diving is here in our own country the Great Barrier Reef!
The first day we didn’t get to see any whales but we didn’t care, the diving was absolutely amazing and the company was great. One of my favourite memories was when Will, Shannon and me went for a dive and we had a VERY friendly sea snake getting close and personal, he was sticking his head through my split fins and then turned and made a straight line to Will, who didn’t know the snake was wrapped around his leg making himself at home, me and Shannon could not stop laughing!
During the dive brief on the second morning, we hear the cries from the lookout above, Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinkes! Kieren stopped the dive brief and we put our scuba gear down and quickly grabbed out snorkel stuff and we were off. Holding onto the mermaid lines we waited silently no one made a sound we didn’t want to scare off the whales. Almost giving up coming from right underneath me was this huuuuuge animal, so peacefully it swam right around us. I could not believe it I was only 3m away from a 9m whale. It was one of the best experiences in my life, at this moment everyone was cheering and smiling. One whale turned into two, two turned into three and we didn’t know which way to look! I was lucky enough to go diving one day and did a safety stop by myself when two minke whales swam right infront of me while I was on the the Deco bar, quickly trying to grab my camera I got some very cool photos, I think I stopped breathing and froze for a moment, seeing something that big in the water is truly amazing!
The last few dives we did were at the Cod Hole, and I have to say this is my new favourite dive spot in the world! The currents were a little strong but the visibility would have easily been 40m++. After snorkelling with whales, diving with whales I Though how can this trip get any better? Cod Hole made it better. The Cod Hole is famous for the Potato cod, which are the friendliest fish I have ever dives with, yes friendlier then Gus! They don’t care how close they come near you, or even if they swim into you, a few times I had to move out of their way, they played chicken with us. If you ever want great photo opportunities you have to dive here. It was fantastic, and the night dives were also great, With thousands of trevally and white tip sharks getting close and personal. Using us as a hunting device, I almost felt bad playing god with the little fish, the trevally use or lights to hunt. I was lucky to be leading around 10 people on the night dive, so I was in the spotlight, any time a little fish swam past me I was bumped and pushed out of the way by the trevally so they could eat. Very funneveryone to watch.
The last night on the trip we anchored up at Lizard Island and had a BBQ night, great fun for everyone. The captain comes rocking out with some awesome tunes on his guitar as we all sang along. When most people went to bed we took over the stereo system and played some tracks and had our own party in the middle of the ocean on a boat, it was a great way to end the trip.
IT was sad to leave the boat in the end, the service was the best I have ever had on any dive trip and the diving was amazing. I recommend anyone who loves diving or has even just learnt to get on this boat and do the Minke Whale Expedition, you will not regret it. The company was excellent and we are all going to leave this trip with lifelong friends and dive buddies. I can’t wait to dive with everyone again and get the Minke Whale crew back together for another trip sometime =)