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Re-live your experience and share it with friends at home by visiting our trip gallery. The trip gallery is a snapshot of hundreds of photos taken on board each week. If you would like to purchase your complete Trip CD from a recent trip, please contact us at guestservices@spiritoffreedom.com.au.

Thu 5th October 2017 - Mon 9th October 2017 - ( 15) images

The guests flew into meet Spirit of Freedom moored up in the stunning Watson's Bay, of Lizard Island. To begin their 4-day liveaboard experience out into the Coral Sea. We had a few familiar faces return for their 2nd trip with us, Russell and Peter, who brought along their friend Stephen. As well as a diving team all the way from South Korea and a mix bag of some other different nationalities. Always makes for a fun trip.

With a great bunch of guests, the crew let go of the lines and headed out to Ribbon Reef 9 ¾, to do our first 2 dives of the trip. The more experienced jumped in and set off to explore Pixie Gardens while some got used to breathing underwater again with the help of our wonderful instructors. We spotted a large Maori Wrasse, some Barracuda, Nudibranchs, and bundles of pipefish.

Once everyone was back on board it was time to prepare the boat for our steam out into the Coral Sea. Captain Tony is onboard and it's only blowing 15-20 knots... No problem, Osprey Reef here we come!

Waking up 100miles off the coast of mainland Australia, we had arrived at Osprey Reef to begin our day with a dive at False Entrance. Timing could not of been better for this dive site. We jumped in at the top of an incoming tide, which allowed for little to no current with 50+ metre visibility. It was Awesome! Plenty of white tip sharks, schools of jacks, a few small Tuna swimming around as well as Bumphead Parrot fish as it gets closer to their mating season. The wall was filled with beautiful soft corals and plenty of little fish everywhere.

We then headed over to Nautilus Caves where we jumped in for an epic wall dive, allowing depth; some cool cracks and swim throughs. We spotted a few grey reef sharks in the blue.

It was Silver City for our 3rd dive of the day. The divers dropped down to look at the beautiful soft corals and fans on the deep ledge before ascending into the shallows and meandering their pathway through the underwater mountain structures resting on the deep oceanic shelf wall.

Making our way to the entrance of the Osprey Lagoon, we moored up at Admiralty for 2 dives. You never know what you are going to find here as it offers such a diverse array of marine life. Our guests were lucky enough to spot an Eagle Ray and lots of white tip reef sharks. They enjoyed the swim throughs and the amazing topography that this dive site offers. Our Dm/Hostee Christine, even saw a Manta Ray off in the distance. There is no photo proof so we are still a little unsure ;) but anything is possible out here in the Coral Sea.

To finish off our action packed 5-dive day we set out for a night dive after dinner. We encountered many Bump Head Parrot fish sleeping in the crevasses, a few sharks cruising around and lots of weird and wonderful hermit crabs. Some adventurous divers did the swim through which is always awesome at night.

Day 2 out here at Osprey and we've come to the highlight of the trip. Mooring up at North Horn for 3 epic dives, this north point of osprey offers such a diverse range of dives. The visibility is 50+ meters, the sun is shining and everyone is in high spirits.
First with a drift dive down Blue Marlin Wall, with bump head parrot fish waking up and coming out off the reef, lots of tuna swimming past as well as some sharks eagerly awaiting their breakfast.
A nice surface interval and then we all geared up and got ready for our Shark Feed dive, everyone was very eager, even our first mate John was keen to blow some bubbles with the sharks. This week we had instructor Matty doing the honor of getting up close and personal to open the cage full of tuna heads.
It all went to plan without a hitch; everyone enjoyed the adrenaline rush of being surrounded by 40-50 grey reef sharks but not as much as Mr Potato Cod who pretty much owns the show every week. What a legend.

We headed over to Castles where everyone enjoyed their last dive out here in the Coral Sea. It's a nice way to finish the day and this dive site really proves what Osprey is all about. Dropping down in the blue abyss to find a massive wall structure dropping down to 1000+ metres. Then diving around huge underwater mountains and swim throughs. This magical place makes you feel extremely small and puts this magnificent reef system into perspective.

Waking up back in Ribbon Reef #5 for a morning dive at Crack A Jack and what a cracker it was! Schools of jacks, leafy scorpion fish, coral trout, Barracuda, Glass fish, Nudibranchs. We had great conditions, minimal current and pretty nice visability. Happy Days.

Off we went to one of our favorite dive site down on RR #3 Steve's Bommie! Where the guests went off in their buddy teams and explored this amazing pinnacle dive. Jacks, Barracuda, white tip reef sharks, stone fish, scorpion fish, lion fish, glass fish, nemos, moray eels, damsel fish, unicorn fish. EVERYTHING! We also found a new friend at depth and cant wait to come back and see him again... if you gnome what I'm talking about ;)

To finish off our Sunday Funday and our Coral Sea adventure, the guests were able to explore Century Bay and Flair point for 2 dives. We found crazy Cuttle fish, a massive Giant Moray Eel, blue spotted lagoon rays, nudibranchs and pretty corals.

So that concludes our wonderful trip, I'm sure everyone had a great time, lots of diving, eating, sleeping and repeating. What more could you want on a live aboard to the Great Barrier Reef and beyond?

No troubles, Just bubbles...

Lucy
Trip Director SOF

 

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Mon 2nd October 2017 - Thu 5th October 2017 - ( 18) images

The guests flew into meet Spirit of Freedom moored up in the stunning Watson's Bay, of Lizard Island. To begin their 4-day liveaboard experience out into the Coral Sea. We had a few familiar faces return for their 2nd trip with us, Russell and Peter, who brought along their friend Stephen. As well as a diving team all the way from South Korea and a mix bag of some other different nationalities. Always makes for a fun trip.

With a great bunch of guests, the crew let go of the lines and headed out to Ribbon Reef 9 ¾, to do our first 2 dives of the trip. The more experienced jumped in and set off to explore Pixie Gardens while some got used to breathing underwater again with the help of our wonderful instructors. We spotted a large Maori Wrasse, some Barracuda, Nudibranchs, and bundles of pipefish.

Once everyone was back on board it was time to prepare the boat for our steam out into the Coral Sea. Captain Tony is onboard and it's only blowing 15-20 knots... No problem, Osprey Reef here we come!

Waking up 100miles off the coast of mainland Australia, we had arrived at Osprey Reef to begin our day with a dive at False Entrance. Timing could not of been better for this dive site. We jumped in at the top of an incoming tide, which allowed for little to no current with 50+ metre visibility. It was Awesome! Plenty of white tip sharks, schools of jacks, a few small Tuna swimming around as well as Bumphead Parrot fish as it gets closer to their mating season. The wall was filled with beautiful soft corals and plenty of little fish everywhere.

We then headed over to Nautilus Caves where we jumped in for an epic wall dive, allowing depth; some cool cracks and swim throughs. We spotted a few grey reef sharks in the blue.

It was Silver City for our 3rd dive of the day. The divers dropped down to look at the beautiful soft corals and fans on the deep ledge before ascending into the shallows and meandering their pathway through the underwater mountain structures resting on the deep oceanic shelf wall.

Making our way to the entrance of the Osprey Lagoon, we moored up at Admiralty for 2 dives. You never know what you are going to find here as it offers such a diverse array of marine life. Our guests were lucky enough to spot an Eagle Ray and lots of white tip reef sharks. They enjoyed the swim throughs and the amazing topography that this dive site offers. Our Dm/Hostee Christine, even saw a Manta Ray off in the distance. There is no photo proof so we are still a little unsure ;) but anything is possible out here in the Coral Sea.

To finish off our action packed 5-dive day we set out for a night dive after dinner. We encountered many Bump Head Parrot fish sleeping in the crevasses, a few sharks cruising around and lots of weird and wonderful hermit crabs. Some adventurous divers did the swim through which is always awesome at night.

Day 2 out here at Osprey and we've come to the highlight of the trip. Mooring up at North Horn for 3 epic dives, this north point of osprey offers such a diverse range of dives. The visibility is 50+ meters, the sun is shining and everyone is in high spirits.
First with a drift dive down Blue Marlin Wall, with bump head parrot fish waking up and coming out off the reef, lots of tuna swimming past as well as some sharks eagerly awaiting their breakfast.
A nice surface interval and then we all geared up and got ready for our Shark Feed dive, everyone was very eager, even our first mate John was keen to blow some bubbles with the sharks. This week we had instructor Matty doing the honor of getting up close and personal to open the cage full of tuna heads.
It all went to plan without a hitch; everyone enjoyed the adrenaline rush of being surrounded by 40-50 grey reef sharks but not as much as Mr Potato Cod who pretty much owns the show every week. What a legend.

We headed over to Castles where everyone enjoyed their last dive out here in the Coral Sea. It's a nice way to finish the day and this dive site really proves what Osprey is all about. Dropping down in the blue abyss to find a massive wall structure dropping down to 1000+ metres. Then diving around huge underwater mountains and swim throughs. This magical place makes you feel extremely small and puts this magnificent reef system into perspective.

Waking up back in Ribbon Reef #5 for a morning dive at Crack A Jack and what a cracker it was! Schools of jacks, leafy scorpion fish, coral trout, Barracuda, Glass fish, Nudibranchs. We had great conditions, minimal current and pretty nice visability. Happy Days.

Off we went to one of our favorite dive site down on RR #3 Steve's Bommie! Where the guests went off in their buddy teams and explored this amazing pinnacle dive. Jacks, Barracuda, white tip reef sharks, stone fish, scorpion fish, lion fish, glass fish, nemos, moray eels, damsel fish, unicorn fish. EVERYTHING! We also found a new friend at depth and cant wait to come back and see him again... if you gnome what I'm talking about ;)

To finish off our Sunday Funday and our Coral Sea adventure, the guests were able to explore Century Bay and Flair point for 2 dives. We found crazy Cuttle fish, a massive Giant Moray Eel, blue spotted lagoon rays, nudibranchs and pretty corals.

So that concludes our wonderful trip, I'm sure everyone had a great time, lots of diving, eating, sleeping and repeating. What more could you want on a live aboard to the Great Barrier Reef and beyond?

No troubles, Just bubbles...

Lucy
Trip Director SOF

 

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Thu 28th September 2017 - Mon 2nd October 2017 - ( 16) images

Image selection from our 4 Day Coral Sea Trip.  Standby for Trip Report, coming soon!

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Mon 25th September 2017 - Thu 28th September 2017 - ( 11) images

A few great shots from our Cod Hole Dive!!  3 Day Cod Hole & Ribbon Reef Trip 

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Thu 21st September 2017 - Mon 25th September 2017 - ( 22) images

The guests began their four-day trip with a first dive on Ribbon Reef 10 with an enchanting visit to pixie gardens, so appropriately named. Almost like a puppy dog frolicking in the garden, a huge Maori Wrasse came to play with the enthusiastic divers. What a good start to this Coral Sea adventure.

We headed to Pixie Wall where we jumped in and cruised along finding some cool Nudibranches, Bumphead Parrot Fish and Pipefish.
Following with a night dive where we played god as the GT's used our torch light to find their prey.

Jumping back on board SOF for our crossing out to Osprey Reef. Conditions were rather good, a few lumps, bumps and rolls but not too bad at all. Waking up for a morning dive at the amazing Castles where the guests enjoyed the fun swim throughs and topography of the site.

If there is one way to make any diver feel really small its dropping down for a wall dive out at Osprey reef, With 1000+ metres of blue abyss beneath us we cruised along the wall at The Gap. Looking out into the blue a rather large and inquisitive Grey Reef shark followed us for a while. These are the kind of moments that remind us why we all love to dive. Thank you Osprey!

After lunch we made our way over to Admiralty Anchor. We set off for an exciting dive navigating around the many swim throughs and caves this site offers. We kept our eyes open looking for Mantas but no luck just yet!

Leaving the best till last we waited it out at False Entrance for the perfect time to jump in for our final dive of the day. With small, to no current Falseys was turning it on! "Best dive yet" were some of the words muttered.
A massive school of jacks circling divers, schools of snapper, 8 or so grey reef sharks hunting in packs, barracuda, tuna, baby white tip reef sharks it was all happening as we cruised up and down the channels.

We kicked off our Saturday at North Horn with a morning dive up Soft Coral Wall. And as per usual the guests were quite impressed with the stunning display of beautiful fan corals and fish life. Looking out into the blue you could see the hungry grey reefies hanging around. There was even a Hammerhead spotted by one of our divers.

After a delicious 2nd breaky we all jumped in for the Shark Feed. Even the crew get excited for this dive. It was Instructor Niek's first experience and Chef Simon got in on the action too. Even Captain Ross jumped in for the show. Good on ya Rossco.
As it is Angus' last trip he volunteered as tribute to open the shark cage. All went well and the cage opened without a hitch. 2 large Silver Tip Sharks hung out in the bck. The very confident Mr Potato Cod came in a pushed a few grey reefies around. The guests loved it and we all made in back on board with all limbs attached. Success!


We headed over to Silver City for our 3rd dive where we saw some smaller stuff, Sweetlips, Parrot fish, big banana Nudis and Nemos.

We finished off the day at Nautalis Caves where some of our guests spotted a MANTA RAAAAY! We explored the little caves along the wall and all enjoyed our last dive out at Osprey. We battened down the hatches and prepared for our steam over the Coral Sea back into mainland Australia.

It's Sunday Funday and we're back in the Ribbon Reefs for a double dive at one of our favourite pinnacles, Steve's Bommie. This site never fails to amaze us. With a nice bit of current running through it brought out all the little fish. Lots of fusiliers, unicorn fish, big eyed trevally, rabbit fish and mackerel. We also saw an Octopus, some epic Nudibranchs, a few Stonefish, our local resident Leafy Scorpion Fish, Nemos, Moray eels and a couple of green turtle. EVERYTHING.

Flair Point we saw not ONE but SEVEN Cuttlefish hanging out, some Nudiebranchs, blue spotted ray, and other cool stuff.

Last dive of our Coral Sea adventure was at Whistful Gardens. Where the guests enjoyed a peaceful dive around the corner of the bommie and up into the shallows. It was nice to see some beautiful healthy hard and soft corals.

That concludes another great 4 days of action packed adventure out in the Coral Sea!

 

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Mon 18th September 2017 - Thu 21st September 2017 - ( 18) images

All aboard Spirit of Freedom, 19 excited guests from all corners of the globe, 11 keen crew including a new TD in training, Lucy (meee). And back by popular demand, we have Instructor Ryan back on SOF for a cameo appearance. (We have missed him).
It was a bit of a bumpy ride out to the reef but luckily most of us had taken our trusty travelcalm. We headed out to Saxon Reef to begin our first couple of dives of the trip. We got it started out at Turtle Bommie where we did both our afternoon dives. The dive site lived up to its name as we saw 2 big Green Turtles! Success! We also spotted a Devil Scorpion Fish, Octopus, Cuttlefish, and some interesting Flatworms. Good start!!
We all got back on board Spirit for a delicious dinner and a steam up into the Ribbon Reefs.

Tuesday morning, there is no better way to start the day than a morning dive at one of our favourite dive sites... Steve's Bommie. We saw plenty of Big Eyed Trevally, schools of Fusiliers and a Giant Barracuda. Many different kinds of Nudibranch's and of course our usual suspects, Stonefish, Leafy Scorpion Fish and we found Nemo... again.

Next stop Crack a Jack for a second morning pinnacle dive and of course it didn't disappoint. We saw 2 Scorpion Fish, Octopus, mackerel and fusiliers.

Captain Ross was feeling extra adventurous today so we headed further up the ribbons to check out a new dive site called Tower of Tomoko! Off we went on an exploration dive and what an adventure it was! A shallow bommie small enough to swim all the way around, We met some fishy friends as we slowly cruised along, plenty of Coral Trout and Giant Marbled Groupers, Nudibranches and beautiful soft corals. Guests said "Best dive of the trip". Mission complete!

To finish off the day we moored up at Monolith for a double dive. Monolith by day and by night! Always a great dive out here with lots of GT's, some Yellowfin Barracuda, white tip reef sharks, Grey Reefies, garden eels, turtles, and a massive school of jacks under the boat.

Woke up to some morning sunshine, which was nice to see the light finally breaking through the overcast sky we've had. We did our morning dive at Pixie Pinnacle with very nice conditions. We bumped into a Wobbegong shark, a green turtle and grey reef shark. Again guests said " best dive of the trip"! it just keeps getting better. How do we top this? I know!

Next stop Google Gardens where it proves the Great Barrier Reef is alive and well. This dive site is honestly one of those places where you smile in your regulator and think about how awesome scuba diving is. Cuttlefish, Mantis Shrimp, Nemo's, mackerel, mauri Wrasse and Anthias fish to name a few.

Then we arrived at the world famous Cod Hole for our Cod Feed dive. We all jumped in and were greeted by our very large round potato friends. Spud, Chip and the gang. It was on, they were hungry and so were the red basse!

Ending the trip at Comorant Caves for our last dive. The guests were happy to check out the caves and cruise along the wall. We saw some stingrays, moray eels and another turtle! Spirit of Freedom cruised into Lizard Island to moore up in Watsons Bay with a beautiful sunset to watch. The happy punters had a drink in hand and smiles for miles.

 

 

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Thu 14th September 2017 - Mon 18th September 2017 - ( 14) images

Images from our 4 Day Coral Sea trip 14th to 17th September.

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Mon 11th September 2017 - Thu 14th September 2017 - ( 11) images

Images from our 3 Day Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef trip

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Thu 7th September 2017 - Mon 11th September 2017 - ( 15) images

When Captain Tony brings up the weather charts onto the TV in the Saloon you know that it is going to be a fun trip to Osprey Reef. We started out by talking about the weather and then moved on to talking about how awesome the GBR and Coral Sea are. To back this up we headed out to Coral Princess Bommie and Google Gardens for our first two dives of the trip. These two sites have an incredible amount of coral on them that is in very good condition. We always ask everyone after diving these sites if they believe all the media stories about the condition of the reef after been here. There is not a single person who isn't wide eyed after seeing these sites and talking about how incredible they are.

The crossing out to Osprey was much talked about before hand, we do love Osprey and it is worth the travel to get out there but we do prepare for it with sea sick tablets and the understanding that it can be a little bouncy on the crossing. We had just such a crossing for this trip but everyone took it well. Some decided to catch up on sleep by skipping the first dive of the day while others embraced the free flowing coffee and kicked off the day with a couple of hammerheads on the first dive at Blue Marlin Wall. The early diver does get the good sharks.

Feed the sharks at North Horn is always fun and especially unique for the crew who get very up close with these animals during feeding time. It has always been tradition here of SOF that crew who are on their last trip get to feed the sharks. So with the departure of the Canadian Thor who has been with us for three and a half years it was Elliot's turn to get into the middle of the action. To kick things off all the grey reefies vanished for a moment as a large silver tip cruised in for a look, with the departure of the silver tip the grey reefies were back and Thor opened the food cage with no problems at all. The food was devoured in a couple of minutes and then the hunt was on for teeth that had come loose during feeding. Nice job Elliot and thanks for the memories mate.

Soft coral wall had the perfect current flowing down it with plenty of sunlight laminating the corals and the sharks and large tuna gliding by in the blue. The local Potato Cod also made an appearance. It was a lovely chilled out dive to finish our time at North Horn.

We headed down to Admiralty Anchor to finish of the day with an Afternoon and Night dive. The swim throughs were are a hit as always during the afternoon. We also had a Manta on the surface at the back of the boat and the smiling German managed to get some very nice eagle ray photo's. The night dive yielded a small octopus as well as a nice school of bump head parrot fish coming in for an evening feed before settling down for a snooze.

We awoke to a cracking sunrise and a small current at ATB. With only a small current we took the opportunity to hover over the cleaning station down at 30 meters for as long as we could on our NDL time. Dog tooth tuna, sharks and scores of soft corals lighting up the sight with the colors of the rainbow. I believe the description best summing up this dive was, "bleep, that was bleep awesome, bleep I could do that all bleep day" Thanks Mick, no worries on the use of the French at all mate.

False entrance was a bit tougher with the wind and tide having a tussle over which way the water wanted to flow. With the wind winning and the out going water flowing we dropped in using the mooring line to help us get down to the bottom. Once we got there a large school of Trevally greeted us. A couple of sleepy white tips were layzing on the bottom. With the current working us pretty hard we kept low to the bottom and hugged the sides of the channels as we looked over the new coral growth on this site.

We stopped in at castles for a double dip for the afternoon. Lots of exploring on this site with very visually stunning topography. Swim throughs and cracks in the reef all making this a really interesting site.

Sunday Morning and Steve's Bommie was a lovely sight after a wee few bumps in the night coming back from Osprey. We had Octopus, Sharks, Nudi's and fish galore on the two dives we did here.

After Lunch we headed across to Flair Point where we spent the afternoon with cuttlefish, turtles and rays. We sat upstairs and downed a cold one while watching the sunset and the sky put on a display of reds and purples that leave an artist in envy. Simons BBQ dinner hit the spot as it always does and then it was stories and cheese time while we headed south for Cairns.

Another great Osprey trip, with great people and fantastic diving.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 4th September 2017 - Thu 7th September 2017 - ( 16) images

Seventeen bright eyed divers joined us in Cairns on Monday the 4th September for our Cod Hole trip. We left on a warm sun drenched Morning and headed out to get out gills wet with a couple of dives for the arvo. Calm waters and no wind made for a beautiful trip to Norman Reef.

We started off with Playgrounds as our first site for the trip. A resident shark was weighting under the boat when we first jumped in kicking off things in style. We also had a green turtle come by for a look at what we were up to.

A calm evening for our trip north to Steve's Bommie. With a few blurry eyes everyone was up at 630 in the morning for the first dive of the day. It is always great seeing the fish books come out after a dive at Steve's and there were plenty of questions being asked about Nudibranchs and Stone Fish over 2nd brekkie.

Dive two was a slight current fed dive at Crack A Jack. With the current coming in the fish were being extra active and enjoying a good feed on all the particles as the washed by.

A perfect time to dive wonderland right at the beginning of the incoming tide so the visibility was up and the marine life was starting to get fired up. Lots of nice soft corals and fans hanging off the wall as well as Barracuda in the blue.

Challenger Bay is easily a crew favorite dive an is well worth it's reputation. The afternoon dive started the excitement levels rising with a couple of sharks cruising about. With Moray Eels taking up their hunting positions and the hunted all trying to find available safe sleeping holes for the night the tension on the reef was getting very noticeable as we got closer to sunset.

Night diving and sharks, a combination that is always well received. Challenger Bay at its best with lost of grey clad sleek moving ghosts with toothy smiles joining us for the night dive.

Google Gardens is one of those places that when the tide is right and the dive gods are happy can create one of the most amazing dives we get. Today was just such a day where we had an eagle ray, silver tip shark, grey reef shark and a Leaopard Shark all in the one drift dive here. Add the stunning coral and the 40 meter vis and there was only one thing left to do, Add all of the images to the Google Library under the #awesome.

Light House Bommie was up next and a green turtle was happily posing for photos on too of the site as we descended. 3 Olive sea snakes hung around with us for the duration as well as a school of Barracuda mulling around the bottom. 2 dives down and more than a few great stories to be told.

Potato Cod Feeding is always a great experience for all to watch. We put the Ninja Sola to the task of feeding Chip and Spud this week. Crystal clear waters and well behave fish made for some very nice happy snaps and even happier people.

We have not been to Snake Pit for a while so decided that it was time to revisit this epic cleaning station and have a look at what has changed over the past few months. The great part is that it is just as good as ever with Eagle Rays buzzing over us and plenty of fish to catch the eye. Even the Sea Snakes are bigger and just as friendly as ever.

Lizard Island sunsets never get old and a cold beer in hand watching them is just the way to finish off a remarkable trip. Great people, great dives and great smiles.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

 

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Thu 31st August 2017 - Mon 4th September 2017 - ( 12) images

Images from our 4 Day Coral Sea trip 31st August to 4th September 2017

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Mon 28th August 2017 - Thu 31st August 2017 - ( 15) images

Trip Photo's from our 3 Day Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef Trip - 28 - 31 August, 2017

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Thu 24th August 2017 - Mon 28th August 2017 - ( 20) images

Coral sea trips for the past few months have had one thing in common. The wind, this trip would be the first change in the season moving us away from winter and into summer conditions. Lower winds mean flatter waters and we all like that. We left Lizard Island with barely a ripple on the surface and stopped in at Coral Princess Bommie for our first dive.

With the first dive come a calm relaxed "holiday" mode on the boat and you can see the sparkle come to people eyes as they get to do something that for many of them, having been thinking about for up to two years. The first dive on the GBR is always an "iron out the kinks" dive. We get everyone comfortable with their equipment, get their weights set and away they go. This particular day everyone was comfortable enough that we moved down to Google Gardens for a drift dive.

With the drift we used the Tenders to drop us in the water 300 meters from the boat and we swam slowly with a gentle current pushing us back to the boat. The hard corals here are incredible and the whole distance of the dive we were treated by a display of spectacular reef for the afternoon.

We arrived at North Horn at 6am on Friday morning after a very calm a pleasant overnight trip. We started out with a drift dive down Blue Marlin Wall and watched as the sharks of Osprey shook the sleep out of their eyes and got into their day.

The second dive we gave the sharks breakfast. The food cage was been a little fickle and with some underwater adjustments we soon had the food out and the sharks charging around playing catch me if you can as the swam at ballistic speeds with tuna heads hanging from their mouths.

The third dive of the day we did a drift along Soft Coral Wall. The sharks had gathered along here for a nap after the action of playing tuna head tango earlier in the morning. The corals were out in full bloom with all the colors of the rainbow as we drifted at a nice pace. Toward the end of the dive a rather large potato cod was seen hanging out down deep in a crack just waiting for something to venture too close.

We finished of Friday with a double dive at Admiralty Anchor, day dive then night dive after dinner. Lots of tunnels and overhangs to explore and with only having ten people on board the dive groups were nice a small allowing us to get into some smaller tighter areas and not getting us all spread out all over the place. A little outgoing tide made the vis a little lower than we had earlier in the day but a really nice couple of dives all the same.

Saturday and the current had bent to our Jedi ways and was running the right way at the right speed to dive ATB for the first dive of the day. Baby Grey Reefies have taken over here recently and it is great to watch them each week as they get a bit bigger and a bit more curious and venture closer to us as we cruise on past.

False Entrance for dive two and the sleeping white tips were glaring at us for disturbing their slumber. A big dog tooth tuna could be seen hanging out in the blue with a school of jacks and Barracuda mixed together circling around down at 20 meters.

For the afternoon we did a double dive at Castles posing with sea fans and watching garden eels disappear back into their holes, as we would get closer to them. It is never an easy task getting a photo of a garden eel but with a little ingenuity it is possible. I had some requests for as many swim throughs as possible so I gave the job to Matty to go through as many holes in the reef as possible in one dive. Needles to say he took up this challenge with a great smile on his face and I am pretty sure after the dive the reef looked more like Swiss cheese than reef.

After a little rocky exit from Osprey Reef we headed back towards land and the Great Barrier Reef. Waking up for a morning dive at the awesome Crack a Jack! Dropping down right on top of a marbled ray, lots of big schools of trevally, Barracuda and GT's. However in Crack A Jack's case big is not always better, we also saw many nudibranches, ghost pipefish and beautiful soft corals.

We then had an epic 2nd breakfast as we cruised over to the famous Steve's Bommie for a double dive. Great conditions for the dive, clear blue skies, 30m visibility and no current. Steve's Bommie was booming with life, white tip reef sharks sleeping on the sand, schools of fusiliers, barracuda and its always good to see our resident local leaf scorpion fish chilling in his usual spot. Time for a nice long surface interval while we bask in the sun and enjoy a relaxing lunch before a second dive in this most incredible of dive sites.

Flair Point was the last dive of the trip, 6 Cuttlefish were certainly the highlight but we also had a large Thorny Ray and crystal clear waters to enjoy it all in. Overall the whole trip was really amazing with our divers not only enjoying every dive but also learning from the crew about marine life as well as dive techniques to help better their diving in the future.

Another trip done, another beer down, another sunset watched. Never gets old.
Happy Days.

Angus Rowe & Lucy Hutchinson
Trip Director and TD to be.

 

 

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Mon 21st August 2017 - Thu 24th August 2017 - ( 16) images

Monday's with 10 knots of wind are my kind of start to a week. Naturally we all love a calm sea but we still recommend people take sea sick tablets as we are not all accustomed to the motion in the ocean and it usually takes a day to get used to it. For a seasoned sailor 10 - 15 knots is lush.

We left Cairns baking in sunlight and glistening water all around as we made our way out to Turtle Bommie for our first two dive of our Cod Hole Adventure. The visibility matched the surface conditions with clear water and nice easy dives where we found a Cuttlefish and a Lazy Turtle doing Lazy Turtle stuff.

Day 2 and we started with a double dive at Steve's Bommie. Octopus, Nudi's, Sharks, Rays, Turtles, Clown Fish, Jacks, Barra's, and well everything else really is what we saw on the dives. We even had people ask if we could just stay there all day. Of course we had other plans but it is always tempting to just stay.

Instead we headed North to Wonder Land where we had a look at all of the new Coral growth that is happening here. Over the last couple of years this area has had lots of new hard corals start to come thru and is definitely on the road to awesome.

For the final two dives we went to Challenger Bay where we shared stories of sharks in the dark before venturing in. The first dive with daylight involved was a little current affected by the end but we still saw a lovely Moray Eel as well as some nice schools of Snapper gathering up for the nights hunting activities. The night dive yielded a turtle as well as plenty of shark hunting action with one crazy grey reefie breaching at the back of the boat as he slammed a trevally on the surface.

Waking up to the sunrise over Ribbon Reef 9 was a great way to start day 3. We all jumped in for a dive and Lighthouse Bommie and it was freaking awesome yeeeeahhhh diving baaaaraaccuuuudaaasss. Grey Reef Sharks smashing a breakfast fit for a footy player and fish darting in every direction as the feeding got into high gear.

Google Gardens is one of the most impressive coral areas on the reef and with the current running we made the most of the 50 meter vis and explored with gusto. Huge fans and plate corals were in abundanc and everyone said it was by far some of the best coral they have seen any where in the world.

Cod Hole was our pick for the last two dives of the trip. The first dive everyone had a chance to explore the extremely unique sight before we did our Cod Feed attraction. For the feed we had 4 large and hungry Cod show up so we decided that Lucy should be the diver in the middle for all of this. The Cod behaved very well for her and she came out of the whole thing with a massive smile on her face, as did everyone else.

Lizard Island sunsets, I never get sick of them, going to watch another one. Until next time.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Diresctor.

 

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Thu 17th August 2017 - Mon 21st August 2017 - ( 18) images

Trip photos from our 4 Day Coral Sea trip

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Mon 14th August 2017 - Thu 17th August 2017 - ( 12) images

Photo's from our 3 Day Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef Trip

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Thu 10th August 2017 - Mon 14th August 2017 - ( 16) images

When the word WOW is used on several occasions by several divers to describe a dive site and they ask to stay and do a night dive who could argue and say no. So we started our Coral Sea trip with three dives at Google Gardens with some of the healthiest corals in the Ribbon Reef nine area. Plate corals, Soft Corals and branching corals are scattered all over this dive site using all of this habitat we have cuttlefish hanging around the area as well.

We stayed and did our night dive for this part of the week as the tides for Osprey were looking like we might end up having currents at Admiralty during our usual night dive. It worked out as a real treat doing the night dive here as the marine life was completely on show with cuttlefish and sharks been seen by all. The currents we were trying to avoid at Osprey did kick in by the end of the dive really justifying our decision to change it around.

Overnight steam to Osprey wasn't too bad. We arrived at Around the Bend for our first dive. We used the Tenders to drop down the wall a ways and then swam back to the boat checking out the exceptionally large and colorful soft corals as we went. With visibility like a clear glass of water it wasn't too hard to see the sharks as they glided through the water. A Dog Tooth Tuna that was 6 feet long also made an appearance with 8 smaller "Doggies" following it. Kind of looked like a school excursion.

For dive two we went to the Gap where we were treated to a couple of small Grey Reef sharks coming close and a Mantis shrimp in the shallows. It is always interesting to hear the comments when people get out of the water at Osprey as there is no shortage of raised eyebrows and sparkling eyes as they describe the dramatic topography. The Gap is one of the most dramatic of the sites.

Silver City was a good chance for everyone to build their confidence and start buddying up and doing their own thing. There was a little current starting to move here and a couple of people came up telling tales of fantastic blue water all around them when they got a little far from the wall. The advice at osprey is to always use the line to the reef, something that everyone was very good at doing after this dive.

Admiralty Anchor was the last dive of the day and it is always a hit with plenty to see. Caves and swim throughs as wells as some great opportunities for some posing photo's with sleeping white tips.

A lovely night at anchor with no travelling so plenty of sleep for all, except the odd party animals who stayed up playing cards until 9pm!

North horn for a triple header started with schools of Parrot Fish waking up and gliding along the walls like herds of Bison on a plane. As we got further down Blue Marlin was the Parrot Fish gave way to sharks and by the time we surfaced we were only talking about one thing, A DOLPHIN!!!

Cookie the dolphin as we have named it was at north horn a couple of months ago and this time we had the perfect conditions to get in for a breakfast snorkel to have a closer look. Cookie is curious but not overly so, coming close enough to look at us but keeping distance as well. Even poking it's head out of the water and spy hopping the boat to see what was going on. Very rare and very cool.

Shark feed for dive two and entertainment plus for all with the sharks getting a little over excited and deciding that trip directors are food. After a quick negotiation and re education for the sharks they left the TD alone and went back to eating fish. No TD's were harmed during the shark feed however Mick Fanning would be proud to know that he has influenced shark handling at osprey reef.

Dive three and a drift along the colorful beauty that is soft coral wall. So many corals that have started growing along here in the past twelve months and just more and more coming all the time. It has become a favorite dive of every trip with all the colors of the rainbow and then some.

For our final dive at Osprey we explored the cracks and canyons of castles. With the navigation here been a little interesting everyone headed out with a crew member to look over this fantastic site. Everyone says it is like diving in a set of back ally's in a city and this week we had three people describe it as just that.

Crack A Jack on Ribbon 5 has become one our top spots for finding the un findable of late. 2 dives here on Sunday Morning and we found ourselves in aw as our Hostie put her eye for boat detailing to great use by finding a Ghost Pipe Fish. Only the third time we have seen one in the past year. An epic find that everyone appreciated.

Steve's Bommie for an afternoon of Nudi hunting with the odd stone fish thrown in for good measure. Steve's has always been a dive site that puts the Great in Great Barrier Reef and we are very privileged to be able to visit here every week. So many great photo's come from here but right now the hunt is on for the clown fish egg photo's and Matty sure knocked this task out of the water this week with one of the best egg photo's I have ever seen.

We have had an incredible week, with Captain Tony even saying "That's what I do this job for" in reference to cookie at North Horn and so many incredible marine life sightings with everyone having had a great smile and laugh along the way.

The sun is setting, the beer is cold, the friendships are blossoming and the stories are loud and filled with laughter. Great week, Great people, Great crew.

Angus Rowe,

Trip Director.

 

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Mon 7th August 2017 - Thu 10th August 2017 - ( 18) images

Images from our last 3 Day Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef trip. Report coming soon...!

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Thu 3rd August 2017 - Mon 7th August 2017 - ( 15) images

Photo's from our 4 Day Coral Sea Trip - report coming soon...!

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Mon 31st July 2017 - Thu 3rd August 2017 - ( 12) images

Images from our 3 Day Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef trip

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Thu 27th July 2017 - Mon 31st July 2017 - ( 16) images

Stay tuned, Trip report coming soon...

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Thu 20th July 2017 - Mon 24th July 2017 - ( 18) images

On Thursday the 20th of July some fresh-faced divers flew north from Cairns doing a low level scenic flight up the coastline and into Lizard Island to join Spirit Of Freedom and her crew. Once we were all aboard and done and dusted with the meets, greets and safety briefs it was time to go diving!

Our first dive destination was at the bottom of Ribbon Reef #10 where we would do three dives over two different dive sites, the first was at Pixie Gardens which is our customary check out dive where everyone gets familiar with the equipment, our procedures and also gives those that need it a bit of a refresher. The next two dives of the day where up around the corner at Challenger Bay, one of these dives was going to be a night dive. Challenger offers both a reef wall and a nice bay area with an array of marine life both big and small. The transition of life from day to night is something to behold where during the day it has your typical reef fish species with some rays and turtles in the mix but come nightfall the predators come out in search of a meal. Both Giant Trevally and Red Bass follow the divers torch lights while reef sharks worm their way through the reef trying to find something to eat.

The forecast for the next few days wasn't looking too flash but that wasn't going to stop us from heading out to Osprey reef, so it was batten down the hatches and get some travel calm in us as we steamed over night out east to Osprey.

We awoke to a beautiful sunrise out over the reef as we headed in to moor up at for our first dive of the day at a fun little spot dubbed Castles. Here, like many of the sites at Osprey has spectacular topography which was created by larva flow back when Osprey was an active volcano. Castles has some swim throughs and caves accompanied by cracks and crevasses. After breakfast it was time to hit ‘The Gap' which has a nice little out crop of pinnacles protruding off the side of the 1000m+ wall which creates a pressure point of the tidal current which in turn many fish species congregate in hope for a meal.

Admiralty was up next, here lies a large admiralty anchor wedged down in one of the many swim throughs littered in hydroids, on the outskirts schools of jacks circled while a large Dogtooth Tuna did laps up and down the reef wall waiting for it's opportunity to strike.

Our final dive of the day was just down from the last spot, Nautilus Caves. As the name suggests there is the odd cave or five. These caves are right on the deep steep reef wall, as a group exited one of these caves a Manta Ray majestically glided over head and off into the blue.

After a long day of diving it was time to pull up at our overnight mooring for a marvelous meal from our chef Sam and then it was time to lay our bubbly heads for a good nights rest.

Saturday morning was looking good, the wind had dropped and the sun was shining as we moved up to the North Horn where we would do two drift dives and also the infamous Shark Attraction dive. The first drift was along Blue Marlin Wall where there was a soft current, which made for a relaxing drift and several Grey Reef Sharks accompanied the divers back towards the boat. Next up was Soft Coral Wall in which is protected from the prevailing weather and as you'd guess it is littered with all sorts of soft corals which bring in many beautiful small reef fishes in the way of Anthias, Bassalets and Damsels to name a few.

After lunch it was time for the Shark Attraction dive! As all the divers patiently waited in the natural auditorium while a couple dozen sharks circled all in anticipation of the cage full of tuna heads to be lowered down to where the divers sat. Once they calmed down a little, both the sharks and the divers, it was time to open the cage. Once the lid popped open all hell broke loose as the sharks went ripping and tearing at the tuna. It was all over far too quickly but as you can imagine the sharks make quick work of the heads.

The last dive out at Osprey reef was at Silver City, here we have large sky rise like structures coming up from around 30m. The topography here is the epitome of Osprey, the old larva flow has turned this place into a playground.

Unfortunately our time out at Osprey had come to an end as we prepared ourselves for the overnight steam back to the Ribbon Reefs.

Once again a beautiful sunrise up over the Coral Sea shining down upon SOF and Ribbon Reef #3, namely Steve's Bommie.

 

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Thu 20th July 2017 - Mon 24th July 2017 - ( 15) images

When we talk smiles and laughter on a dive boat I would have to say that the 26 people we have had on board for the Cod Hole trip would certainly rate amongst the highest echelons of smiley faces. It all started in Cairns on a sunshine blue sky Monday Morning. We left for the reef at midday and had everyone in the water with huge smiles by 4 pm. Sharks and Rays had a huge part to do with the smiles but so did the 15 knott winds and clear waters of the GBR.

After our two dives we sat down to dinner and headed north. Arriving in the Steves Bommie area around 1am. At 0630 we were all up and talking about Minke whales and all of the other critters that live at Steve's. Pipe Fish, Nudibranchs, Octopus, Multitudes of Stone Fish, Mackerel and 40 meter vis kicked off our day in the most exceptional of diving ways.

After our two dips at Steve's we dropped in to High Five for a look around. A nice Hawksbill Turtle and schools of Fusiliers were in abundance. The cave systems in the shallows are always really nice with the ambient light coming in from the top.

Clam Gardens to round out the day with a white tip reef shark and of course Giant Giant Clams. A night dive here produced plenty of red bass looking for a torch beam to light up a bit of prey.

We finished off the day with a Minke Whale presentation by our on board Minke Researcher.

Tuesday Morning and Minke time at Lighthouse Bommie. We stayed at this amazing spot for two dives where we saw an Ornate Eagle Ray as well as electric file clams and of course a Minke swimming within a few meters of our divers was a complete hightlight.

We finished the trip off with two dives at the Cod Hole where we had 3 large potato cod for the feeding as well as an entire swarm of Red Bass. Everyone had a great time getting up close to these Cod as they jostled for position to be fed.

BBQ dinner at Lizard Island with two massive Queesnland Grouper hanging out off the back of the boat. The marine life this week has been very amazing and the people we have shared it with have been even more.

Thanks for coming with us everybody and we will see you next time.


Angus Rowe
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 17th July 2017 - Thu 20th July 2017 - ( 13) images

Images from our 3 Day Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef trip - 17 - 20 July 2017

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Mon 10th July 2017 - Mon 17th July 2017 - ( 17) images

From time to time we get a Private charter here on Spirit Of Freedom. This week we have ten people from the Seaisee tour company. We started out the week by collecting our group of Ten from various activities they were doing in Cairns including Hot Air Ballooning. We departed Trinity Wharf at Midday and headed out to Troppos for one afternoon dive where we had a nice size green turtle laying about.

We headed North for the Evening and at 1.30 am we arrived at Steve's Bommie. With the hope of some last Minke action for the season we stayed here for two dives. The Minke's unfortunately were a no show however we did have a nice Moray Eels, Nudibranchs, Clown Fish, Trevally and even a Wahoo came by for a buzz.

For our 3rd dive for the day we stopped in a Rouge where we were met by a bit of surge and some lower than expected vis. Knowing that in these conditions here we get some pretty impressive sightings of large rays we hopped in and had a look around. A nice Mantis shrimp was up and out of his burrow as well as a nice school of fusiliers around the opening to some of the cracks in the reef.

Tuesday started out with a Lighthouse Bommie snake hunt. We found two on the swimming reptiles cruising about the place and a third reptile in a green turtle sitting in hi normal camping spot watching the action. The snakes at lighthouse are Olive Sea Snakes and over the past couple of weeks they have been mating. The larger one has plenty of bite marks and scars from all of this love making action.

Pixies Pinnacle was up next and we had plenty of pelagic action to entertain us. Lots of Barracuda cruising in the top five meters of water and some very colorful Nudi's down deeper.

It is always fun feeding the Cod however there is an element of safety involved and sitting still with your hands close to your body is one of these elements. I learnt this the hard way when taking photo's I made a gesture to one of our divers with my hand. Unfortunately for me the Red Bass took this hand movement and a signal that I had food and grabbed the nearest piece of flesh they could see. My face and ear! At this point I left Spud and Chip and all of the divers and headed back to the boat with a nice trail of green blood coming from my face. Moral of the story, wear a hood when playing with fish!

The last dive of the day was Dynamite Pass where we did a very relaxed static dive just cruising with the fish and relaxing. We had seen Minke's in the distance and this would most likely be the last chance we had to see them for this trip but they wouldn't come close enough for us to get a good look at.

We spent the evening near Lizard Island where we then spent a couple of hours taking a walk along the beach and through the bush of the island on Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon we headed back out to the GBR and did a dive at Coral Princess Bommie followed by a night dive at Challenger Bay. Plenty of sharks, cuttlefish and Trevally hunting action to make for some very fun dives.

The overnight steam to Osprey had un in some fairly big rolling swells until Midnight. At this time the tide changed and the swells became closer together. It became a bit bumpy for a few hours and then calmed down again as we arrived at Osprey.

The first dive at Osprey Reef was ATB (Around The Bend) with little current running we did a one-way dive from a tender drop. Plenty of sharks to see and a nice way to wake up after a bit of a rolly night getting out there.

Our second Osprey dive was at False Entrance where we had a huge school of big eye Trevally hanging under the boat. Combining them with a nice school of barracuda and a half dozen white tip reef sharks making for a pretty fun dive.

For the afternoon and night time we moved over to Admiralty Anchor. A few swim throughs and a couple of random sharks to top off the sharky day that we had had. Lots of tired bodies were in bed early charging up for a big Saturday.

We started Saturday off with a drift down Blue Marlin Wall. We had 4 different schools of Bump Head Parrot fish come past us with up to 40 fish in each school. They kind off look like Bison as they swim along in the early morning light.

Dive two and the shark feed went off with a lot of action. A big pack of sharks kicking around and really putting on a show. A couple of sharks even managed to get a little over excited and crash into our divers. No harm done and the sharks went on their way.

We did a very speedy drift dive down soft coral wall for the third north horn dive of the day. Lots of sharks playing in the current and the colors of the coral along here are extremely impressive.

For our last Osprey Dive we went to Castles. The topography here earned a few comments like "Impressive" and "Incredible". So many impressive towers of reef with tunnels bored threw them over years of current flow and soft corals draped all over the overhangs really make for a spectacular dive here and as always we had just that.

The crossing back from Osprey to the Ribbon Reefs was a fairly nice one with nothing too crazy in the form of large waves. We arrived at Crack A Jack at 6 am and jumped in for our first of two dives at 7am. Lots of smiles from diving at Crack A Jack with scorpion fish, nudibranchs, clown fish, cleaner shrimp, crabs, and FISH everywhere!!.

After two dives at Carckers we headed to Flair point for the final dive of the trip. A nice chilled 12 m deep dive with clown fish and nudis all over the place.

It has been a pleasure having our guests with us for the entire week and we look forward to seeing them back again soon.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Thu 6th July 2017 - Mon 10th July 2017 - ( 18) images

Photo's from our 4 Day Coral Sea trip 6 - 10 July. Trip Report to come...

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Mon 3rd July 2017 - Thu 6th July 2017 - ( 12) images

Ah, Monday Morning in Cairns. Drizzle and Cool. Might be a rather dull day in the city but that doesn't stop us from smiling all the way out to the Reef. With fourteen seven day guests, a Minke Whale expert and eleven three night guests we were ampt up for a big Cod Hole Trip.

We arrived at Troppos for our first two dives. With everyone getting a taste for the GBR and all the new types of fish and coral they had not seen before we departed and headed North towards Steve's Bommie. As we traveled we sat down to a Salmon and roseto dinner and then rocked our selves to sleep.

Arriving at Steves the hope was for Minkes and with their arrival the smiles came out. We stayed and did two dives at the exceptional site looking at Nudi Branchs, Turtles, Rays, Stone fish and Lion Fish. In between dives we snorkeled with the Minkes and basked the overhead sun.

We headed further North towards Andy's Postcard for dive 3. With a bit of current and 15m vis we looked for the hidden gems on this site. We did find a gold spotted moray as well as a green moray. Palagics were out in force on the current edge and a grey reef shark circled off in the distance.

Clam Gardens for an afternoon and night dive had us finding whit tip reef sharks and nudibranchs. The Mantel of the clams gave a few people a surprise as it flexed while they swam by.

Lighthouse Bommie on Wednesday morning was on fire. Minke's, Sea Snakes, Turtles, Cod and an electric file clam were all a part of the show. Again we got some quality Minke time in and everyone loved the dive.

The Cod Feed was dive two and Chip & Spud showed up right on time as always. They played around a bit working out who was going to get fed before chip decided that spud was just to big and bossy and gave up on the deal. We had a Minke go right over the top of us during the feed and only a couple of people noticed as it went past but it was very special for them to see.

Rod Rock for the afternoon double and Minkes and Morays were the action. By the time the afternoon rolled around to an end we had encountered enough Minkes that napping and sunbaking became the chosen activity as well as eating and shopping.

We have fourteen people staying on for the whole seven day trip and if the second half is as good as the first half it is going to be amazing for them. For those flying back to Cairns tomorrow I hope they see a few more whales out the window of the plane.

Until Next Time,

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Thu 29th June 2017 - Mon 3rd July 2017 - ( 15) images

A winter trip that has wind below 20 knots is not only rare but also very appreciated. As we left the sunshine of Lizard Island we informed our 22 passengers that the conditions for going to Osprey Reef were fairly good and that we would certainly by heading out that evening. In the mean time we stopped at Coral Princess Bommie for our two Thursday Afternoon dives.

Coral Princess Bommie had a couple of very nice cuttlefish as well as a really good size ball of glassfish for everyone to enjoy. The vis was about 15 meters and everyone was happy to get their gills pumping and some vitamin sea flowing over them.

With a steady roll and the odd bump we made our way out to Osprey Reef. We started out Friday with a couple of static dives at Around The Bend. The second dive produced a Thresher Shark as well as a nice size Silver Tip reef shark. Threshers are a very rare sight and even captain Tony has only heard of 4 or 5 times that we have seen them at Osprey in the past 11 years!

False Entrance was up next and a 7 foot Dog Tooth Tuna was hanging out below the boat as soon as we jumped in. Combine that with a school of Jack Trevally and an even more impressive school of Chevron Barracuda it was indeed a very fishy dive at Falsy.

Admiralty Anchor and another Dog Tooth Tuna. I had only seen one in the past nine months and I saw two in one day. Sometimes you wonder just what is swimming around under the boat that you never see. Lots of smiles when the resident Grey Reeefies came in for a close. All topped off by a wondering moray eel hugging the edges and trying to get home for dinner.

Our night dive was nice and dark with plenty of cloud cover. Even though we only had 0.3 of a meter tidal change we still managed to have a pretty reasonable current running for the night dive. The sharks were out and about in hunting mode straight away with a few GT's screaming past as well. Lamb shank dinner just to finish off a fantastic five dive day.

Saturday Morning and the clear waters of North Horn were awaiting us. After terrific diving the day before I was thinking it might be tough to top it but it didn't take long for that thought to disappear as a scalloped hammerhead came up from the depths on Blue Marlin Wall. Naturally there were no photo's so the crew were all over the age old "No Photo, Never happened".

Dive two and Ryan was the man of action feeding the sharks for everyone to enjoy. We had the usual wall of Go Pros set up to catch the action but it would seem one of the sharks took exception to them and sent them all flying with a good tale swat. A nice size silver tip came in at the end to see what all of the commotion was about. Even the guys up on the boat got some action with one shark taking a tuna head up to the surface just for a pack of his pals to fly up to him and smash and thrash out of the water as they tussled over the food.

Dive three and another drift down Soft Coral Wall this time. The colors on this wall are incredible with pinks, yellows, greens, purples, oranges and reds all whisking by as the current carried us along. A few sharks slinked past and a nice school of Jacks were also living it up in the current.

The last dive at Osprey was at Castles. Plenty of tunnels and holes to explore and some lovely Gorgonian Fans on the wall. Capping a great couple of days at Osprey and an early dinner before departing for Ribbon Reef 3 and Steves Bommie.

Steve's Bommie is always a crowd favorite and with the amount of high end big strobe cameras on this trip it is really tough to pick who got the best pics but it is certainly safe to say there is a lot of them. Two dives and all the usual gang from nemo were all over the site as usual. Every body came up with big smiles and lots of stories about who found what critter hidden where.

Man over board drill for a bit of crew training just before lunch. We kicked the chef over board and as we needed him for lunch we were super fast at getting him back. Pizza!!! Nuff said about lunch.

Joanies Joy under the water was rather pleasant. On top however the weather came in and made for an interesting time on the surface. With the wind direction changing and the boat shifting. We dropped the stern line and swung away from the reef and at the same time a current from the storm hit the divers below. Everyone came up where the boat was and good old Terry's Taxi was waiting to help them back to SOF. It was just a friendly reminder that mother nature is always in charge out here and we are always working with what she puts on our plate.

Flair point for the last dive of the trip was a nice relaxed dive with a few Nudibranchs and a small shark cruising by. The divers flying early the next day decided that beer was the best choice and they made the most of the early start.

It wouldn't be a BBQ dinner at Steve's Bommie without something interesting showing up and to everyone delight a couple of Minke Whales spent the early evening circling the boat as we ate and told stories. Another really amazing trip out here on the Spirit Of Freedom with fantastic people and new friends.


Angus Rowe
Trip Director.

 

 

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Mon 26th June 2017 - Thu 29th June 2017 - ( 15) images

15-20 knot South Easters. You can bet I will take that weather forecast and smile. With a few mild rolls we departed Cairns at Midday the 26th June with 23 eager divers and a couple of snorkel buddies as well. We headed for Norman reef where we completed our two checkout dives and everyone got settled into their home away from home here on Spirit Of Freedom.

Leaving Norman Reef and heading North we sat down to a nice salmon dinner and a chat about Steve's Bommie and Minke Whales. Of course in this line of work you try and keep levels of expectation reasonable as you are dealing with animals and we all know what that is like. Of course it is no secret that Steve's is in fact one of the most diver smile creating dive sites we have. So here is the list for today, Leafy Scorpion fish x2, Stone fish x3, Grey Reef Sharks x4, Wobbygong Shark, Turtle, Clownfish x 4 species and 7 yes 7 Minke Whales. It was so good for the first dive, we stayed and did a second.

We traveled over lunch up to Ribbon Reef no. 5 and Rouge for a change of scenery. A little current was starting to run on the wall and it brought in an Ornate Eagle ray for a couple of luck divers to see. These are a very rare sighting on the GBR and only happen a couple of times a year making it truly a unique dive.

After Rouge we spent 30 minutes moving over to Clam Gardens for a couple of dives. The Afternoon dive held a surprise with Minke Whales again showing up. Not common at Clam Gardens at all. They seem to be everywhere at the moment however. A Napoleon wrasse was doing his best to become the next aussie reef character to become a movie star and a white tip reef shark slept on the bottom ignoring everything that was going on around it.

The night dive was very popular with only a couple of people opting for an early beer while the rest went looking for sharks in the dark. The green glow a sharks eyes loomed from the black and soon after it was identified as a white tip reef shark. Hot water and hot towels were very appreciated at the end of the dive as was the delicious dinner.

Wednesday morning and all eyes were peering out into the rising sun at Pixies Pinnacle for the blow of a Minke taking a breath. It wasn't long before we saw one coming our way and we had divers prepared and in the water before it came too close. The fish life at Pixies is incredible and the talk after the dive was all about the hundreds of fish and all of the colors. The lone Minke hung around for a bit but we had other things in mind so we dropped the lines and headed off.

We arrived at Rod's Rock and it would seem the Minkes were more than happy to see us with nine of them coming right up to the boat and surrounding us. The dive it's self produced a huge Moray Eel as well as quit a few pallagics hanging about but the full on action was the snorkel line and the Minkes.

We left the Rock and the whales and headed for the Cod Hole where we had two dives planned. The visibility all day had been very impressive and the Cod Hole was no different. Excellent vis for both dives with a very relaxed cod for the feed. Now it would seem that all week from the Spinner Dolphins to the Minkes the mammals have been trying to steal the show on the Ribbon Reefs. To every bodies complete surprise though we were in for one more mammal to add to the list. A pair of Bottle Nosed Dolphins cruised by after the Cod feed just to make sure we had done it right.

It has been an incredible few days to start this week with rare marine life sightings on everyday. The most amazing customers and smiling crew. We are off to Osprey tomorrow, lets see what that brings!

Happy Bubbles,

Angus Rowe
Trip Director.

 

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Thu 22nd June 2017 - Mon 26th June 2017 - ( 9) images

Thursday the 22nd of June a plane full of passengers flew into Lizard Island to join Spirit Of Freedom and her crew. After a quick run down of the plan of attack and a short run over to the Ribbon Reefs it was time to get the first of our 15 dives in, in which we would do over the next four days. We had two dives scheduled on Thursday afternoon, which we would give the divers the run down of procedures and also some refreshers preparing ourselves for two epic days of diving out at Osprey Reef and then ending our trip with a final days diving on the lower Ribbon Reefs.
Once we'd done a couple dives on the bottom of Ribbon #10 we prepared for the overnight crossing out to Osprey Reef, it was a bumpy ride through out the night but we were well equipped with some Travel Calm to get us through the night.
On Friday morning we awoke at the far eastern reef and were set for a five dive day. First up was False Entrance, which is a great introduction to Osprey with the steep drop off down past 1000m and a shallower inlet with coral covered ridges running from the drop off to the inner reef. After breakfast we dove Nautilus Caves, which has fascinating topography formed from old larva flow from when Osprey was an active volcano many moons ago. Our third dive was up on the eastern edge at a spot dubbed The Gap, and as the name suggests there is a opening in the reef and this gets some funneling current which attracts many species of fish from small to big all trying to cash in on this flow of nutrients coming out of the lagoon. In the afternoon we moved over to Admiralty near the true entrance of Osprey. This also is a maze of trenches and swim throughs formed from larva making an exciting dive, this is also where we would conduct our night dive. During the night we witness such a transition of life, while many reef fish hide away for the night larger predators are in search of a meal and also all the crustaceans come out to play with their glowing orange eyes showing up in our torch lights. Such a eventful dive to finish off a full on day at Osprey ending with a peaceful nights rest on our overnight mooring.
It was an early start for all on board Spirit as we'd planned to catch the tidal currents for a drift dive at Around The Bend. First light and the first tender was off to drop off some eager divers, here there is a pressure point of the current which attracts all walks of life too many to mention but the big highlight was witnessing four Great Hammerheads! Best drift dive ever.
After breakfast we moved up to the North Horn where we did a more mellow drift along Soft Coral Wall and we were accompanied by several Grey Reef Sharks and also some Dogtooth Tuna. Once we'd finished lunch we got geared up for the Shark Attraction dive, which is always a high light of the trip. Over two dozen sharks circled in anticipation of an afternoon snack whilst all the customers waited patiently but also eager to witness the frenzy. Once the cage opens up the sharks wrestle with each other over some tuna heads, which is a sight to behold, the shear strength of these well-evolved creatures is encapsulating. It was all coming to an end here at Osprey with one final dive at Castles before we headed back to the Ribbons for our final days diving. Castles has spectacular topography with many swim throughs right next to the drop-off. We soon were all packed up and on our way back to the GBR.
In the morning we awoke at Steve's Bommie and as we where getting set up for the two dives planned here the lucky man Taka on current check got to spot the first Minke Whale of the trip! The whale stayed with the boat for over four hours and every single person got to snorkel with this majestic creature and all it's grace, but unfortunately the whale had had enough and moved on and so did we to our next dive location. Wistful Gardens was up next, located at the bottom of Ribbon #3 it has plenty of shelter from the prevailing weather and therefore boasts some of the best corals on the GBR with the odd cuttlefish thrown in. We then moved on to Princess Bommie not far from Wistful and this would be the final dive of what has been an amazing trip. An easy dive for navigation just one lap of this bommie and your home, a great way to top of a full on 15 dive expedition. In the evening on our way back to Cairns we swapped stories and numbers while sharing a drink or two over a great BBQ. Many thanks to all that joined us out to Osprey Reef and back, so much fun!
Until next time!

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Mon 19th June 2017 - Thu 22nd June 2017 - ( 11) images

Images from our 3 Day Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef Trip - 19th June 2017

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Thu 15th June 2017 - Mon 19th June 2017 - ( 18) images

Thursday mornings at Lizard Island are always wonderful. The arriving passengers arrive after flying up the coastline from cairns and looking at the mountains and rainforest out the left of the plane or the reef out the right. Normally the coffee machine is a welcome site as many of our customers have being on international flights in the proceeding few days before arriving onboard. For this particular trip the welcome talk started out with seasick medication being offered to all as the conditions between the island and the reef were a little more on the side of rough than calm.

Once we arrived at Coral Princess Bommie and got tucked in behind the reef everything calmed down and everyones eyes started to open as they donned their dive gear for the first time and splashed in for their first GBR diving experience. White tip reef sharks and a blue spotted lagoon ray were the highlights of the two dives that we did at this aquarium like site.

We departed at 8.30pm for Osprey Reef with the conditions for the first 3 hours been a little testing for the novice sailors onboard. Once we changed the angle on the swells we were able to have the next 6 hours very calm and everyone was able to get some sleep before arriving for a 5 dive day at Osprey.

Dive One was at Nautilus Caves where the reef wall drops dramatically straight down and in one area of the site there are lots of swimthroughs and holes to explore. Some grey reef sharks and a couple of white tips cruised past.

We moved to False Entrance for the second dive where we encountered a bit of current. We delayed the dive by 30 minutes allowing time for the tide to change. For some divers current was not something they had experience before and as such a little learning was happening. Current dives require technique using the reef to act as a shield and making sure that your body position remains as streamlined as possible to make the dive as easy as possible. After a little practice everyone started to work it out and got much better as the dive went. The sleeping white tip reef sharks didn't notice any of it. One even managed to have a dive light land right next to it and not even blink.

For dive three we headed to The Gap where we found sime decent swimthroughs however the highlight was definitely the Nudi action with 4 different species been spotted. The topography here is very good with and excellent diversity of coral heads and straight drops as well as tunnels to explore.

Admiralty Anchor was on fire with 5 grey reef sharks directly below the boat and some else that was rather large out in the blue that James and Vicki saw. Plenty of tunnels to explore here during the day dive and then Bioluminescence inside the caves at night time. Red bass and GT's were carving up the bait fish in the lights at the back of the boat throughout the entire night dive with plenty of fish flying through the air as the action increased.

North Horn on Saturday Morning and kicking off with a nice dive along Blue Marlin Wall with some Hump Head Parrot fish and Grey and White Tip Reef Sharks all cruising the wall with us. A nice large Potato Cod came up from the blue and stopped by for a couple of pictures before cruising back to down to where it came from. The great part about North Horn is the relaxed animals. As we dive here often they are more than happy to relax and come close to us for a closer look. The Grey Reef Sharks in particular don't really have a personal bubble zone and do come in exceptionally close.

The shark feed is always fun and this day was no different with 30 sharks showing up to take part in the action. It was a little slow to start with the Tuna Heads getting caught in the cage but with a little manipulation we were able to get things underway and have a very successful feed. We also had a very special visit by two silvertips at the end of the feed, one about 8 feet long and dominating all the sharks just with it's presence.

We spent the afternoon exploring the tunnels and cracks of castles with two dives. Everyone was happy to have a nice large site to explore with a few comments about the topography being like swimming around in a coral encrusted village.

Steves Boomie for a couple of dives on Sunday morning and who would show up. Not one but two Minke Whales. The dives themselves produced sharks, stonefish, scorpion fish, pelagics and octopus. It is very rare for people to say that diving at Steves was not their favorite part of the trip but in the case of this week the favorite part was certainly the Minkes.

Mates Breakfast of Eggs Bennedict cooked up by Elliot and Terry went down a treat with a huge round of applause for the effort the boys made.

When we left Steves we headed over to Flair Point for a couple of afternoon dives. Some Pizza for lunch and we were charged up and ready to go. The hunt was on for the elusive ghost pipe fish that lives here. We found plenty of nudibranchs, crabs, small rays and schools of surgeon fish but the ghost pipe fish was living up to his name and staying well hidden.

It has been another fantastic trip out here with amazing people from all over the world. It is always interesting to see where everyone is from and on this trip we managed to have people from nearly every continent with but just missing South America. It is always great to see everyone sitting around and chatting like old friends by the end of the trip and with a few email addresses exchanged I suspect a few of our customers will be jet setting around to meet up with some of their new friends soon.

Until next time happy diving and may the sharks by smiling.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 12th June 2017 - Wed 14th June 2017 - ( 15) images

Monday mornings before we leave Cairns are always a pretty interesting time. Our customers are all spread everywhere in the city and start arriving is various ways to the boat. As the last of our courtesy buses arrive we gather everyone on the top deck and get to make our first impressions for the trip. The uniqueness of having a customer arrive wearing a kilt for this trip will not be lost on me for some time to come.

We left Trinity Wharf and got the usual paperwork and welcome aboard process completed before arriving at Turtle Bommie for our first taste of GBR diving. We did two dives here and with multiple turtles, multiple sharks and some lovely new wetsuits for everyone to use for the occasion.

With a little motion in the ocean kicking in as we headed north a lot of people took the opportunity to have an early night and get settled into cabin life. Hot showers and comfy beds and everyone were sound asleep by the time we arrived at Steve's Bommie.

The previous week a cheeky Minke Whale was hanging about at Steve's however as with all things ocean it was different this week. We did have turtles, sharks, nudibranchs, lion fish, stone fish, Nemo and a respectable 20 meters vis so it really was Steve's been Steve's and been amazing as always.

Leaving Steve's we did a short trip across to wistful gardens for a look at some large sea fans and branching hard corals. The topography here is really neat with the boat sitting in 14m of water and in a small bay so essentially surrounded by reef. It means we have plenty of area to spread out and look around. With 25m vis it was a nice change for everyone to be able to stretch their legs and look about a large area.

Rouge was up next with it's cracks and crevices as well as its straight wall drop it is a very stunning site for scenery. The light in the middle of the day shines down into the cracks and lights the place up with a stunning display of sun rays and colorful corals.

Clam Gardens had some very nice 25m vis and no current so we were able to just meander around for a very easy afternoon dive. Lots of big clams are scattered around this site, some tucked into the reef and others sitting alone on the sand and seemingly only held into place by their own weight. The fish life in fantastic here with everything from snapper and Trevally to sharks and rays all being seen on our afternoon and night dive as well.

Minke Season is here so we have a Minke researcher onboard the boat. She gave everyone an excellent talk about what Minkes are and where they migrate from and back to. We were talking about Lighthouse Bommie been the most popular spot to see them and sure enough when we tied up there on the Wednesday morning we had a Minke at the back of the boat before any divers were even in the water. We ditched the dive gear and just grabbed our masks and fins and slipped quietly into the water to see these incredible animals. Everyone on board managed to see a pair of Minkes as they swam around below them with all customers following our advice and holding onto the viewing lines and not moving around making it very comfortable for the whales to come nice and close to everyone.

After breakfast we did a dive at Lighthouse bommie with the Minkes having moved away from the boat and letting us experience this fantastic dive site. Olive sea snakes and turtles as well as pipe fish and clown fish were all spotted on this dive. Again we had 30m vis and everyone was extremely excited about their time at Lighthouse Bommie.

Cod hole for a couple of lovely dives to finish the trip. The first dive we did our cod feed and had 3 eager participants show up. The First one was out muscled by the second who did the majority of eating. The third one however gave one star at the first two and they both went into complete submissive mode. It is amazing to watch the literal meaning of "size does matter" in action.

The last dive of the trip and everyone happily ventured off for a look around the cod hole. With the visibility been winter time fantastic it is a really nice area to wonder around in. Lots of nudibranchs and a school of stripped sweetlips as the highlights.

It has been a fantastic few days out here on Spirit of Freedom with the marine life been absolutely stunning of every dive and every spot. The wind has picked up a little and the BBQ will be inside tonight but that is ok as it gives us a great chance to show everyone the photo's from the trip and enjoy a couple of cold drinks as darkness falls outside.

Happy diving everyone and see you next time.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Thu 8th June 2017 - Mon 12th June 2017 - ( 15) images

Thursday the 8th of June some cool cats flew into Lizard Island where they would join Spirit Of Freedom and her crew for a 4-day expedition to the Coral Sea. After all the formalities and a short steam to the Ribbon Reefs it was time to go diving! Our first dive was at Pixie Gardens which is a nice reef wall forming into a gradual sandy bottom, which makes for a great first dive for the divers to get familiar with our equipment and procedures while also being a good opportunity for those who haven't been in the water for a while to shake of the rust. The next dive of the afternoon was at Challenger Bay, which sits in between Ribbon #9 and #10, this is also where we would be doing a night dive. Our divers got to witness all walks of life from schooling Sweetlips and Fusiliers to Garden eels and a Hawkes Bill Turtle. Once night had fallen there was a huge transition of life with many smaller reef fish disappearing while the pelagic species came in search of some food. Challenger Bay is one of the most spectacular night diving spots on the Great Barrier with Giant Trevally and Red Bass hunting in the torch lights, Moray Eels swimming from rock to rock while reef sharks follow along waiting for their chance for a quick easy snack. Once everyone was back on board it was time to ‘batten down the hatches' for our over night crossing to Osprey Reef.

We awoke to a beautiful sunrise at Osprey Reef, although a little windy it was still going to be great day of diving on this magical reef. First up was Silver City, this site gets it's name from its topography like most sites at Osprey. Large rock formations on the edge of the reef rising up from over 20m up to the surface giving it the sky rise appearance. We then moved on to Castles once again the topography is what it's all about from tall structures to hidden pathways and swim throughs making an entertaining dive with the divers putting their navigational skills to the test. After lunch we stop off at The Gap, here we are close to the entrance of the lagoon but what makes this a good dive is off the deep wall of Osprey a small platform sticks out off the wall and catches the current so there is large congregations on fish life from big schools of Barracuda and a family of Napoleon Wrasse to Rainbow Runners and some Tuna. Our final dive of the day was at Admiralty, this site gains its name by in one of the swim throughs lays a large old admiralty anchor. Here we find many Black Trevallys and also a hand full of Moray eels. Through out the day's diving many reef sharks were spotted many White Tip Reef Sharks but also several Grey Reefies. We soon settled on our over night mooring and everyone got an early nights rest so we could be fresh and raring to for our last day at Osprey.

In the morning we moved up to the North Horn of the reef where we would sit for the first three dives of the day. Dive one and two were drift dives, the first was along Marlin Wall and the second was down Soft Coral Wall. The first is on the weathered side which always has several sharks cruising along it and also schools of tuna swimming by and Soft Coral Wall is more protected so the more fragile corals have a better chance at growing there for smaller species inhabit this side of the reef. Our third dive was the notorious Shark Attraction dive. In a naturally formed auditorium the divers site tight on the rocks as a cage of tuna heads is lowered into the water where over 30 sharks circle in anticipation waiting for their chance of an easy snack. One brave crew member swims up to the cage and cuts a release cord, as the tuna heads float up out of the cage all hell breaks loose and the ripping and the tearing can be heard as the sharks ruthlessly dismantle the tuna. Once all the mayhem settles down and not a piece of tuna is left the dive swim over to the feeding area and search of a shark tooth to take home as an souvenir. This is always a highlight of the trip for customers and crew, a great way to get the blood pumping. Our final dive at Osprey was at a new site along the protected edge of the reef where none of the crew had dived before so after a quick search and a check of the mooring it was time for an exploration dive. Some swim throughs were discovered whist also some dead ends. Another great day out at Osprey but unfortunately it was time to make our way back to the Ribbon Reefs where we would finish off our final day of our four day expedition.

We awoke on Sunday morning at Steve's Bommie on Ribbon Reef #3. Here we would be doing two dives on this spectacular pinnacle. As it is situated off the Ribbons we get large congregations of life with schooling jacks and mackerel while many colourful Anthias and Bassalets dance in and out of the coral covered pinnacle, Steve's is truly a wonder of the GBR. After lunch we moved on to Coral Princess Bommie, this bommie has a lot of protection from the Ribbon #3 so the coral formations are in great shape with large plates and huge branching structures and hidden amongst them are some Giant Clams. Our final dive of the four day expedition was at Flair Point, a beautiful bay with gradual slopes scattered with small bommies, many smaller fish species find refuge in these little habitats while Gardens Eels fill up the sandy areas in between.

After our fifteenth dive of the trip it was time for a big family feast, Australian BBQ styles. All the crew and customers swapped stories and shared some drinks as we made our way back to Cairns. The last four days have just been amazing with amazing people from all over the world doing some amazing diving, it has been a blast and we'll see you next time!

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Mon 5th June 2017 - Thu 8th June 2017 - ( 15) images

On Monday the 5th of June ‘Spirit Of Freedom' set sail for the Ribbon Reefs for what would be our first trip of the Dwarf Minke Whale season. Once we had done our meet, greet and safety briefs it was time for some diving! In the afternoon of the first day we had made it up to Norman Reef where we would do two dives before our overnight steam up to the Ribbon Reefs. The dive site was Playground, which offers the style of diving for both the experienced and the not so experienced, a great place to shake off some of the rust so to speak. Once everyone had become familiar with the new equipment and procedures everything gets a lot easier. Our second dive was on dusk which always makes for an exciting dive as you get to witness the transition of life as many species are in search of a last meal of the day while others are after their first.
After a delightful meal and dessert it was time to make our way up north to the Ribbon Reefs.

We awoke the next day at Ribbon Reef #3 on the dive site Steve's Bommie, which is a pinnacle that rises up from over 30m to up near the surface. Pinnacles on the GBR tend to have large congregations of marine life so the diving is always spectacular. Once all the divers had descended our old friend Mr Minke Whale showed up! Seeing whales at the surface is always uplifting but for one to be seen while diving is just something even more special. The Dwarf Minke Whale continued so swim in between the Pinnacle and the boat for more than three hours! Such a magical experience for everyone on board to be in the water with the whale for such a long time, but as the whale moved on so did we. Our next dive was up on Ribbon #5 at a spot called Rouge, this reef offers up something a little different as it has steep walls, swim throughs and also shallower bays all full of life. In the afternoon we moved on again down to Clam Gardens where we would do the next two dives with the latter being a night dive. At Clam Gardens there are many Giant Clams some of which are nearly 100 years old and over 400 kg. During the night all the creepy crawlies come out to play and the site transforms. The orange glow of all the crustaceans' eyes can be seen through out the reef as well as all the night time predators in search of a meal. After the dive it was time to pack up and move onwards and upwards to the northern Ribbons on an overnight steam.

On the last day of our 3-day expedition our first dive was at the bottom of Ribbon Reef #10, dive site Pixie Pinnacle. Here we get amazing colours with soft corals and fans littering the pinnacle all the while Anthias and Bassalets dance around each other in and out of the coral. Also a resident Great Barracuda guards the mooring line, giving the divers an eye up as they enter and exit the water. Next up was the notorious Cod Hole right up the top of Ribbon #10. It was a fantastic day to feed the giant Potato Cod with good visibility and many hungry cod keen on some lunch. Everyone managed to get a selfie or two with the ever so photogenic fish. For our final two dives of the trip we headed to Lighthouse Bommie, which is situated off Ribbon #10. Here we found all walks of life from the beauty of some Flame File Shells to the grace of both large and small Green Sea Turtles all the while large schools of Trevally, Fusiliers, Barracuda and Snapper circled the pinnacle and also a few Grey Reef Sharks where in the mix.

To top off what had been a great trip we steamed up to Lizard Island for an Australian BBQ and a some drinks, a good time was had by all swapping stories and contact details as life long friendships where made. It was time for some rest before our morning ashore Lizard Is. before being flown back to Cairns.

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Thu 11th May 2017 - Mon 15th May 2017 - ( 15) images

Trip photo's from our 4 Day Coral Sea Trip 11th - 15th May

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Mon 8th May 2017 - Thu 11th May 2017 - ( 14) images

Images from our 3 Day Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef trip 8 - 11 May, 2016

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Thu 4th May 2017 - Mon 8th May 2017 - ( 15) images

When you look at the run of luck that we have had lately in regards to wind you would think we would be better off brining kite surfers out to play in the swells as they break on the windward side of the reefs. Our luck was holding for another missed Osprey trip so we put our heads together and decided that going north was the best option. To put this into context we normally reserve going north for our special Far North Excursions so this would certainly be a very unique trip for everyone on board.

We headed out for our first two dives on Thursday afternoon to Coral Princess Bommie. We love this spot for it's diversity of corals and fish life as well as. White tip reef sharks, Flowery Cod, Fusiliers, Lagoon Rays are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the diversity of this site. When we finished up our dives here everyone was relaxing over dinner getting to know each other when we broke the news to them that we would be heading north and that they could expect to see some of the most amazing coral the GBR has to offer.

We headed to an area just north of Princess Charlotte Bay, A full nights steam North of Lizard Island. Our first two dives of the day were at a site called Aladins Cave. We put Matty in the water to see what was happening below and he came back with a report of a Silver Tip Reef Shark as well as a Black Tip reef shark both coming up close to him, perfect. Two dives here on the steeply sloped wall then finishing up in the shallows where the mountains of table and plate corals formed some exceptionally amazing topography. With overhangs and swim throughs I am already itching to got back there for Far North later this year.

Over Lunch we traveled down to Amazing Grace where we did a live drop on a plateau that sticks out from the eastern end of the reef. We managed to find a back eddy current so everyone hung around in the same area letting the marine life swim past them. Again we had sharks and a turtle as well as lots of big Barracuda. We brought everyone back to SOF with the tenders and they were all very amazed at the health of the reef. I was asked if there was any bleaching and I informed everyone that there has been very little bleaching North of Port Douglas this year and from Cooktown North we have seen even less.

The last dive for the day and we found ourselves at Pirates Caves in a challenging current. We worked our way down the mooring line and once close to the reef we were out of the water flow and able to dive comfortably. The cave system here is excellent with double layers of caves so you can explore it at 12 meters then come up to 5 and cover a whole new area.. It really is like an interconnected Swiss Cheese type dive site. A really fantastic site to finish off the day with everyone extremely vocal about the amazing topography.

Over Friday night we traveled 120 miles south to Ribbon Reef No. 5 where we would start Saturday out at Hi Five. This site has a wall that comes down to 18 meters and then changes to a sandy bottom with scattered coral patches. Perfect if you are a Big Green Turtle, Or a human size Moray Eel, A silver tip shark or even a little black tip shark. If the marine life isn't interesting enough there is also a cave system here to explore as well.
Arriving at any dive site is usually a fairly un eventful process for the customers. Most don't even batter an eyelid as the lay in the sun chairs on the upper deck. However arriving at Rouge there were cameras and cheers aplenty as a pod of 80 dolphins surrounded the boat and hung out with us for half an hour. We even delayed the first dive so that we could spend more time watching them. The dive itself yielded a very well camouflaged hawksbill turtle as well as a trove of fusiliers wondering along the wall. The second dive at Rouge we explored the overhangs and caves in the back of the site. Lots of buoyance lessons to be learnt from swimming around in areas with soft sandy bottoms.

With the day rolling on we did a quick move to Clam Gardens. The afternoon dive was pretty relaxed with a snoozing white tip reef shark on the bottom and a really nice large flounder swimming over the reef. The night dive was plenty of hunting action with the Red Bass and Trevally putting on a show of skills in the dark to find their prey. With it getting a little cooler everyone appreciated the hot water rinse and hot towels when they came up from the dive.

When I talk about Steve's Bommie I always find myself trying to compare it to any other dive site I have seen in my years of travel. The simple answer is, there is no other. While yes there are other pinnacles out there and they are good nothing I have found has ever come close to the marine life diversity at Steve's. With 3 types of sharks, 2 types of turtles, 4 types of anemone fish, 3 types of scorpion fish and a collection of stone fish. All in all the only thing that changes is where the critters are and the visibility that we have to find them. Everyone says this is by far one of their favorite dives and it is well worth doing the two dives that we do on a Sunday morning here.

Flair point is where we spent the afternoon. Two dives here with an abandon ship drill in between. I love getting everyone dressed up in their life jackets and getting the customers involved in our crew training. The more realistic the training the better it is for the crew. It was a really good drill and goes to show how well the crew are working together.

For the second time this trip we had Dolphins come to visit, they cruised by the boat and had a good look before cruising off. The dives were great with sharks, turtles, rays and nudibranchs for everyone. We finished up our second dive around five o'clock and moved back to Steve's Bommie where we would have dinner. On the way over we found the Dolphins again making it the most Dolphin magic trip we have had in a long time. They came over and rode the bow wave as we cruised along showing off their superior surfer skills on the way.

It has been a great trip with people from all over the world joining us. Argentina to England, Australia and America. All the corners of the globe. Our crew are about to split for five weeks starting tomorrow while the boat goes into maintenance mode. We are all heading in different directions but after this trip I am sure just like me, the rest of the crew are already looking forward to coming back and seeing what else awaits us out here. Every trip we do we learn about and appreciate our amazing reef and the marine life surrounding it.

Until we blow bubbles again,
Happy diving everyone.

Angus Rowe
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 1st May 2017 - Thu 4th May 2017 - ( 15) images

Stay Tuned, trip report coming soon...!

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Mon 24th April 2017 - Thu 27th April 2017 - ( 5) images

On Monday the 24th of April we departed Cairns Mariner in steam for the Great Barrier Reef for our Cod Hole expedition. After all the meet and greets with the crew and customers it was time for some diving. Our fist dive location for the three-day trip was Norman Reef located 30 nautical miles NW of Cairns.

We conducted two dives on Norman Reef before our over night steam up towards the Ribbon Reefs.
On Tuesday morning we awoke at the notorious Steve's Bommie, a magical dive site which sits just off Ribbon #3. This pinnacle rises up from over 30m to just 4m from the surface making it a mecca for all walks (swims) of marine life. Steve's never ceases to amaze even the most experienced diver; there is always something new and special to see here. Next up was Rouge, which is further north in between Ribbon #5 & #6. The topography here creates an underwater playground with many crevasses and swim throughs and also a range of deep and shallow coral formations. After lunch we moved to Andy's Postcard which is close to Rouge but this pinnacle in the channel between the Ribbons collects an abundance of life with thousands of fusiliers schooling together to avoid predatory fish which never works to well so there was much excitement on this dive.

Our fourth dive was at Clam Gardens, which is also where we would conduct our night dive. As the name suggests there is dozens of clams many of which would easily weigh several hundred kilograms. While darkness saturates the sky all the freaks of the night come out in search of a late night snack under the protection of the night. Crustaceans littler the reef and are easily spotted with bright glowing eyes in the divers torch lights. While we enjoyed dessert we steamed further north towards Ribbon #10 for our over night anchorage.

As we arose on Wednesday it looked as the weather had calmed and we had a beautiful day on and under the water ahead of us. Our first dive was on Pixie Pinnacle, this dive site never ceases to amaze with astounding coral formations and the fish life with more diversity than the amazon. Up next was Challenger bay which lies just around the corner. Challenger Bay hosts more prominently larger fish species with some resident reef sharks and Maori Wrasse while also there is plenty of macro on offer in the way of nudibranchs.

Over lunch we steamed to the top of Ribbon #10 where the Cod Hole lays. This is always a highlight of the trip with several large Potato Cod come to join the divers and as always they are more than happy to oblige for a photo. Our final dive of the trip was due west of the cod hole, half way to Lizard Island, Snake Pit. A reef system that comes up from over 30m and plateaus at 15m creating a beautiful platform for divers. So obviously we spotted some Olive Sea Snakes but also there is a huge turtle, larger than most and schooling fish all along the ledges.

Unfortunately the diving was over for our three day expedition but the fun was not, we moved into the shelter of Watson's Bay on Lizard Island for an Aussie style BBQ where we all shared a few drinks, swapped stories and contacts creating diving friends for life. Thank you all for joining us.

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director.

 

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Thu 20th April 2017 - Mon 24th April 2017 - ( 14) images

Windy Windy with a slight chance of Gusty was the forecast for our Coral Sea trip. We Left Lizard Island on the hope of getting out to Osprey Reef but also breaking out the sea sick meds as well.

Our first stop was at Coral Princess Bommie. There is a custom we have here and that is that someone always goes where we say not to and then end up getting picked up be Terry's Taxi. This week was no exception to the rule with Terry's Taxi paying another visit to the Bermuda Triangle.. The site it's self is very stunning with patches of coral on a sandy bottom. Each patch of Coral is a different species to the others and the fish life choose their preferred type of coral to live in meaning that it is like looking at a different fish tank every time you move.

That night we left for Osprey after making sure everyone was in their beds and comfortable. The Ocean has a way of being tougher than any man or beast and it was out to show us that it was boss. After an hour and a bit we turned around and headed back to the Ribbon Reefs and the quiet anchorage of Challenger Bay.

On Friday Morning we steamed up to the Cod Hole for two dives. The first one had a couple of white tip reef sharks cruising about as well as a couple of sleepy eyed cod. On the second dive we decided to do a cod feed and managed to track down three cod. The smallest one was chased off almost immediately by the other two. The largest one was so lazy that it just sat on the bottom waiting for us to put the food in its mouth. It has us well trained. And the last one was a mid size Cod who was charging about trying to get as much food as possible making for an entertaining show for all.

We love a good drift dive and Captains Corner is one of the best we have for currents and speed. We dropped in with the tenders and came flying along the reef and around the corner. The one thing to keep in mind when drift diving is that the bigger you are the more the current grabs you and the faster you go. Most of us were back at the boat in less than 40 minutes having had our adrenalin punch for the day.

We moved along Ribbon Reef 9 ¾ to Challenger Bay and the surreal action of the night dive. We do two dives at Challenger and after the night dive is complete most divers agree that it is one of the best dives they have ever done. There was a huge amount of hunting action involving the Trevally and Sharks and everything up close and easy to see.

Saturday Morning and we were at the Bottom of Ribbon Reef 9 for a dive at Wonder Wall. A slight current was running along the wall bringing in some good marine life and a Large Potato Cod was hanging about waiting for a meal to drift by. A few Nudi's were spotted as well.

Dive two for Saturday and Clam Gardens was the pick of the spots. The current was still playing the game and it was nice and still in the water. An easy meandering hour long dive with the Giant Clams for everyone to gaze over.

Dive three was a weather related coin toss. We decided that it was to blustery for Crack A Jack so we headed to Rouge instead. Rouge has a fantastic amount of swim throughs and amazing topography that allows the light to shimmer down from above making for beautiful affect. Most of our divers were starting to get adventurous by this point of the trip and headed off in buddy pairs to check it all out.

Saturday afternoon and evening and what better place to be than George's Gardens. This area has some very large Moray Eels as well as some interesting topography. The reef gardens on top drop away fairly steeply creating a fairly vertical wall. With large clams and new soft coral growth this is one site that is not only an easy dive but a very pretty one as well.

Sunday Funday at Steve's Bommie where the Turtles were out to play and the fish were doing the same. A Wobbygong was watching the action from his hole in the reef and the stone fish were doing what they do best, nothing at all. We did two dives here before moving over to Flair Point for the afternoon.

With the trip drawing to a close the crew did some emergency drill training and this week was missing diver. It is always nice when we find the missing diver as most of the time it is Captain Tony and we do need him from time to time.

That is it from us for another week I know everyone on board had a fantastic time with some even mentioning the Challenger Bay night dive as one of the best dives they have ever done.

Until Next time.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 17th April 2017 - Thu 20th April 2017 - ( 14) images

Monday the 17th April was a fairly blustery day with a cooling South East wind blowing all the way up the east coast of Australia. Up here in Cairns that meant for a few small bumps as we headed out to Saxon Reef for our first two dives of the Cod Hole trip. We arrived at Turtle Bommie with 22 eager divers waiting for their chance to dive the Great Barrier Reef. Under the water waiting to greet them were a couple of white tip reef sharks and a very relaxed turtle who was enjoying it's dinner. We stayed for two dives before enjoying a Salmon dinner of our own as we headed North towards Ribbon Reef No. 3.

Steve's Bommie is our regular Tuesday Morning dive and it has never failed to produce the goods. The vis was great and the Marine life was out to play with plenty to see. Trevally swarming from left and right. Clown Fish in every anemone. White Tip reef sharks on the bottom and Leafy Scorpion Fish in their usual spots. Another great Tuesday at Steves.

For dive two and three we did something a little different and dived two separate sites at the same time. We have three sites that we can pick from on Ribbon Reef Three that are all pretty close together. One of them is a very small pinnacle called Christmas Tree Bommie. It is so small that we only like to have a dozen divers on it at a time so that is exactly what we did. By have half the boat dive Whistful Gardens and the other half dive Christmas tree. We Sat Spirit of Freedom on a Mooring that lies between the two sites and used the Tenders to drop in on Christmas Tree and did a short surface swim to Whistful. Both sites have very colorful corals and clams as well as a great selection of marine life including several clown fish species as well as Cods, Trevally, Barracuda and the smaller stuff like cleaner shrimp and nudibranchs.

We spent the afternoon and night dive at Clam Gardens looking at Moray Eels and White Tip Reef sharks. We had a few night dive newbies and they loved seeing the Bioluminescence in the water.

Wednesday morning we woke up at Pixie's Pinnacle where everyone came up with big smiles. The quality of the coral here is impressive and the fish life second to none. It is always a favorite amongst our divers and this week was no exception with plenty of pelagic fish charging around the place keeping everyone very entertained.

The world famous Cod Hole for two dives with the Sharks and Cod competing to be the main attraction on the first dive. It is really amazing when we have some younger kids on the boat, as some of our cod are the same size as them! Now the Cod are a temperamental bunch and to be honest I have never had a Cod Feed where none of them showed up. That was until today. It was a very unique Cod Feed with not much of anything going on and the Red Bass absolutely destroying and food that was offered up. It is a refreshing reminder that the Cod are in fact not dependent on us for food and they choose to partake in the feeds. It is also a wonderful reminder that they choose to live at the Cod Hole and don't simply stay here waiting for their weekly hand out.

Last dive of the trip was a chilled no current dive at Dynamite Pass. We had no current and clear Vis to finish things off. It has been a windy time up on the surface this week with the wind adding a bit of a chill effect to things. First time I have seen so many hoodie's getting warn this year. Might be a sign of the times for the next few months and the air temps. The great part is that the Ocean Temp has dropped to 27 degrees and with this cooling the risk of coral bleaching has completely disappeared. We have only seen a very small amount of bleaching on our sites and with this water temp drop the coral has a very good chance of a full recovery.

That is all for this Cod Hole Trip. Until next time,

Angus Rowe,

Trip Director.

 

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Thu 6th April 2017 - Mon 10th April 2017 - ( 13) images

True statement "The conditions out here are officially horrible". Said by our fearless captain while trying to tie the boat up in 30 knots of wind and sideways rain. It can be said that our 6 months of perfect glass out spectacular conditions have ended with a bluster. So what is the best thing to do when the surface weather isn't great for playing golf, go diving or course.

We started this Coral Sea trip by looking at the weather forecast, and more importantly the wave heights for outside the reef. 3 - 5 meter waves are no ones cup of tea so we decided that not heading to Osprey would be the wiser option. We started the diving at Ribbon Reef no. 9 and Coral Princess Bommie.

The first shark sightings for the trip happened within 30 seconds of getting in the water and not to be outdone a pod of dolphins came past for a look. We even managed to find a stone fish just hanging out under the boat.

Day two started out at Pixie's pinnacle where a grey reef shark came up and gave us a nice toothy grin. A green Moray was also showing off his pearly whites while getting a clean from a cleaner wrasse.

We moved down the wall a little ways and dived Pixie's wall for the second dive of the day. A Green Turtle glided by and didn't pay us much notice. The more keen eyed people spotted a few nudi branchs along the way too.

Captains Corner for a drift dive and the current was certainly playing the game. We dropped in and we were off with the reef zipping past like watching a forest from the window of a car. We rounded the corner and a back eddie slowed us down to a mild swim as we traveled the second half of the dive much slower than the first. Again a Green Turtle showed us up as it moved with ease in the current.

Challenger bay for a late afternoon and night dive and the action was plentiful. We could hear the crunching and banging of fish getting caught and eaten by other fish as well as the sharks streaking by in the darkness trying to get there slice of the action. Lots of close sharky action on this particular night.

30 knots of wind are challenging enough to tie up the boat. When it involves an anchor drop and backing the boat up to an eight meter wide pinnacle it takes a far bit of planning and a little luck to put everything where you want it. First thing you have to do is find the pinnacle, when it is ten meters below the surface and the sky is grey and the waves are rolling it is very tough. Fortunately we have one heck of a captain and with a little captains talk everything came into place nicely and we were right to go. Why go to so much effort, well because Crack A Jack is worth it. Turtles and pelagic fish of epic proportions. Fabulous soft corals. Insane cleaning stations that involve dozens of shrimp and moray eels. Absolutely worth the effort. In fact it is the first time I have ever seen a round of applause given when we have tied up to a dive site.

Clam Gardens for the second dive and it was pleasing to hear some of the experience well traveled divers talk about how amazing the clams are and that they are certainly some of the larger clams they have seen. The vis was a little affected by the weather for this dive but never the less everyone said the clams were spectacular.

Rouge is not a site we visit often as it normally does not fit into our fair weather itineraries however when the weather turns we certainly do like coming here and having a look around. Lots of large cracks in the reef and exceptional topography allowing the light rays to rain down from above. A very amazing site for photography.

Last up for the day was two dives at George's Garden. This site has some very impressive Giant Clams as well as a very decent wall to swim along. The gardens area on top of this site in the top five meters has unfortunately being pretty well hit by a storm in the past but it is nice to see new coral growth beginning to appear. The night dive was a little different to the one at challenger bay. It had lots of fish and no other fish trying to hunt and kill them. It was very nice to do a night dive and see so many fish out and about without the constant threat from the hunters.

Trevally that capture a persons attention for 15 minutes, Wobbygong sharks, stone fish, octopus and not to mention a mild current and great vis. Steve's Bommie turning on the goods once again on a Sunday morning. It is so good we are going to stay and do a second dive. Sunday Funday.

Flair point for the last two dives of the trip. Everyone was amazed at the size of the Massive Corals here. It is always nice to watch the newer divers by this point of the trip. Their bouancy is much improved as is there general diving technique. The move slower and find more things, the use less air and easily hit 60 minute bottom times. It is always rewarding to see the advice of the crew making a difference in the water and people really picking up some great skills while having fun too.

We are headed south towards Cairns and Pier Bar happy hour on Monday. Until next time.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 3rd April 2017 - Thu 6th April 2017 - ( 13) images

On a sunny Thursday morning our guests had a scenic flight up to Lizard Island from Cairns, after a short ride in the RIBs through the Blue Lagoon we had fresh faces aboard before lunch. Shortly after our meet and greet with all the friendly crew it was time to make way for Ribbon Reef #10 to begin the 4 day Coral Sea expedition.

Our first dive is the customary orientation dive to shake off any rust so to speak and get ourselves ready for what lay ahead. Later in the afternoon we dived ‘Lighthouse Bommie' which is a pinnacle that rises up from 28m to 6m creating an oasis in the dessert situated off Ribbon #10. Large schools of bait fish darted around the pinnacle as Trevally and Barracuda chased in search of an afternoon snack. It was then time to ‘batten down the hatches' as we headed out towards Osprey Reef on an overnight steam.

On Friday morning we awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the glistening open ocean. Our first dive of five was a drift at ‘Around The Bend' in which looked as it was going to be a memorable one with crystal clear water and a gentle current. Being the first dive of the day we get to see everything waking up and in search of some breakfast from a train of Bumphead Parrot Fish in search of some corals to dopey turtles still with some sleep in their eyes. After our breakfast we headed south down to Rapid horn, which put on another amazing drift with a little bit more current we drifted close to a mile. Through out the drift divers got to see an assortment of fishes along the way, colourful Anthias dancing amongst the reef as well as Butterfly, Angel Fish and a large Potato Cod to top it all off. Over lunch we travelled to the south east corner of Osprey for our third dive, and as soon as the divers hit the water a couple of intrigued Silver Tip Reef Sharks came in for a closer look in addition to other reef sharks making for an excitable dive also with topography resembling a labyrinth.

Following three full on dives we had a quick afternoon siesta as we steamed back up to the entrance for our final day dive, we always do a day dive at the location of our night dive to help divers familiarize themselves with the site. At ‘Forgotten Lagoon' where you can actually see the bottom, awaited the usual array of fish and also a secret swim through to add to the adventure and once night fell and we got in the dive site had transformed into something special, there is something about night diving in spectacular visibility, humbling in a way. After an energy sapping day packed full of escapades it was a short trip to our over night mooring allowing for everyone to get an early nights rest in for tomorrow in which once again will be another action packed day at Osprey Reef.

Saturday started spectacularly, 5 knot variable winds, flats seas and never ending visibility. We were going to spend our day up on the northern end of Osprey with our first dive being along ‘Blue Marlin Wall'. The divers did a live drop just after 7am into a slight current towards ‘North Horn', at the beginning of the dive a pair of Eagle Rays glided past gracefully and as we got closer to our end point more and more reef sharks came into see what all the fuss was about and they stayed with us until the end of the dive, things were looking good for the shark attraction dive we had planned for the afternoon. Our second dive was along ‘Soft Coral' wall also drifting north to the ‘Horn'; here we get a sloping wall which once at 40m drops off to the abyss. As the name suggests, there is beautiful soft corals throughout the wall but also large fan corals as well as plate and branching corals which of course house an abundance of marine life from Christmas Tree Worms in every colour to hunting pelagics also at the end of the dive a Leopard Shark was laying on a sandy bank watching the divers swim over top. Now it was time for the ‘Shark Attraction' dive, always a huge highlight the divers were buddy checked and raring to go as soon as dive time was called. Once everyone was in place at the underwater auditorium, the cage came down with dozens of Grey Reef Sharks in its wake. The sharks circled the tuna head filled cage with anticipation, awaiting for Gretta our dive master to release the lid. Once the top was open all hell broke loose with over three dozen sharks fighting for some tuna, this chaos continued for what seemed like an entire dive as the sharks wrestled over the tuna heads, for some it was a surprise others an adrenalin rush but a memorable dive was had by all.

It's always hard to have a follow up dive just as good at the shark attraction so we mixed things up a little and moved down to ‘Admiralty' which has a number of swim throughs and caverns one of which has a large admiralty anchor laying at the bottom of it. A fun dive making a nice way to end our time out at Osprey and unfortunately it was time to tie everything down and settle down for the overnight steam back to the Ribbon Reefs.

On Sunday morning we a rose to another spectacular day near Ribbon #5, too days itinerary consisted of some pinnacles to change up the diving style as its challenging to top Osprey's beauty. During the night the winds shifted to the prevailing south east and also picked up considerably putting a change into our plans so we started our day in some shelter at ‘Gorgonian Bay', a nice coral covered wall with a nice shallow bay with Giant Clams and with residing with them where juvenile fish seeking shelter from the big blue. Next up was the infamous ‘Steve's Bommie' located near the bottom of Ribbon #3, Steve's is always a great dive and makes an appearance on the highlight reel with a large abundance of fish from big to small and also the rarities like Leafy Scorpions, a number of nudibranchs, Wobbygong Shark and also a young Green Sea Turtle.

We dived Steve's a second time giving the Mates a chance to do their weekly maintenance and checks in the Engine Room, but by diving this site a second time around it gives you a chance to find all the cool critters that you might have missed the first time around and also get that perfect photo of Nemo who resides on the top of the pinnacle. For our final dive of what has been an amazing trip was at ‘Coral Princess Bommie', which takes up to an hour to swim one lap around. A beautiful coral dive with large Stag Horn gardens and Giant Clams dotted around it, it is also home to a couple of large Napoleon Wrasse who have a couple of holes in the wall in which the call home every evening so it's always nice to see them heading off to bed in the late afternoon.

Unfortunately it was time to wrap things up and prepare ourselves for the overnight steam back to Cairns. A lot of fun was had by all and many new friendships were made, I thank you all for joining us and hope to see you again one day.

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Thu 30th March 2017 - Mon 3rd April 2017 - ( 18) images

On a sunny Thursday morning our guests had a scenic flight up to Lizard Island from Cairns, after a short ride in the RIBs through the Blue Lagoon we had fresh faces aboard before lunch. Shortly after our meet and greet with all the friendly crew it was time to make way for Ribbon Reef #10 to begin the 4 day Coral Sea expedition.

Our first dive is the customary orientation dive to shake off any rust so to speak and get ourselves ready for what lay ahead. Later in the afternoon we dived ‘Lighthouse Bommie' which is a pinnacle that rises up from 28m to 6m creating an oasis in the dessert situated off Ribbon #10. Large schools of bait fish darted around the pinnacle as Trevally and Barracuda chased in search of an afternoon snack. It was then time to ‘batten down the hatches' as we headed out towards Osprey Reef on an overnight steam.

On Friday morning we awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the glistening open ocean. Our first dive of five was a drift at ‘Around The Bend' in which looked as it was going to be a memorable one with crystal clear water and a gentle current. Being the first dive of the day we get to see everything waking up and in search of some breakfast from a train of Bumphead Parrot Fish in search of some corals to dopey turtles still with some sleep in their eyes. After our breakfast we headed south down to Rapid horn, which put on another amazing drift with a little bit more current we drifted close to a mile. Through out the drift divers got to see an assortment of fishes along the way, colourful Anthias dancing amongst the reef as well as Butterfly, Angel Fish and a large Potato Cod to top it all off. Over lunch we travelled to the south east corner of Osprey for our third dive, and as soon as the divers hit the water a couple of intrigued Silver Tip Reef Sharks came in for a closer look in addition to other reef sharks making for an excitable dive also with topography resembling a labyrinth.

Following three full on dives we had a quick afternoon siesta as we steamed back up to the entrance for our final day dive, we always do a day dive at the location of our night dive to help divers familiarize themselves with the site. At ‘Forgotten Lagoon' where you can actually see the bottom, awaited the usual array of fish and also a secret swim through to add to the adventure and once night fell and we got in the dive site had transformed into something special, there is something about night diving in spectacular visibility, humbling in a way. After an energy sapping day packed full of escapades it was a short trip to our over night mooring allowing for everyone to get an early nights rest in for tomorrow in which once again will be another action packed day at Osprey Reef.

Saturday started spectacularly, 5 knot variable winds, flats seas and never ending visibility. We were going to spend our day up on the northern end of Osprey with our first dive being along ‘Blue Marlin Wall'. The divers did a live drop just after 7am into a slight current towards ‘North Horn', at the beginning of the dive a pair of Eagle Rays glided past gracefully and as we got closer to our end point more and more reef sharks came into see what all the fuss was about and they stayed with us until the end of the dive, things were looking good for the shark attraction dive we had planned for the afternoon. Our second dive was along ‘Soft Coral' wall also drifting north to the ‘Horn'; here we get a sloping wall which once at 40m drops off to the abyss. As the name suggests, there is beautiful soft corals throughout the wall but also large fan corals as well as plate and branching corals which of course house an abundance of marine life from Christmas Tree Worms in every colour to hunting pelagics also at the end of the dive a Leopard Shark was laying on a sandy bank watching the divers swim over top. Now it was time for the ‘Shark Attraction' dive, always a huge highlight the divers were buddy checked and raring to go as soon as dive time was called. Once everyone was in place at the underwater auditorium, the cage came down with dozens of Grey Reef Sharks in its wake. The sharks circled the tuna head filled cage with anticipation, awaiting for Gretta our dive master to release the lid. Once the top was open all hell broke loose with over three dozen sharks fighting for some tuna, this chaos continued for what seemed like an entire dive as the sharks wrestled over the tuna heads, for some it was a surprise others an adrenalin rush but a memorable dive was had by all.

It's always hard to have a follow up dive just as good at the shark attraction so we mixed things up a little and moved down to ‘Admiralty' which has a number of swim throughs and caverns one of which has a large admiralty anchor laying at the bottom of it. A fun dive making a nice way to end our time out at Osprey and unfortunately it was time to tie everything down and settle down for the overnight steam back to the Ribbon Reefs.

On Sunday morning we a rose to another spectacular day near Ribbon #5, too days itinerary consisted of some pinnacles to change up the diving style as its challenging to top Osprey's beauty. During the night the winds shifted to the prevailing south east and also picked up considerably putting a change into our plans so we started our day in some shelter at ‘Gorgonian Bay', a nice coral covered wall with a nice shallow bay with Giant Clams and with residing with them where juvenile fish seeking shelter from the big blue. Next up was the infamous ‘Steve's Bommie' located near the bottom of Ribbon #3, Steve's is always a great dive and makes an appearance on the highlight reel with a large abundance of fish from big to small and also the rarities like Leafy Scorpions, a number of nudibranchs, Wobbygong Shark and also a young Green Sea Turtle.

We dived Steve's a second time giving the Mates a chance to do their weekly maintenance and checks in the Engine Room, but by diving this site a second time around it gives you a chance to find all the cool critters that you might have missed the first time around and also get that perfect photo of Nemo who resides on the top of the pinnacle. For our final dive of what has been an amazing trip was at ‘Coral Princess Bommie', which takes up to an hour to swim one lap around. A beautiful coral dive with large Stag Horn gardens and Giant Clams dotted around it, it is also home to a couple of large Napoleon Wrasse who have a couple of holes in the wall in which the call home every evening so it's always nice to see them heading off to bed in the late afternoon.
Unfortunately it was time to wrap things up and prepare ourselves for the overnight steam back to Cairns. A lot of fun was had by all and many new friendships were made, I thank you all for joining us and hope to see you again one day.

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Mon 27th March 2017 - Thu 30th March 2017 - ( 14) images

So it was time for us to leave Cairns and Cyclone Debbie behind, luckily for us the storm had headed south while we were off north. On Monday afternoon we had made it up to Norman Reef where we would do two dives before making way for the upper Ribbon Reefs. Both dives were on the dive site ‘Troppos' where we were lucky enough to chill with a few Green Sea and Hawksbill turtles in the shallows as the day was coming to a close. A magical sunset was awaiting the divers as they exited the water and said good-bye to Norman Reef and steamed into the night.

On Tuesday morning we awoke to mixed conditions, with the forecast being 25 knot Northwesterly for the next few days we were in for interesting run. Unable to tie up to our usual moorings we did live drops and pick ups for the first two dives both of which were drift dives and with large tides they were exciting drifts. For dive three we found a sheltered edge and managed to tie up too which gave the deck crew a bit of a break as for us divers the diving never stopped. We had a lovely dive in between Ribbon Reef 8 & 9, which was plentiful in fish life from large schools of fusiliers and mackerel to cute little Box Fish. In the afternoon we dived ‘The Crack' which is a reef wall with a large fracture like crevasse into the reef. This creates a safe haven for smaller and juvenile species and also has great coral cover in which makes the perfect safety stop location right off the back of the boat. This is also where we did our night dive which is always a bit of fun as the lights go out all the creepy crawlies come out to play, the reef was littered in crustaceans and their orange glowing eyes.
Wednesday morning was just as the weatherman predicted, windy! But luckily for us there is no wind underwater. We started the day off with another drift dive along a coral covered wall on Ribbon #9 and a pair of Eagle Rays glided effortlessly through the current as the divers floated by. Next up was ‘Vertical Gardens' which is one of my personal favorites, a large concave wall with corals from one meter down past thirty meters. This semi-circle fish bowl never ceases to amaze even the most experienced diver.

Over lunch we steamed north to the ‘Cod Hole', and as you'd expect it was so much fun with several enormous Potato Cod joining in for their afternoon snack all the while being ever so photogenic, show offs. Our final dive for the expedition was at ‘Snake Pit', with an incoming tide we had nutrient rich water coming in from the Coral Sea fertilizing the site bing in an abundance of fish life. Big schools of Rainbow Runners and Mackerel Tuna chased the darting bait fish all over the reef and to top it off a gigantic Green Sea Turtle made an appearance, one of the largest I've ever seen!

What a fun filled trip we've had filled with exciting diving regardless of the conditions above the water it was smooth sailing underneath. After our final dive we popped over to Lizard Island to find some shelter for the evening and shared a fantastic Aussie style BBQ.


Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Thu 23rd March 2017 - Mon 27th March 2017 - ( 14) images

Fresh faces flown into Lizard Island were welcomed aboard late morning to meet Spirit Of Freedom and all the crew. We soon made way to Ribbon Reef #10 to get our four day Coral Sea expedition underway, kicking it off with two afternoon dives and a exciting night dive with all the night time predators at Challenger Bay. Once we all got to know each other a little better over a few quiet beverages it was time to make way for Osprey Reef, with lake like conditions; we departed for a night of smooth sailing.

When we awoke at Osprey Reef calm seas and clear skies greeted us. Our first dive was a drift at ‘Around the Bend'. With amazing visibility and a light current we floated along the wall of the reef. As we made our way all of the divers had the thrill of spotting a Marble Ray, Cow Tail Ray and a large Tiger Shark! What an epic way to start our two days in the Coral Sea. After breakfast we moved to the ‘False Entrance' for dive two where reef sharks sleep peacefully on the sandy floor un-phased by the divers. Over lunch we steamed up to ‘North Horn' where all the sharks were waiting in anticipation for their afternoon snack; the shark attraction dive is always a huge highlight of the trip with dozens of sharks and some gigantic Potato Cod coming to join in on the action. To finish off what had already been a blockbuster of a day we did a dive at the newly dubbed ‘Forgotten Lagoon'. A nice, calm dive in shallow waters acts as a protective habitat for many juvenile and smaller fish species. Some divers were even lucky enough to have a visit from a small Eagle Ray cruising through the shallows! After warm showers, we settled in for a movie night complete with popcorn and Tim Tams for our overnight stay at Osprey Reef.

Day three of the trip and we awoke to another spectacular sunrise over the Coral Sea. With north-easterly winds, it was the perfect opportunity to have an adventurous day of exploring the southern end of Osprey Reef. The morning kicked off with our excited and eager divers being live dropped along the reef wall headed towards Rapid Horn, the southernmost tip of Osprey Reef. Within minutes, a huge school of Bumphead Parrot Fish came passing through to say Good Morning as we were descending. Shortly after the Grey Reef sharks were cruising along in the blue, coming in to check out the morning action. Dive two was around on the south-western corner of Osprey where we were once again live dropped and with it being unfamiliar territory several intrigued Silver Tip Reef Sharks came in to see what all the fuss was about and ended up hanging around for a good part of the dive. In the afternoon we had moved around and up to the eastern edge of the reef and dived a site called ‘A-Maze-ing' which has the deep drop off coming up to a network of bommies scattered about the shallower part of the reef's edge. The divers navigated the labyrinth finding all kinds of hidden gems and in the end finding the boat with ease. Our day ended with the final dive at ‘Admiralty' which is an eventful dive with caves, caverns and swim throughs, in which one swim through has a large admiralty anchor laying on the bottom guarded by reef sharks at the entrance and morays on the inside. After another awesome day at Osprey none of the guests wanted to leave but it was time for us to make our way back to the Ribbon Reefs over night.

After a peaceful overnight steam we awoke to spectacular conditions surrounding the Ribbon Reefs. Our first dive was at a very special spot called ‘Crack'A'Jack', which is a pinnacle coming up from 40m. Once we had moored up we could practically see the bottom and with no current we were set for a magical dive. Anthias and Bassalets danced over the top of the bommie while schools of Jacks darted amongst the baitfish. Magnificent corals lined the pinnacle with all the tiny hidden treasures in between. Dives two and three were also pinnacle dives but this time at the notorious Steve's Bommie. This dive never ceases to amaze even the most experienced diver, littered in scorpion fish, pipe fish and pairing nudibranchs it was a very special couple of dives. To top off what has been one of the most amazing trips we dived a beautiful bay in between Ribbon #2 & #3, ‘Joanie's Joy'. Such a relaxing way to finish off an action packed dive expedition. After all the dive equipment had been cleaned and stowed away we joined together for a fabulous feast of Australian BBQ cuisine, with a great meal and a few drinks, life long friendships began to bud as we swapped stories and address' all the while we quietly steamed back towards Cairns. Unfortunately the trip was over but it didn't mean the fun had to end. Thank you to all that joined us, it was an absolute pleasure and we hope to see you some day soon.

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Mon 20th March 2017 - Thu 23rd March 2017 - ( 15) images

When the weather forecast looks to be surreal for a trip to the Ribbon Reefs it is always worth double checking and even triple checking to make sure it hasn't changed. After all when you arrive at Spirit Of Freedom on a Monday Morning we like to brag to the other Crew just how good our weather is going to be. This week though we were out bragged with sightings of Tiger Sharks and Exceptional Visibility from last week. So we got about the business of getting ready for the week ahead.

As we left Cairns the only ripples on the ocean were from our wake and that of fish breaking the surface. It was a glass out all the way to Normal Reef and the first two dives of the trip at Playgrounds. A nice Green Turtle, Grey Reef Shark and a Moray Eel were all the highlights of our first two dives.

We headed north for Ribbon Reef No.3 and Steve's Bommie. Normally we would arrive at Steve's around 1am but with the weather so calm we took the outside path up the reef and cut off a couple of hours of travel time.

When you are standing on the boat and can see the mooring blocks 38 meters below the water it is far to say the Vis is certainly above average. I have never seen Vis as good as this at Steve's Bommie. On the dive you could easily see all of the surrounding patches of reef scattered across the sea floor. We even noticed a white tip reef shark napping on the sea floor and a grey reef shark circling around near the bommie. There was a very chilled out hawksbill turtle that we cam across as well as a bossy Octopus that seemed to want to take charge of a camera for a photo shoot. A couple of Stone Fish and even a free swimming one were all pretty easy to spot this week. As always a spectacular dive at Steve's with Caroline even suggesting it was life changing.

Up next was our second favorite pinnacle, Crack-A-Jack. Again off the charts vis and no current making for a very nice dive. Lots of cleaner shrimp all over the the top part of the pinnacle and glass fish everywhere. An Octopus picked a crazy moment to dive into a hole and almost paid dearly for it with an eagle eyed Trevally spotting the movement and just missing with an attacking pass.

Siesta time, zzzzzzzzzzzz

Pixie's Wall is know for it cleaning stations white sandy bottom. A white tip reef shark decided to steel the show by buzzing around everyone at the end of the dive and I was asked if Barramundi are found on the Great Barrier Reef. We have a fish called a Barramundi Cod and that is what was found. They are a rare and completely protected fish however are not a part of the Barramundi family they still resemble them in shape.

Challenger Bay for an afternoon and night dive was pretty interesting. The quote of the trip would be "Sola, when that shark swam between your legs, were you nervous?" That pretty much sums it up.

Lighthouse Bommie and some Olive Sea Snakes was a great way to kick off what would be a very memorable Wednesday. The ocean was flat, the wind was calm and the dive at lighthouse was full of marine life with plenty of Barracuda and Fusiliers zipping all over the place.

We headed for the cod hole and our after breakfast dive was feeding a couple of pretty feisty Potato Cod. Normally the large cod rule the roost at the Cod Hole but today one of the smaller cod decided he had had enough of the old ways. He took charge and gulped down as much food as he could keeping all the larger cod at bay.

The second Cod Hole dive was a drift dive coming in from the exposed side and around the corner into the Cod Hole itself. The current was a lovely incoming tide and made for a pretty zippy drift and we were back in shark ally and hanging around the ten meter zone for a while when a bunch of rattling and banging started up. I knew it was Matty the Smiling German based on the noise but he was just outside my vision to see what he was on about. It didn't take much waiting before I got my answer as I started swimming towards him a ten foot Hammer Head went barreling between us. I did not expect that at all and Matty tells me it had been swimming in circles around him before I cam over to see what was going on.

Snake Pit for some great vis and Bat Fish city to finish things off. A nice easy dive and a pretty chilled out conditions with very little current. Lots of smaller fish covering the reef and a little blue spot stingray came past for a look. A very nice dive to finish of the trip.

The conditions were exactly as forcast for the trip and we have had some wonderful people to share them with.

Until next time.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Thu 16th March 2017 - Mon 20th March 2017 - ( 15) images

Fresh faces flown into Lizard Island were welcomed aboard late morning to meet Spirit Of Freedom and all the crew. We soon made way to Ribbon Reef #10 to get our four day Coral Sea expedition underway, kicking it off with two afternoon dives and a exciting night dive with all the night time predators at Challenger Bay. Once we all got to know each other a little better over a few quiet beverages it was time to make way for Osprey Reef, with lake like conditions; we departed for a night of smooth sailing.

When we awoke at Osprey Reef calm seas and clear skies greeted us. Our first dive was a drift at ‘Around the Bend'. With amazing visibility and a light current we floated along the wall of the reef. As we made our way all of the divers had the thrill of spotting a Marble Ray, Cow Tail Ray and a large Tiger Shark! What an epic way to start our two days in the Coral Sea. After breakfast we moved to the ‘False Entrance' for dive two where reef sharks sleep peacefully on the sandy floor un-phased by the divers. Over lunch we steamed up to ‘North Horn' where all the sharks were waiting in anticipation for their afternoon snack; the shark attraction dive is always a huge highlight of the trip with dozens of sharks and some gigantic Potato Cod coming to join in on the action. To finish off what had already been a blockbuster of a day we did a dive at the newly dubbed ‘Forgotten Lagoon'. A nice, calm dive in shallow waters acts as a protective habitat for many juvenile and smaller fish species. Some divers were even lucky enough to have a visit from a small Eagle Ray cruising through the shallows! After warm showers, we settled in for a movie night complete with popcorn and Tim Tams for our overnight stay at Osprey Reef.

Day three of the trip and we awoke to another spectacular sunrise over the Coral Sea. With north-easterly winds, it was the perfect opportunity to have an adventurous day of exploring the southern end of Osprey Reef. The morning kicked off with our excited and eager divers being live dropped along the reef wall headed towards Rapid Horn, the southernmost tip of Osprey Reef. Within minutes, a huge school of Bumphead Parrot Fish came passing through to say Good Morning as we were descending. Shortly after the Grey Reef sharks were cruising along in the blue, coming in to check out the morning action. Dive two was around on the south-western corner of Osprey where we were once again live dropped and with it being unfamiliar territory several intrigued Silver Tip Reef Sharks came in to see what all the fuss was about and ended up hanging around for a good part of the dive. In the afternoon we had moved around and up to the eastern edge of the reef and dived a site called ‘A-Maze-ing' which has the deep drop off coming up to a network of bommies scattered about the shallower part of the reef's edge. The divers navigated the labyrinth finding all kinds of hidden gems and in the end finding the boat with ease. Our day ended with the final dive at ‘Admiralty' which is an eventful dive with caves, caverns and swim throughs, in which one swim through has a large admiralty anchor laying on the bottom guarded by reef sharks at the entrance and morays on the inside. After another awesome day at Osprey none of the guests wanted to leave but it was time for us to make our way back to the Ribbon Reefs over night.

After a peaceful overnight steam we awoke to spectacular conditions surrounding the Ribbon Reefs. Our first dive was at a very special spot called ‘Crack'A'Jack', which is a pinnacle coming up from 40m. Once we had moored up we could practically see the bottom and with no current we were set for a magical dive. Anthias and Bassalets danced over the top of the bommie while schools of Jacks darted amongst the baitfish. Magnificent corals lined the pinnacle with all the tiny hidden treasures in between. Dives two and three were also pinnacle dives but this time at the notorious Steve's Bommie. This dive never ceases to amaze even the most experienced diver, littered in scorpion fish, pipe fish and pairing nudibranchs it was a very special couple of dives. To top off what has been one of the most amazing trips we dived a beautiful bay in between Ribbon #2 & #3, ‘Joanie's Joy'. Such a relaxing way to finish off an action packed dive expedition. After all the dive equipment had been cleaned and stowed away we joined together for a fabulous feast of Australian BBQ cuisine, with a great meal and a few drinks, life long friendships began to bud as we swapped stories and address' all the while we quietly steamed back towards Cairns. Unfortunately the trip was over but it didn't mean the fun had to end. Thank you to all that joined us, it was an absolute pleasure and we hope to see you some day soon.

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Mon 13th March 2017 - Thu 16th March 2017 - ( 12) images

All Aboard! We departed Cairns harbor on a sunny Monday afternoon heading for the outer barrier reef, first stop Norman Reef. After our meet and greet with all the crew and safety briefs complete it was time to do some diving! We did two dives at Troppos with a nice shallow bay and deeper walls making for good check out dives where divers become familiar with our practices and equipment. Most spotted a Green Sea Turtle with other seeing two or three! Once we had everyone back on board it was time for dinner and an overnight steam up to the Ribbon Reefs.

We awoke to an amazing sunrise and flat seas the day ahead was looking good with five dives planned our first dive of the day was at Steve's Bommie. This dive never ceases to amaze even the most experienced diver with an abundance of marine life it truly is a site to see. Our next stop was further north towards Ribbon #5 at a special little spot dubbed ‘Crack ‘A' Jack'. Another pinnacle with a steady flow of nutrient rich water from the Coral Sea it also puts on a show similar to Steve's. Many pelagics chasing small bait fish amongst the brightly coloured corals all over the bommie makes for an entertaining show. Just a short drive around the corner we where tied up for lunch at Gorgonian Bay. Many fusiliers schooled along the reef and shark mackerel sat out in the blue waiting for their chance to strike while in close crayfish and other crustaceans lined the reef. Our final stop of the day was Clam Gardens where we did an afternoon dive and also a night dive, which is always a favourite for many and a little nerve racking for those going under in the dark for the first time, but the newbies always exit the water with huge smiles on their face! Once we where all packed up it was time to head north to the upper ribbons, which according to the weather man it was going to be another spectacular day.
On Wednesday morning the conditions where next to perfect for what we had in store for our divers with our first dive being a drift at Pixie Reef. With an incoming tide we had a beautiful wall dive in which required next to no fin kicks, such a relaxing way to start the day. After breakfast we moved up to Lighthouse Bommie. As the divers entered the water they where greeted by a large school of Jacks, great visibility and of course Raphael the turtle. With a lunchtime steam north to the Cod Hole we had dolphins surfing our wake. The cod feed is always a highlight of the trip and is always exciting for the crew also. Several giants glided gracefully amongst everyone in anticipation for their afternoon snack whilst divers got that all-important selfie with these gracious creatures.

To top off what has been a magical trip and also a experience of a lifetime for many we had our final dive at Snake Pit. With continuous calm waters and crystal visibility there was so much to see, an Eagle Ray swam loops around the dive site while a huge Logger Head Turtle floated lazily amongst everyone.

A great time was had by all as lifetime friendships where made and unforgettable memories. Until next time!


Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Thu 9th March 2017 - Mon 13th March 2017 - ( 15) images

The only ripples that we could find on Thursday the 09th of March were ripples in the sand on the beach. Without a doubt it was the calmest glass out conditions that are possible. We took the opportunity to dive a spot that we do not get to visit very often-called Vertical Gardens.

The first two dives to start the trip and we had kicked things into high gear with not one, not two but 3 devil rays buzzing us during the first dive. The corals along this exposed stretch of reef are very colorful and stunning in color and quality. With the flat conditions the crossing to Osprey would be a nice flat affair but we decided that Osprey could wait a little and we went and had a look at Shark Reef first up.

Shark Reef is a pretty small spot with only a couple of dives done on it a year and it is clear to see why it gets it's names. It is a deep reef with the shallowest parts been around 14 meters deep with very stunning Edges and Ledges that gives it it's Plato style topography. The conditions have to be just perfect to dive it with wind and tide all very important. We got everything set up and underway and made our way into the 50m visibility and then along the top edge of the lip at 30 meters. Upon turning around and drifting back to the line we had a Scalloped Hammerhead cruise up and swing by us. This was followed by 3 silvertip reef sharks cruising about checking out what all the fuss was about. A very special dive seeing one or the other of these shark species and to get them both within a minute of each other was outstanding.

Rapid Horn at Osprey Reef for a live drop and drift along this Sothern end of Osprey. Grey Reef Sharks and stunning coral with a lazy current and a Tender Ride back to SOF.

Dive 3 and we found ourselves in one of those full moon anomalies where the current just wouldn't stop running. We waited it out for a while and eventually had to submit to ocean over man rules and moved from False Entrance to Secret Caves. A few overhangs and some nice fans and soft corals tucked away mad this a nice colorful site.

Dive 4 and it was time to really get into the reef with t he swim throughs of Admiralty Anchor. Lots of places to explore on this very well known site with large and small gaps to go through as well as plenty of marine live with GT's (Giant Trevally), Moray Eels and white tip reef sharks sleeping on the bottom.

After dinner and a night dive at Admiralty and we had lots of Bump Headed Parrot Fish Joining us as they schooled up for the evening. A few sharks and some excellent star gazing just to top the day off well.

Saturday Morning and drifting down Blue Marlin wall with a huge Silver Tip reef shark and crystal clear water. I love weekends.

Dive 2 and we fed the ravenous grey reef sharks and as per usual the Potato Cod were in the middle of all of the action too. Lots of feeding action and a few scuffles for food. Reminded me of dinner with my brothers.
For dive 3 at North Horn we did a nice long drift dive down soft coral wall where we found hundreds of Trevally cruising along with us. The sun was out and we really enjoyed the colorful spectacle of soft corals on this site.

We ended the Osprey Reef part of the trip with a dive at False Entrance. The sleeping white tips laying around on the bottom really summed up life as a shark. Eat, swim and sleep. Not much different to diving from SOF to be honest.

Back to the Ribbon Reefs for a double Steve's Bommie and some very amazing marine life. It all got very exciting when a very large Manta Ray showed up along with a green turtle, 2 Octopus fighting and a Wobbygong sleeping. And that was all in 20 minutes!.

After our double dive at Steve's we headed for Joanie's Joy where we spotted a lonely white tip reef shark laying on the sand snoozing. A couple of Nudibranchs were crawling along at 18 meters and the visibility was very good in the nice 29 degree Celsius water.

Flair point was the dive to finish off the trip and a few of our customers were flying in the early afternoon the following day so while the divers dived the party got underway on board. Everyone has been very social this trip and there is a really nice bond between everybody. We are sitting on Steve's Bommie Mooring at the moment about to have our sunset BBQ dinner.

Until next time.

Angus Rowe.
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 6th March 2017 - Thu 9th March 2017 - ( 14) images

With all aboard we departed Cairns under the sun steaming to the outer reefs on flat seas. After our meet and greet with all the friendly crew we were off to the Great Barrier Reef with our first stop being Norman Reef, dive site Playground. Once we'd finished our first two dives and shaken off the rust so to speak we made way for the Ribbon Reefs over night.

We awoke on Tuesday to a beautiful sunrise and kicked off the days diving at the notorious Steve's Bommie located at Ribbon Reef No.3 where a Green Sea Turtle and Nemo greeted all the divers. Dive two of five was 'up the road' at Ribbon #5.

A special little spot named Crack'A'Jack was a highlight for many with an abundance of marine life from the tiny macro to large hunting pelagics. Over lunch we steamed further north to ribbon #9 and dived Wonder Wall. Magnificent corals and dancing butterfly fish kept the divers wanting more. We soon moved on to Challenger Bay, a lovely afternoon dive with some shy garden eels and coral gardens. Once night fell the daytime creatures went off to bed and creepy crawlies came out to play, the site came to life with a many hunting pelagics including white tip and grey reef sharks but mostly giant trevalleys ruled the site by night also the crustaceans come out to play with glowing orange eyes in our torch lights they lit up the reef. A great day had by all, we enjoyed some delicious dessert served up by our amazing chef we swapped photos and stories of the day as we settled in for the night with high anticipation of the day ahead.

On Wednesday we were greeted with a lightly cloud cluttered sky but flat seas which would make for an enjoyable days diving. The mornings diving consisted of a pinnacle dive, Lighthouse Bommie was teaming with life from the brightly coloured nudibranchs to large schools of Barracuda and an arrangement of magnificent corals. After breakfast we headed further north to the infamous Cod Hole. We all gathered together for that all important selfie with the giant Potato Cod and of course she obliged. Next up was a drift dive through Dynamite pass with a brisk current we zipped along the reef with minimal effort. To finish off our awesome trip we had our final dive at the Snake Pit, which is not too far from Lizard Island. The long and elegant Olive Sea Snake weaved in and out of the coral heads as we swam through the Crinoid forest and whist on our final safety stop hundreds of mesmerizing Comb Jellies drifted past as they flashed their bioluminescence.

Once again another fabulous trip was topped off with a BBQ and a beautiful sunset with beautiful people.

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Thu 2nd March 2017 - Mon 6th March 2017 - ( 18) images

4 Day Coral Sea Trip Report coming soon...

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Mon 27th February 2017 - Thu 2nd March 2017 - ( 12) images

3 Day Coral Sea Trip Report coming soon...

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Thu 23rd February 2017 - Mon 27th February 2017 - ( 15) images

Lizard Island is always a dominating feature of the skyline when diving up around Ribbon Reef no. 10. It looms upwards from the ocean and I always feel like we are seeing this area for the first time because of how remote it really is. When you fly up to join Spirit of Freedom the island gradually gets bigger and bigger until the whole windscreen of the plane is filled with it. Then you bank left and come in between the hills and land on the rolling tarmac.

Once you deplane you make your way down to the beach where the tenders from Spirit Of Freedom then collect you and whisk you away to the boat with a pause for some photo opportunities along the way. Once on board the crew show you around the vessel and get you settled in with welcome briefings, lunch and a dive procedures briefing before your first dives of the trip.

For the Coral Sea trip starting on the 23rd of February 2017 our first dives were completed at Coral Princess Bommie. White tip reef sharks, glass fish, pipe fish, nudibranchs and trigger fish were all in abundance on our checkout dives. After the last dive was finished for the day we sat down for dinner before departing for Osprey Reef at 830 pm.

We had a wee look at the tides and decided that the first dive at Osprey would be Blue Marlin Wall at North Horn. There was a slight current running and it was a perfect way to wake up after an overnight steam from the Ribbons. Plenty of Sharks were on hand to welcome everyone to Osprey and the visibility wasn't too shabby either.

We departed North Horn and made our way over to Silver City in search of the elusive Silver Tips the site is named after. Elusive is their MO and they were sticking to it for today. It is a stunning wall however and a few of the overhangs are draped with fans and whip corals that add in some terrific color.

Third dive of the day was The Gap. A little current had picked up and the White Tip Reef Sharks were having a nap right below the boat. A wonderful 40+ meters visibility and a couple of swim throughs added to the already stunning topography and conditions of the dive.

To round out the day we headed over to Admiralty Anchor. The holes and tunnels of Admiralty were a big hit with everyone. A few people were surprised by just how much of the reef is in fact hollow and able to be swam through. Plenty of sharks were buzzing about the back of the boat for a nice finish to the night dive.

Day 2 at Osprey started out with a slow drift at Around The Bend were we again had a few sharks and a nice school of trevally milling around the place. The current was a little slow so some kicking was required but the visibility was perfect and the coral stunning.

The shark feed is always one for plenty of action and this weeks action came in the form of one of our rather large Potato Cod giving me a little love bite on my bottom. Nothing too menacing but it certainly got my attention and had me maneuvering for some space. We have some great tug o war action over the tuna heads and plenty of ripping and tearing going on. A really fun dive for everyone.

Drifting down soft coral wall started slow and gradually sped up and at one point it felt like a free fall from a plane we were moving that quick. Stunning Corals down this wall with hundreds of Trevally guarding over them and the odd shark patrolling for a snack.

To finish up with Castles was a perfect way to finish two days at Osprey with plenty of swim throughs and great Gorgonian Fans to be found as well. A turtle came by for a bit and a shy Octopus was also found hiding in a hole.

Overnight back to the ribbon reefs and starting Sunday with Crack-A-Jack. The entire pinnacle is covered in glass fish at the moment and there are pelagics circling waiting for a chance to grab one that ventures too far. There are some very stunning fan corals down on the bottom at 40 meters and cleaning stations all over the pinnacle as well as up on top where there are lots of shrimp hanging out waiting for something to come past for a service.

3 Octopus, 3 Turtles, 2 types of Scorpion Fish, Stone Fish, White Tip Reef Shark, Trevally, Nudibranchs and that was just all on one dive. 2nd dive throw in a couple of Grey Reef Sharks cruising together, two Wobbygong sharks and a couple more Octopus plus a Ribbon Eel and you have Steve's Bommie at it's absolute best for todays 2 dives.

Last dive of the trip was Joanie's Joy where a space ship of a Thorny Ray was parked on the sand. As one diver put it "gobsmacking".

Well that is it from Spirit Of Freedom for this week, I am off to crack a beer and chat with some new friends.

Until next time,

Angus Rowe
Trip Director.

 

 

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Mon 20th February 2017 - Thu 23rd February 2017 - ( 14) images

10 knot winds were the order of the day when we left Cairns in a sunbaked state on Monday morning. The weather gods were in a great mood and the sea gods were in agreement that a nice flat calm marine life filled trip was going to be the order of business. We left Cairns with a full boat of 26 and headed out to Saxon Reef.

The first two dives of the trip were spent at Turtle Bommie where we encountered the international rule in dive site naming (name a site after an animal, never see the animal on the site). Everyone was happy to get in the water and wake up with quit a few rather jet lagged people cradling coffee cups during the welcome briefing.

We departed Saxon and headed north towards Ribbon Reef number 3 and Steve's Bommie for our Tuesday kick off. Stone fish were certainly on show with 8 different ones being found as well as a couple of white tip reef sharks venturing about. A nice mid sized green turtle has been calling Steve's home lately and was in her usual spot this morning. She sat for some photo's before swimming up for some air and showing us how graceful she can move in the water.

We headed to Crack-A-Jack for dive 2 and after a bit of underwater magic we were ready to dive. It pays to be ready first sometimes and for Richard and Francesco it really paid off when they were the only ones to see a Manta Ray gliding past. Not only did they see it, but got the photo's to prove it.

After the excitement of the morning we had a long lunch while we traveled north to Wonderwall for a nice and relaxed dive observing the new coral growth that is coming onto this site and the changes that it has gone through over the past few years. It is a spot to watch as it is great evidence that the Great Barrier Reef is indeed alive and well and in Full recovery mode from the last few years of natural events.

Challenger Bay for an afternoon and night dive with exceptional shark action and lots of hunting from the local Moray Eeels. Upto 10 different sharks were spotted during the night dive with plenty of close encounters and lots of smiles and stories after.

Lighthouse Bommie is where we started things on Wednesday. A little current flowing through brought a lot of fish action. There were 2 types of sharks with a white tip and a grey reef shark cruising about. The highlight was the ultra friendly turtle gliding past everyone and of course the olive sea snakes were tough to find but we did track them down for all to see.

Cod hole for a pre and post lunch dive with a really fat lazy cod showing up and practically laying on the bottom with it's mouth open and not moving. My kind of meal really, just lay there and let someone else put the food in your mouth. Amanda and Daniel managed to find a sneaky Manta Ray coming past as well and were very delighted to be the only ones to have seen it.

Snake Pit for the last dive of the trip and it was clear like a glass of water. A bit of a reverse current as the top was running a full 180 degrees to what it was doing on the bottom. Made for some interesting dive planning but everyone managed very well. A giant of a Moray Eel was certainly the highlight and watching it sit still while the cleaner wrasse went about a thorough grooming job.

It has been a fantastic trip out here on the Ribbon Reefs with some of the most stunning sunrises of the year so far. After seeing some sunrise photo's many of the customers got up a little earlier just to see what was happening at 5.30am. Of course the crew were already at work however there were drones flying getting sunrise footage. Cameras set up for time-lapse shots and people cuddled up with coffee in hand and enjoying the scenery.

Dinner is ready and I can hear roars of laughter coming from the dinning saloon.

Until next time.

Angus Rowe.
Trip Director.

 

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Thu 16th February 2017 - Mon 20th February 2017 - ( 14) images

Full report coming, stay tuned....

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Thu 9th February 2017 - Mon 13th February 2017 - ( 15) images

When the weather man starts talking about areas of vorticity in the vicinity where you are planning to go diving you can be assured for the need to be flexible with the conditions. Thursday morning at Lizard Island this is exactly what the weather gods were saying and they even mentioned a thing called a confused sea. So with all of that information we headed out to the Great Barrier Reef to start our Coral Sea Adventure for the week.

We did our first dive at Coral Princess Bommie where a couple of reef sharks came in for a look at some of our divers. With the welcome to the reef orientation dives complete we headed for Challenger Bay for an afternoon and night dive.

A cuttlefish, turtle, shark and banana nudibranchs were the highlights of the first dive at challenger. The second dive been the night dive had all the action that we are accustomed to at this spectacular site. Lots of sharks and Trevally hunting action as well as the odd surprise attack from a Moray Eel. Everyone came up with stories of awesomeness about the action.

We headed out to Osprey on Thursday night and arrived to the ever changing conditions of Friday. The wind blew in five different directions for the day and at one stage the swells were traveling North and South at the same time making for a "confused" sea. In amongst all of this we put our divers in for four dives during the day which the thoroughly loved.

The first dive was a live drop and nice slow meander at Around The Bend with plenty of sleeping sharks hanging in the blue for everyone to get a good look at. A Tender pickup at the end of the dive and a quick ride back to Spirit and everyone was hanging for the bacon and eggs they could smell through the boat.

The sharks were on point for the shark feed and again we live dropped everyone in and made our way down to the feed zone for the ravenous grey guys to join us. The feed was a blast with lots of sharks ripping into the tuna heads and playing multi way tog o war.

We did a little bit of a weather tap dance and found ourselves at Castles for the third dive of the day where the dramatic topography of swimthroughs and deep walls proved to be very popular with everyone. Again we live dropped here and used the tenders for a ride back to spirit.

The last dive of the day was at Admiralty Anchor where we found a chilled Moray Eel getting cleaned by a cleaner wrasse as well as a couple of sleepy white tip reef sharks. The Anchor in the bottom of the swimthrough is certainly in a unique spot, I always wonder who dropped it there and what was going though their minds when they realized it went straight into the hole.

With the weather being completely fluid and the squalls looking more and more ominous we left Osprey and Headed back to Ribbon Reef number 10 and started Saturday with a nice fish filled dive at Pixie's Pinnacle. Lots of Great Barracuda and a couple of lionfish were out for a hunt.

We moved over to lighthouse Bommie for a couple of dives over lunch. We were on the hunt for some elusive sea snakes however were very satisfied with a well disguised wobbygong shark and a couple of turtles chewing on some jellyfish.

An incoming tide that eddied around the reef and ran like an outgoing tide is what met us at pixies wall. At depth the current was running as an incoming and closer to the wall and shallower it was running as an outgoing. Everyone did a great job to adjust to the conditions and a large eagle ray came swooping by to have a look at us.

Sunday Morning and we did a couple of dives at Steve's Bommie with plenty of action but the highlight was certainly the friendly Octopus that posed for pics with everyone. A full moon tide started to kick the current off for the second dive and the fish all became very active in the flow. Lots of action and lots of pelagic fish hunting about the place for everyone to enjoy.

A lazy hour dive at Joanie's Joy and we were gliding over the reef with the sweetlips all hanging about the coral heads and letting the current flow over their gills. We found a lump of coral about the size of a basketball that had being converted into the house of shrimp with holes everywhere in this coral and a shrimp parked in each one.

Flair point for the final dive and a couple of sharks came up and wished everyone a farewell from the Great Barrier Reef. The conditions were perfect and flat and the sky was blue for the last dive of the trip. Some sun deck jumping to warm up for the dive and then everyone was in and cruising around for the last dive. Some snorkeling was going on, a search and recovery dive to finish an advanced course for Donna and everyone else just chilling as the afternoon past by.

The end of another trip and new friends to say farewell to.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 6th February 2017 - Thu 9th February 2017 - ( 14) images

It was a little choppy heading from Cairns to Norman Reef on Monday the 6th of Feb but once we arrived and got tucked in behind the reef everything calmed down nicely. A couple of dives at Turtle Bommie to kick the trip off with and we could tell we were in for a fun few days with plenty of friendly banter been tossed around the dive deck. Turtles and a couple of sharks, Unicorn fish and Snapper of different varieties made up the underwater welcoming committee.

We headed north with the sun setting off to our port side and traveled our way through the night before arriving at Steve's Bommie at 1am. Waking up and prepping for the first dive the crew all stopped for a moment and watched the sunrise. It can be argued that we see sunrises in Cairns but out here on the water we all appreciate them so much more.

White tip reef shark, Grey reef shark, stone fish, Scorpion fish and everything else from the fish and critters books on board the boat. Where else could we be but Steve's Bommie! Oh and a turtle, can't forget to mention the turtle.

Coral Princess Bommie has some fantastic hard corals growing on the backside of it. However today that wasn't the highlight of the dive. It was in fact a five foot long Queensland Grouper that hang out with Lara and Tess for a bit just to say g'day to the girls from WA.

A long lunch followed by a dive on Crack-A-Jack. I always like asking people what they think of the dive sites we take them to and when I asked about this one universal applause erupted on the boat. I is certainly a site that has been making a regular appearance With Glass fish everywhere and a pose of hunting pelagics smashing everything that ventures a little far from safety it is certainly a site for action. Team Argentina even managed to find a bunch of shrimp on a cleaning station and were all smiles when they came up.

Clam gardens for some Moray Eel actions with a few of them poking there heads out of various holes in the reef. A nice big green turtle came wondering by for a bit and we even found a Lacey Scorpion fish not far from the mooring block. It is pretty amazing to watch a group of divers who are roaming the reef all converge on one thing and stop. This was one of the giant clams that reside at Clam Gardens. Everyone stopped and looked at this clam wide eyed and all motioning how big it is.

The night dive at clam gardens was the first night dive for many. It is one of the best parts about been a dive instructor is been part of the moment in someone's life that is the first time they do something. It is very rewarding to see the nerves disappear and the smile spread wide across the faces.

Cod hole for two dives to start Wednesday off and it was a great start. Sharks and Cod everywhere with 3 laid back easy going Cod joining us for the Cod Feed. We enjoyed their company and photogenic personalities for the Morning before moving off to Cormorant Caves.

The Caves were nice with plenty of holes to swim in and explore and for many of our divers they had never experienced the thrill of swim throughs before and all enjoyed them immensely.

The last dive and the best drift we could possibly hope to end a trip on. We hit Dynamite pass and barreled down the wall at a ripping pace. The Manta Rays were pretty stoked with the conditions and two of them came by to check out what all the fuss was about. The lucky few in tender one even managed to practically land on one when they rolled into the water. A great dive to end a great trip with great customers whose smiles have not stopped since coming aboard on Monday morning.

Until next time,

Angus Rowe,

Trip Director.

 

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Thu 2nd February 2017 - Mon 6th February 2017 - ( 18) images

Trip report coming soon...

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Mon 30th January 2017 - Thu 2nd February 2017 - ( 15) images

Trip Report coming soon....

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Thu 26th January 2017 - Mon 30th January 2017 - ( 15) images

The Coral Sea Trifecta is becoming so common lately that I don't remember the last time we did a trip that didn't involve Osprey, Bougainville and Holmes Reefs. So this trip would keep with the norm of late and head out for trifecta once again.

Sunshine, Blue Sky and calm waves are always a welcome site and this trip has started off with some of the most spectacular weather North Queensland has on offer. The flight from Cairns to Lizard Island showing some spectacular panoramic views.

Thursday and we did a three dive day starting at Coral Princess Bommie where se got all of our checkout dives done and everyone up to speed on boat life.
We switched sites and set up at Challenger Bay for an afternoon and night dive. The sharks must have got the memo and they were out in force with over a dozen sharks cruising with the dive groups during the night dive. There was plenty above water action too with fish landing all over the dive platform on the back of Spirit keeping the deck crew busy throwing them back in only for the red bass and trevally to engulf them.

Overnight crossing to Osprey and Soft Coral wall was awaiting out arrival to start off the coral sea diving bonanza. Huge schools of Trevally and even bigger smiles for all of the divers when they got out of the water. For many they had never experienced the kind of visibility that we get in the Coral Sea and there were more than a few comments about not being able to go home and dive in various lakes and quarries again.

The shark feed was up next and Sola was the Ninja chosen to let the food loose and the sharks were mighty obliging and let him do it without too much special attention. Then the action was on with tuna heads been torn to shreds as multiple sharks played tug of war. Souvenir hunting for shark teeth after the action is over always produces a few stories about who found the largest tooth.

We left North Horn and traveled to castles for an after lunch dive. A little siesta between lunch and diving to recharge the batteries and away we went again. Lots of holes and swim throughs to explore and classic winding topography to keep the adventurous spirits excited.

Finishing off the Osprey day we headed for Admiralty Anchor where we were swooped by Eagle Rays and watched sleeping whit tip reef sharks lazing on the bottom. An Osprey sunset for world class photos and then it was time to sleep the night away as we traveled south to Bougainville Reef.

We woke up to a nice 15 knot breeze and half meter seas as we approached Bougainville the wreck of the Atlas made the skyline unique as the sun rose behind it. We had a Barracuda spectacular to kick things off at Corner Shop. Everyone came up commenting about the smiling torpedoes they had seen.

Dungeons and Dragons with the Cathedral of swim-through's to suppress the appetite of any cave and tunnel diving rat. Spectacular Vis and everyone was absolutely ecstatic to do two dives here.
We left Bougainville at 6 pm and travelled south with the setting sun off in the distance. It had been a big day for everyone and by 8pm there were no open eyes left on the boat. They all knew we had another very special day planned for them.

Holmes Reef and Amazing to kick things off. It is always nice to chat with the crew and find out their secret little bits of the reef and add those to the dive site maps. I did this with Instructor Matty and we came up with a lot of pieces of Amazing that we had discovered over the last few trips to add to the map. The dive is always great, sharks, rays, caves, blue water vis that only stops because it hits the reef. Truly a fantastic site and still more of it to discover when we come back next time.

Cathedrals was our second dive of the day and it was stunning. The vertical Nature of the wall here combined with the clear vis had Skipper Jago coming up excited by the conditions. Swim through's and large soft corals make up the diversity of this site combining stunning topography with delicate beauty.

We do a few Safety drills here on Spirit Of Freedom every week. This week we did Abandon ship and had all of our customers up on the sun deck with lifejackets on in no time. We don't actually make them jump overboard but it is nice to see how fast the crew can react in an emergency.

Nonkies is where we like to finish things off at Holmes reef. We like it for a few reasons. Firstly it is a Pinnacle making the navigation very easy and secondly the marine life is spectacular. For divers who are not sure about going off without a guide to navigate for them this is a great way to end the trip as a lot of the time they are happy to jump in as buddy pairs and do their first none guided dives. It's a great confidence builder for them and their diving in the future. Marine life wise who can ever say no to perfect fan corals with schools of Trevally and Great Barracuda hovering over the site.

We are currently sitting at Anchor about to enjoy a BBQ dinner and then start the ten hour steam back to cairns chasing the sunset for a bit before arriving with it rising off to our port side. We have had a fantastic Coral Sea Trifecta and now it is time to sit with new friends and swap dive stories over a cold one.

Angus Rowe,
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 23rd January 2017 - Thu 26th January 2017 - ( 18) images

10 - 15 knot southeasterly winds. Music to my ears when it comes to doing a Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs trip here on Spirit Of Freedom. For this time of the year is means it is a bit cooler and we can use all of our dive sites with no weather restriction making it perfect.

We started things out on Normal Reef at Playgrounds where an eagle ray was waiting to greet us. A couple of small turtles and a few Barracuda were hanging around flashing their fancy white teeth at anyone who wanted to look.

Tuesday would be a day for the Pinnacle lovers of the dive world. We hit the line up of sites in a way to maximize our marine life sightings. Steve's Bommie was first up with Nudibranchs, Stone Fish, Scorpion Fish, Antheas, Fuseliers, Clown Fish. A sleeping Green sea turtle, white tip reef shark and a grey reef shark were the highlights of the larger animals.

Christmas Tree Bommie, well it is not often that we go looking for a patch of reef that is ten meters wide and comes to eight meters from the surface but when we have the time and know where to look then we will do just that. After a bit of tender towing snorkel action we found what we were looking for and dropped everyone in on this little know gem of a spot. Smiles and wows were the reactions when everyone came up all saying that we should keep this spot as secret as possible. No worries with that we like to keep these sites up our sleeves for the perfect kind of days.

Crack A Jack was the third of the Pinnacle trifecta for Tuesday. We had plenty of time and gave everyone a chance to dive it in the smallest groups possible by staggering entry times most divers were able to experience this site with only a couple of people with them.

Clam Gardens to round up the afternoon and for a night dive as well. Sleeping turtle, slipper lobster and of course the hunting red bass and trevally were out for the evening as well. All in all a fantastic days diving with everyone extremely thrilled with what they experienced for the day.

Drift dives are the type of dive that suits me, no kicking, gliding along, letting the reef go past you like a sushi train of delights. Of course the also require current. In the case of drifting from Vertical Gardens to Pixie's Wall we were looking good with a nice strong current when we did the current check. Now with all rules in diving the first one is never expect the ocean to stay the same for very long. By the time we kitted up and dropped in from the tenders we were dropping into a none current and finding ourselves swimming along instead. As for the dive its self, well when the crew get out of the water and can't stop smiling and talking about how great the coral and topography were, then you know you are on a winner of a site. So Wednesday was off to a great start and the Cod Hole was waiting patiently for our arrival after breakfast.

Cod hole and Potato Cod that are bigger than your average chocolate spotted fish. Not many people realize that we have names for the cod. These names include Spud, Mash, Chip and so on based on things you can do with potatoes. The feed was fun with Instructor Matty getting his first chance at feeding the cod as a birthday present from the crew. He did a great job and from all accounts only 4 red bass managed to nibble on him during the process.

Snake pit and great visibility, not words I use often. In fact the vis was that good that it had First Mate Elliot grabbing dive gear and heading in for a splash to check it out. Lots of schooling fish and amazing vis and then the current changed and had everyone working rather hard to get the dive complete. The current gods have sure being having a good laugh at me today.

Normally I am not one for finding one animal eating another to be entertaining or interesting however seeing a large shark snacking on a turtle as we were travelling between sites today sure did have a few people talking and wondering about just what does live out here on the GBR.

Another trip and another farewell to all of our new friends, until next time guys.

Angus Rowe,

Trip Director.

 

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Thu 19th January 2017 - Mon 23rd January 2017 - ( 15) images

On Thursday morning our guests flew into Lizard Island and joined us on Spirit Of Freedom for our Coral Sea expedition. We started our trip off with 3 dives on the lower part of Ribbon Reef No. 10, two in the afternoon and one night dive at Challenger Bay with the reef sharks, Giant Morays and other pelagic species. After our dive with the nocturnal predators we dropped the lines and made way to Osprey Reef.

We where woken at Osprey Reef and greeted by some perfect weather, clear blue skies and a welcoming light breeze. We kicked off the days diving with a drift dive at the North Horn, as we were gently moved along the reef wall a large school of Bumphead Parrot greeted us as they swam past us towards their breakfast patch of coral and also welcomed by some intrigued sharks (only the small ones this time ). Our second splash of the day was the shark attraction dive, which of course was a huge crowd pleaser; more than 20 reef sharks and two very large Potato Cod joined us as well. After hanging our with our finned friends for nearly an hour it was time too move onto our next dive site which was the False Entrance at Osprey Reef.

With crystal clear water and the sun overhead it was a mesmerizing experience at False Entrance where a resident Eagle Ray glided amongst the divers making the dive ever more magical and memorable. Soon after everyone was back on board we moved sites again to Admiralty Anchor. This site is a bit of a playground with a maze of bommies and also a nice swim through where an anchor lays hence the name. Right next to the entrance of the crevasse is a protective mother White Tip Reef Shark and with a little patience you can find her pups tucked up in the reef! This was our final dive at Osprey so after a delicious dinner prepared by our amazing chef Terry, we set sail for Bougainville Reef.

After a peaceful nights sleep helped by a flat crossing we arrived at Bougainville Reef before sunrise which was just magical as the sun rose over the Coral Sea which looked like glass. Our day started with off with a fabulous dive at the Corner Shop, as the bright eyed and bushy tailed did their giant stride into the flat seas the visibility was as far as the eye could see. We slowly drifted along the reef where large schools of Barracuda created hypnotic vortex around the divers while some beautiful Butterfly Fish danced amongst the corals. Next up was a labyrinth of a site called Dungeons & Dragons, full of caves, swim throughs and crevasses created by larva flow many moons ago. After an informative briefing and the vast knowledge of the crew, everybody made it back to the mooring and back on board before we set off to our final destination of the day. In the afternoon we did two dives on the Antonia Terrobocchia wreck, both being drift dives timed perfectly by our captain Ross so that in between the two dives the current changed direction there for allowing us to explore even more of the reef and wreck. Once everyone was back onboard it was mixed emotions as many wanted to stay at Bougainville Reef but we all agreed that we wanted to see Holmes Reef, which isn't often visited so this was going to be a special treat for all. We made our way south towards Holmes as Terry served another belt busting meal up followed by a mouth-watering dessert.

After another spectacular sunrise we were all geared up and ready to rock at Holmes Reef. After a quick current check we knew we were in for an exciting dive at Amazing Cave, which has a large swim through and with the morning sun it made it a captivating experience. The current had a little push to it, which brought in plenty of clean water and lots of food for the enormous patch of Speckled Garden Eels. While everyone enjoyed some eggs benedict for brekkie we moved sights to Tuna Towers, which is a bunch of elongated bommies along the edge of Holmes. These ridges are covered in gigantic soft corals, Gorgonian fans and littered with Crinoids full of tiny Squat Lobsters and Cling Fish.

Over lunch we moved again to a very popular spot called Nonkies. This pinnacle is situated just of Homles but receives plenty of nutrient rich water making it a bit of an oasis. Many found a variety of nudibranchs and all sorts of crustaceans, while large schools of jacks and other large pelagic fish roamed the outskirts of the pinnacle including the resident Silver Tip Reef Shark. As this lovely site has so much too offer we double dived the pinnacle, which is just the perfect way to end the diving for the trip. Even though the diving was done it didn't mean the fun had to end, we enjoyed a delicious BBQ on the sundeck as the sunset over the Great Barrier Reef with some refreshing drinks as we all got to know one another even a little bit more. All in all it was a fantastic trip with good weather and great people!

Ellis Spurrier
Trip Director

 

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Mon 16th January 2017 - Thu 19th January 2017 - ( 15) images

Spirit of Freedom departed Cairns on Monday afternoon in beautiful sunshine and headed out to Norman Reef for the afternoon. We set up the dive gear and jumped into the flat warm water to explore what the Great Barrier Reef had to offer. Leafy Scorpion Fish, Batfish, Turtles and White Tip Reef Sharks were a few of the wonderful marine creatures spotted as our divers refreshed their skills and honed their dive skills with our dive team of AJ, James, Reina, Gretta, Ellis and Nick. After the second dive was finished we watched the sunset over the ocean and relaxed on the sundeck as Captain Tony headed north to the southern Ribbon Reefs.

Our second day was spent diving at Ribbon Reef 3 and 5 north and east of Cooktown. Diving at Steve's Bommie is always an incredible way to start your day with the immense schools of fish surrounding the bommie and all the amazing macro critters hiding in the crevices of the reef structure. Schools of glassfish adorned the tower at Ribbon 5 with huge soft corals and fans covering the deeper sections while Fusiliers schooled over the top, shimmering blue and gold in the sunlight. The afternoon dive at Clam Gardens allowed the divers to explore the dive site and find the huge giant clams that live in the shallow sections of the reef using sunlight to boost their food source in the similar manner to the coral polyps that build the reef itself. After dinner it was time to prepare the torches and get out the Ultra Violet lights to see what the reef looks like under the cover of darkness. Crustaceans and tiny critters appeared from the gaps between the corals and the predators emerged, chasing down any fish that had not found a good hiding place as torchbeams illuminated them. White Tip Reef Sharks patrolled the shallows, circling around in the darkness as the divers stared at the glowing green sections of the reef that fluoresced under the UV light.

The final day was spent diving in the northern Ribbon Reefs, around Ribbon Reef 10. Lighthouse Bommie was definitely the favourite of the day as most people saw a large Manta Ray circling and feeding on the blooms in the water. Miia was completing her 100th dive and the Manta Ray certainly made it a dive to remember! Tanya completed her Nitrox course with Instructor James and spent the day enjoying the benefits of using Enriched Air Nitrox on her dives. The Cod Hole features the ability to dive with the giant and very friendly Potato Cod that are resident there and Ellis took down a bucket of fish to feed them right in front of the divers masks. Cameras flashed, GoPro's beeped and everyone got to spend a little bit of time with the docile giants after the feed was finished. Andrew also completed his 100th dive and, after an awesome BBQ prepared by the majority of the SOF Crew, everyone raised a glass to celebrate the end of a great 3 days of diving.

Our sad farewells came as our divers boarded the charter plane on Lizard Island after enjoying a beautiful morning walk and breakfast on the beach. Congratulations to Emily and Brad who were on their honeymoon and spent it with us underwater!

Nick Leigh
Trip Director

 

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Thu 12th January 2017 - Mon 16th January 2017 - ( 18) images

When there is rain a drizzle at Lizard island and the cloud cover is 100% with the humidity right up on the top of the charts it is a sight for sore eyes. After 6 years without a wet season we are finally getting one and the trees a lush and green. The grass is healthy and fresh and the birds are happily showering off. Of course for us that means we break out the ponchos as we transfer everyone from the airport over to Spirit before heading out to start the Coral Sea Trifecta for the week. As everyone settles in for the welcome aboard talks, Lunch and Safety Briefing Lizard island disappears into the distance to be replaced by a pod of spinner dolphins riding in our wake.

We arrived at Coral Princess Bommie with a squall out in the distance and sunshine and blue sky basking over us. We stayed for one dive to get everyone oriented with diving on Spirit and had a couple of turtles and a cuttlefish come up and say hello.

Having looked at the tides we were concerned that there would be a pretty strong current at Admiralty on Friday night so we opted to go to Challenger Bay for an afternoon and night dive. Of course as a night dive site no one could pass up the chance to jump in at Challenger with plenty of sharks and hunting action all over the reef. When five foot grey reef sharks swim at top speed the move through the water like a bullet, it get very interesting when the bullet goes straight between your legs as happened on a few occasions on this night.

We left the Ribbon Reefs at 9pm and started the overnight steam out to Osprey Reef. The gentle rocking of the boat and the days activities had everyone in bed nice and early sleeping away. Waking up at Around The Bend for what would prove to be our first none current drift/swim for the trip.

The Coral Sea is a fickle place at times, we can do a dive with the same tide, same wind, same everything one week and the current will be doing one thing. The next week the current will be doing something completely different. Even when we do current checks it can change within 30 minutes. This week I am sure the current controllers at Osprey were having a great chuckle turning it on and off on a whim and leaving us scratching our heads.

This of course happened for the shark feed where we did the check and by the time everyone jumped in the current had gone from comfortable to crazy. Everyone did a great job getting down to the Shark a dome for the feed where they were tucked away nice and comfortably.

We then decided to make the most of it with a drift down Soft Coral Wall. Of course the current stopped the moment we jumped in and ended up enjoying the beautiful soft coral by swimming gently past them. A huge school of Trevally were cruising the wall and coming very close to everyone making for some great pictures. The sharks were also in a posing mood for a picture that Nicole and Neil will never forget.

We left the sharks of North Horn and headed to the swim throughs of Admiralty Anchor. Big Bump Headed Parrot fish and a Massive Napoleon Wrasse were all cruising the ally's of Admiralty. Everyone enjoyed going through the tunnels and the den full of sleeping white tip reef sharks.

We planned for a night dive at Admiralty however our fears of a ripping current on the full moon proved to be accurate so we decided that after our current checker came up puffing and panting that the conditions were too adverse and we stepped back from doing the dive. We left for Bougainville reef and spent the night cruising through he black of the Coral Sea.

Corner Shop is our preferred dive for the first one at Bougainville and we were tied up at 6am hanging out and looking at the crystal clear waters. The current was none existent so we did a static dive onto the corner cleaning station. Lots of resting sharks and a nice big turtle were the highlights.

A couple of dives a Dungeons and Dragons were the order of business for the middle part of the day. Everyone loved the tunnels and overhangs and had a really nice time exploring the area.

Anchors Away to top off the Bougainville experience. The highlight was certainly the massive ships anchor that is wedged into a crack at this site. It is over 10 feet tall and is an impressive souvenir the reef has claimed.

An overnight steam to Holmes reef, we arrived at midnight and dropped the anchor. A nice quite few hours after that for everyone to get some well earned sleep. Amazing was how we started the Holmes experience. In fact Amazing was so Amazing that we did it twice. The cave, the clownfish, the Thorny Rays and of course the sharks were a highlight.

Holmes Pinnacle for some fantastic fans and a swim through that we actually only look at the gloriousness of but don't go through it. Essentially it is so packed with fans that we can't go through without damaging anything so we only look on with envy at the awesomeness of this reef.

Nonkies to finish the whole thing off, I am not sure what everyone was more excited about. The dive site or the game of UNO happening before the dive! The dive site proved to be the more exciting thing hands down. Plenty of huge smiles as everyone got out of the water a cracked open an end of trip beer.

A great trip with an amazingly hard working crew and fabulous passengers. Looking forward to getting out here again soon.

Angus Rowe
Trip Director.

 

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Mon 9th January 2017 - Thu 12th January 2017 - ( 16) images

Watching Cairns disappear into the distance on a flat calm ocean and a Monday that was designed for postcards was a classic way to start a trip to the Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs. It is always a flurry of activity on the boat on Mondays. People getting settled into boat life, finding their way about and getting through all the briefings and information about the diving and the plan for the next few days.

The best part of Monday is when everyone comes up from their first dive. They all have that look of "wow" and the realization that the dive trip they have been planning and looking forward to for a very long time has now really started. For many it is the first dive they will have on the Great Barrier Reef. Something they have thought about for years and have traveled halfway around the world to experience. For some of our divers on Monday they literally had being off the plane for 30 minutes before arriving at the boat. Flying from Dallas to Sydney then on to Cairns and diving the same day as arriving in the Country. That is surely one solution for jet lag.

The great part for this Monday was that we were able to stand on the sun deck of Spirit Of Freedom and look at the sharks circling just below. We had turtles on the dives as well as Giant Trevally and a Moray Eel hanging out showing hi big green head and mouth full of white needle teeth.

We travelled through dinner with a gentle rocking of the boat as everyone sat down to a beautiful meal and got to know their shipmates for the next few days. Early to bed for most and by 10pm there was only the sound of the water passing by the hull and the engines propelling us North into the night.

We woke up at Steve's Bommie for a Turtle of a dive. 6 big turtles all hanging around feeding on the Jellyfish the were bobbing past in the current. A big school of Trevally and a Great Barracuda watched proceedings without a care in the world.

Onto dive two for the day and Joanie's Joy was the pick of the spots. Most divers chose to venture off as Buddy pairs and check the place out for them selves. Everyone came up saying they had a great dive and really enjoyed the easy navigation and clear waters.

George's Wall was up next. We try and find a mix of sites that suit what everyone enjoys and with most of the boat happy to dive in buddy's the wall sites make it easy for them to have plenty of space and also Navigate as well. Georges was at the lull of the tide and as such the fish were all taking a chill time so there wasn't much happening.

The tide started to run again by the time we arrived at Clam Gardens for the 4th dive of the day. With the water movement the fish started to get more active and we had plenty to see with Trevally and Barracuda cruising around waiting for an easy meal. A couple of nice Nudibranchs and a school of spotted sweet lip to round out the dive.

Clam Gardens for the night dive and things really started to kick off. Sharks and fish hunting and all the prey cowering away. The current started to pick up during the dive and by the end of it everyone did a very good job hanging onto the lines and getting back up on the boat.

Lighthouse Bommie to kick of Wednesday. With sea snakes and Pelagic fish everywhere, clown fish popping out of Anemone's and a big Green Turtle the dive proved to be a favorite for many.

The Cod at Cod Hole were up to their usual tricks of telling each other who is boss. It is always amazing to see what happens when one of them decides to flare up at another. They spend a great deal of energy getting away from the angry Cod and in the case of today even crash into the reef at full speed in an attempt to escape. Of course feeding a Cod that has just chased away one of his bigger family members is pretty interesting. You can tell the fish is still pretty wild and angry and want food from your hand without too many manners involved. It always takes a while to get them to settle down and relax to make the feeding easier.

We did a second dive at Cod Hole and found five white tip reef sharks hanging about the place chilling out. A large turtle and a Moray eel rounded out the underwater sites.

We finished off the trip at snake pit. We knew there would be some current there and planned to dive it at the slackest part of the tide for this reason. With the current came an Eagle Ray drifting about and gliding along. A Grey Reef shark also came by to say hi.

It has been a great few days here on Spirit Of Freedom with a lot of chatter currently going on in the forward lounge. So many dive stories going on at once, music to my ears.

Until next time.

Angus Rowe
Trip Director.

 

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Thu 5th January 2017 - Mon 9th January 2017 - ( 1) images

What an strangely different start to the trip, 10-15 ktns of North Westerly winds bringing angry skys, rain and wind squals to start the 4 days. We quickly managed a schedule that would keep everyone happy.. As our keen divers geared up for their first dive of the trip Spirit of Freedom made her way to the Pixie Reefs. We kicked off the diving for a double dive at Pixie Gardens. Fusiliers, Giant Trevally, Grey reef Sharks, Nudibranchs, Disco Clams and Macro Life were all at home for us to see.
After heading back to Lizard for shelter and a good nights sleep Rodrigo made his signature lamb shanks dinner.

We woke the next morning to the boat heading towards the world famous Cod Hole for a double dive. Each guests was estatic about being able to get up close and personal with the potato cod. After the cod feed in the shallows with 2 energetic cods all divers went and got their depth up the front of the boat where they managed to spot a big Black Devil ray glide past them. TD Timi had the feed bucket with him all dive so that the cods hung around the boat and guests for as much time as possible.The second dive didn't disappoint with 2 huge oceanic Manta rays showing themselves to Gretls Guided group. Both Mantas where show boating doing belly roles teasing the divers.
Pixie Pinnacle was next on the schedule showing all the divers what to expect from a Pinnacle/Bommie. Big Schools of Neon Fuziliers covered the reef with clown fish, lion fish, Pipe Fish and Nudibrachs uo the walls.
Challenger Bay was next for a double dive to end the day.
As usual the Night dive at Challenger bay never disappoints. Sharks, Giant Trevally, Red Bass, Moray Eels and sting rays all hunting for their dinner meal. Soon all divers surfaced with big smiles on their face talking throughout the night about the bait fish that didn't make it and how close the sharks and GTs got to them.

We where finally there at the coral sea (bouganville) after the all clear by the Skipper Ross. The morning we woke to the same slight Northerly winds and swell which made it difficult to find dive sites but we managed to drift dive South Park wall in the morning with beautiful corals, amazing visibility, sharks, schooling pelagics and minimal fuss. After a delisious second breakfast it was time to dive the Antonio Terrabochia wreck that is scattered all over the reef wall. Once again the visibility was world class giving divers an easy 50m visibility. The coral gardens surrounding the wreck where bright and healthy with small schools of juvenile fish surrounding the area. After Lunch we decided to stay at the same reef wall and do tender drops in opposite directions for the next 2 dives due to the weather. Luckily it didn't disappoint with Manta Rays, sharks and turtles being spotted by all divers.

Waking up Sunday morning on the ribbons to stormy weather hadn't discouraged divers who where looking forward to a double dive on Steves Bommie. Due to a strong current not all divers made it to the dive site and had to be rescued by the tender. The Divers who did manage to get to the bommie where amazed by the abundance of fish life of the dive site. Manta Madness struck again with divers spotting a Manta on Steves with a duo of turtles, stonefish, Leafy scorpion fish, and lion fish.

After Rdorigos signature Pizza Lunch, Joanies Joy was the next shallow reef to explore. Divers and converted Snorkelers jumped in to spot the white tip reef sharks, oriental sweetlips, schools of juvenile fish, and turtles.
The Last Dive of the trip finished with a nice easy cruisy dive at century bay where big rays where once again spotted, cuttlefish, shooling sharks, juvenile fishes and beautiful coral gardens. After Gear breakdown it was time to watch the sunset up the top deck with complimentary drinks before a traditional Aussie BBQ to finish the night and trip. Cairns was awaiting for us the next morning when everyone awoke.

 

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Mon 2nd January 2017 - Thu 5th January 2017 - ( 2) images

Excited passengers departed Cairns on a beautiful Monday to morning. Cruising out to the Great Barrier Reef to do a couple check out dives. First reef to stop at was Jorgies Patches.. Underneath the boat was beautiful visibility with hundreds of fuziliers dancing for the divers. Shortly after the first dive the weather turned monsoonal raining buckets all over the reef. After a rainy twilight dive with torches it was time for Rodrigo's signature salmon noodle dinner.

Steves bommie was the first site to be explored on the Ribbon Reefs. It was a brilliant first dive showcasing all that it has to offer. Turtles, Shooling pelagics, stone fish, new leafy scorpion fish, sharks and clown fish with 30m visibility.

Joanies Joy is a beautiful coral garden site that has flowing coral structures. Most significant is the stag horn coral that grows here. The colonies are large and cover the seafloor. Just before getting in the water the current picked up so we quickly had to change to a drift dive.
Soon it was time to introduce a NEW site to the schedule called Crack A Jack. First dived by Timi and Gretl on an older boat it was time that they shared this new amazing site to the spirit team and passengers.

Afternoon and night dive lead us to another awesome spot. Clam Gardens. Here the coral and fish life are just as bountiful as one another. As an old Clam farming reef the shallow section of sand hosts massive coral growth which in turn houses thousands of fish life.

At night Clam Gardens really came alive. Damsils and fusiliers were spawning right in front of divers. Other fish mouth brooding releasing their young into the water column. Small blue spotted lagoon rays could be seen zipping along the sand and hiding under coral where parrot fish and moray eels where sleeping.

We started the last day of diving on the Wideside of the reef at Vertical Gardens.

Each diver was treated to beautiful soft coral walls, hard coral structures and schooling yellow tripped snapper, fusiliers and a family of eagle rays.

Light house bommie was next and had plenty to see. Large schools of trevally and barracuda. Stingrays on the sand and large grey reef sharks swimming up the bommie buzzing divers

The worlds famous cod hole! Divers here got to swam with some of the largest Groupers on the GBR. Potato cod, a duo turned up to be fed by TD Timi. All divers and snorkelers where amazed at the curiosity of the cods.

Last but not least is Snake pit! The name says it all. Here olive sea snakes are found along with massive Green Sea turtle shooting to the surface surprised to see divers! Some divers also had a treat of spotting a large eagle ray and even a Manta.

 

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