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A cool Cairns morning, 11 lucky people came aboard Spirit of Freedom and embarked on a trip of a lifetime around the Ribbon Reefs, and especially the Cod Hole. A warm welcome and some introductory briefings were done whilst travelling north to Saxon Reef for 2 afternoon dives. These dives are used for people to get re-accustomed to diving, if they haven't dived for a while, or for the more seasoned diver, a chance to check out what the reefs near Cairns have to offer. After two enjoyable dives everyone got cleaned up and sat down for a beautiful meal prepared by our chef Kaz. This is also when we let go of the moorings and headed north to the Ribbon Reefs.
As the sun rose over the Ribbon Reefs, Spirit of Freedom pulled up the mooring at the world famous Cod Hole on the northern end of Ribbon Reef #10. 2 Dives were planned here, the first being a relaxing dive checking out the site. Grey Reef Sharks, Giant Clams and reef fish galore entertained everyone as the resident Potato Cod watched over proceedings. After 2nd breakfast, we all jumped back in to the Cod Hole for our Cod attraction dive. Everyone followed the briefing to the letter and swam quickly over to the feed area. When everyone was in place, the feed commenced. One large cod fought over the pilchards with the Red Bass. More often than not the Cod managed to beat the Bass to the feed! Everyone had a great view of the action and exited the water with massive smiles on their faces. Up next was lunch and then a dive at Two Towers. A couple of very curious Olive Sea Snakes put all the divers in a trance as they came up for a closer look. Our normal Tuesday afternoon is spent at Challenger bay and this week was no different. 2 dives, an afternoon dive and the night dive. The afternoon dive was spent watching cuttlefish, damsels and nudibranch, whilst the night dive was spent watching Trevally, sharks and Moray Eels patrolling the dark depths. Everyone loved the "fish soup" at the end of the dive for their safety stop!! An awesome dinner and a well deserved rest for all was needed after a great day of diving.
A good nights sleep and a rising sun, Pixie Pinnacle was waiting. This is a spectacular dive! With the rays of the sun hitting the eastern side of the pinnacle, it made for some dramatic lighting. Mantis Shrimps, nudibranch, flat worms and a myriad of reef fish adorned this site. Next stop was a little dived site called Akropolis, the plate coral garden on top of this massive bommie is truly a site to behold! I think this dive was a highlight for everyone! After lunch we headed to Lighthouse Bommie for a great dive with turtles, Maori Wrasse and many Highly Decorated Soft Coral Crabs found by Dan. Last dive of the trip is a crew favourite... Snake Pit! The site lived up to its name, with many Olive Sea Snakes swimming past every diver and a huge Logger head turtle also!!! The day ended with a scrumptious Aussie BBQ on the alfresco deck with all of our new friends!
A big congratulations to Martin, also our sole 7 day passenger, for completing his Nitrox Certification during the first 3 days of his journey. I would also like to thank all 11 passengers on board for joining us a a trip of a lifetime and for making it a very enjoyable experience. You are all fantastic people and great divers!
We hope to see you again very soon.
After a morning of strolling along Watson's bay we say good bye to the 14 guests that joined us for the Cod Hole Ribbon Reefs expedition and we welcome aboard the 15 new guests just flown in from cairns to embark on what would hope fully be 4 days of adventure exploring the coral sea, unfortunately the strong wind warning put a stop to us heading out towards osprey reef but with a boat full of optimistic people we set sail for an afternoon of diving ribbon reef 9 ¾ .
Thursday afternoon was spent at the monolith and for the first dive of the trip this was a firecracker of a dive, a 200 strong school of rainbow runner and trevally were more than happy to let us all take some photos and some very curious bat fish came up close and personal with everyone as we cruised along the shallows of the reef. The next 4 days we dived a combination of varying dive locations including the cod hole famous for the resident potato cod and many exciting marine species, the rather strong currents did bring out some amazing fish life and most of the divers enjoyed watching everything pass by as they nestled in behind the coral to escape the current. With a boat full of macro enthusiast's we double dived lighthouse bommie to enjoy sea snakes, green sea turtles, lion fish, big shoals of bait fish and a host of anemones on top of the bommie, needless to say everyone was very impressed.
Pixie gardens was the location of the evening/night dive and everyone had a ball, this was first for some of the group and nervous tension was soon dissipated after enjoying the beautiful nocturnal creatures to be found on every corner of the reef. Wonderland wall/gardens offered two very picturesque locations for diving. Complete with nice swim throughs and caves to explore and some very nice corals for photography. we even had the opportunity to do a semi exploratory charter putting in temporary moorings at two different locations, tower of Tomoko was a real treat for everyone with some very playful dolphins chasing the boat and hanging around the dive site. Sara's shoal was a macro dream with the almighty Instructor Dan finding the most amazing highly decorated soft coral crab.
Everyone was so thrilled by the dive we all jumped in soon after for a dusk/night dive. To add a bit of fun to the trip we hosted a trivia night which came down to a single question in a sudden death round ( congratulations potato heads).
This was an amazing trip with some seriously funny characters on board. We extend our congratulations to: Camilla & Joao on their engagement.
Good on ya to: Jason & J for studying so hard and completing your PADI enriched air course.
And to the Newcastle Dive Centre, our previous guests Paul, Lukas & the lovely Rina (and mr potato head) for an unforgettable trip.
We arrive at Norman reef ready for action, two afternoon dives at Caves were the dives planned for day one of our adventure on the Great Barrier Reef. Close encounters with white tip reef sharks and Giant trevally were had and some great macro critters were also seen in and around the reef such as: nudibranchs, pipefish stone fish and tiny commensal shrimps cleverly disguised around the reef. The second dive was a nice contrast with the fading sunlight adding a level of ambience to the reef and giving everyone a taste of the nightlife. After the days diving and a few well-deserved wines we begin our overnight steam towards the Cod Hole and the ribbon reefs.
Bright and early we arrive at the cod hole to begin our five-dive day the cod hole was harbouring some very exciting marine life such as: the resident Potato cod, Grey whaler sharks in the shallows hunting amongst the 200 strong school of paddle tail snapper, giant clams, Flowery cod trying to disguise themselves amongst the reef, the local and very Inquisitive napoleon wrasse and many different variety of clown and anemone fish and many more. So far the exploratory dive at the cod hole and the Cod feed were the two favourites of the trip. After the cod hole we get underway and head towards two towers where the current had picked up slightly and our adventurous divers launch themselves into the abyss in hopes to witness some olive sea snakes and hopefully some mantas or eagle rays. The afternoon was spent at challenger bay for the afternoon & night dive. The dives were spectacular and plenty of marine life was out and about putting on a great show for everyone. Giant trevally and sharks cruising around the shallows and moray eel's free swimming in between stag horn coral in search of some un suspecting fish to feast on added an element of action to the night dive which was a first for some of the divers.
Our last day of diving the ribbon reefs started off at pixie pinnacle and such a beautiful dive site with large schools of fish such as trevally, surgeon fish and barracuda hanging out in the blue contrasted perfectly with the orb of purple & orange Anthias and the nice variety of soft and hard corals and this was the location of the Deep dive portion of our PADI advanced open water course being conducted by our awesome course instructor Nick. Pixie wall was the next dive and after a very satisfying hot breakfast everyone was keen to get in for a drift dive to explore the nooks and crannies inside the reef. The last two dives of the trip were at rods rock & Dynamite pass and dynamite was another exciting drift dive offering some close encounters with turtles sharks and a stunningly beautiful lagoon well worth exploring.
After all the diving we all scramble aboard and head towards Watson's bay for a BBQ and a few celebratory beverages.
Congratulations to Mike, Anne, Will & Suzy for the completion of your Padi Advanced open water, you are all awesome.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Christie, Mike & Tom we hope you guys had a ball diving with us.
And to Tom & Karolyn, we look forward to you joining us again when you finish your open water course.
And last but not least a very fond thank you to all aboard this week we know you all had fun and hope you join us again in the not too distant future.
Come join us for a Coral Sea voyage!
Until next time
Spirit of Freedom waited patiently in Watsons Bay for our new passengers flying in from Cairns. Sarah, our solo 7 day passenger anxiously awaited meeting her new friends. Tobias, Mia and a 22 strong group from Penguin Divers, who have travelled all the way from Russia to join us on board, were welcomed with open arms. Captain Tony introduced the crew and outlined the itinerary before casting off the lines and manoeuvring Spirit of Freedom out of Watsons Bay and setting a course for Ribbon Reef 9 for our first two dives of the Coral Sea adventure. After two great dives at Monolith with big schools of Surgeonfish, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Batfish and Sweetlips hiding amongst the beautiful coral gardens everybody headed inside for dinner.
We departed from the Ribbon Reefs and travelled northeast overnight to arrive at Osprey Reef as the sun rose on the horizon. 2 dives at Silver City were first up. 1000 metre drop-off and beautiful pinnacles to explore, even a Great Hammerhead was spotted by some of the divers. False Entrance gave us a taste of some schooling fish action with Bigeye Trevally circling around. Everyone traversed the massive coral ridges underneath the boat and watched the sand drop away into the depths. Ksenia, our only snorkeler, braved the cold and the wind to witness the majesty of False Entrance. Her first ever shark startled but excited her at the same time. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity! The afternoon dive at Admiralty was spectacular! Everyone explored the canyons in between the coral formations and discovered the anchor hidden in one of the swim throughs. The night dive revealed parrotfish hiding in their protective bubble; Grey Reef Sharks, Red Bass, Giant Trevally and Barracuda hunting in the torchlight and many weird and wonderful types of crustaceans poking their heads out of the coral.
Our third day in the Coral Sea was spent exploring the northern most tip of Osprey; the world famous North Horn. We moored up and jumped in for a phenomenal dive around the tip. As the tide started to drop, the current picked up... but everyone managed to come back to the boat safely. After second breakfast, we had the main event! The Shark Attraction Dive!!! A military style briefing, with a fantastic translation in Russian made by Roman, all divers jumped in and took their position. Lights, Cameras.... Action! Over forty sharks sped in for the kill as I pulled the lever to open the cage. And boy... were they hungry! 5 tuna heads devoured in a matter of minutes. 2 very big and feisty Silvertip Sharks swam around, looking like bouncers at a club, keeping the smaller members of the shark community in their place. Lunch was served and before we knew it we were in the tenders and being dropped off along the Soft Coral Wall at North Horn. Everyone had a relaxing drift back to the boat whilst watching the movie called Osprey Reef. Last dive at Osprey Reef was at Castles. Exploring the blue water drop off and the pinnacles lined up along it is always a treat. A lonely Tiger Shark speedily swam along the wall seeming not to want to play with us.
Spirit of Freedom left Osprey Reef as the sun set behind a thin line of cloud that created a soft orange glow on the horizon and set her course for Ribbon Reef 3. Twelve hours later she was tied up at Steve's Bommie where the massive amounts of marine life in one small coral formation amazed everyone. Wobbegong Sharks, Stonefish, Pipefish, Nudibranchs, Trevally, Barracuda, Batfish, Cleaner Shrimp, Maori Wrasse, Flame File Shell and Fusiliers were only some of the wonders that were discovered as the divers explored the Bommie twice, ensuring that they stopped to grab a photo at the plaque dedicated to Steve himself. The final two dives of the trip were in the beautiful coral gardens of Joanie's Joy and Century Bay where the branching corals were covered in a riot of colourful Chromis and Damselfish glinting in the afternoon sunlight. As the final diver climbed the ladder it was sadly time to pull up the drop tank, shot line and ladder and start making our way back to Cairns.
A big thankyou to everyone who joined us on board, the entire group from Penguin Divers, Sarah, Mia and Tobias, we had a great time and hope to see you again soon.
Monday the 29th of April 2013 we disembarked the Cairns harbour towards Saxon reef to do two check out dives in order to help our guests find their sea legs and prepare themselves for the amazing dives that lay ahead. For some it was their first taste of the Great Barrier Reef. After the days diving we packed up ship and enjoy a very tasty meal (prepared by our chef Kaz). We then steamed all night north to the Ribbon Reefs.
Day two of our Ribbon Reef expedition... and what was yet to be named Tropical Cyclone Zane, was gathering intensity and sending some heavy rain and strong winds down to us. This didn't perturb our very eager divers enjoy a relaxing drift dive at Dynamite Pass. Dive 2 and 3 were at the world famous Cod Hole, the first being the much anticipated Cod Attraction dive. With 3 hungry Potato Cod and many Red Bass vying for the morsels of food thrown in front of them, the feeding ran smoothly even with a bit of current and surge. After lunch the current had subsided enough to provide us with another very enjoyable dive at the Cod Hole. Next we moved south to Ribbon Reef 9 ¾ to Challenger Bay. This was the site for dive 4 and our night dive. The night dive was a spectacular show with thousands of baitfish being devoured by Trevally, Red Bass and sharks!
There was no better way to follow the fantastic night dive last night than with a dive at Pixie Pinnacle... Little current and 30 metre visibility made it a great dive. Schooling Barracuda circled the divers as they revelled in the majesty of the pinnacle. Next stop was a short run over to Pixie Wall; with Mackerel jumping on the surface as we were tying up this was going to be a great dive!!! Dive 3 was at a rarely dived site, by us, called Princess Palace. A couple of turtles checked out our divers and many sharks thrilled as they stalked around. Last dive of the Trip was over at Pixie Gardens, a nice easy, relaxing dive for all and everyone came out happy.
A big thankyou to all guests, as it was a pleasure to have you all on board to enjoy these challenging days. Everyone did every dive, facing the elements with up to 40 knot winds!
Hopefully we see you all on board very soon
With our new shiny boat all ready to embark the coral sea after our 2 weeks of refit, we welcome aboard our 15 new excited passengers from all corners of the globe from: Australia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, USA, Ireland & Scotland after A warm welcome from Captain Cam we begin our very long steam towards osprey reef, but not before we stop over at Saxon reef for 2 check out dives.
Osprey reef was well worth the journey out with 9 dives planned over the next couple of days and 4 more on Sunday we get the ball rolling with a morning dive at castles, a truly beautiful wall with a gradual 1000 metre drop off sloping up to meet a stunning coral lagoon, this was also an example of rich diversity from tiny little garden eels to grey reef sharks casually cruising around. To give everyone the full shark experience we head up to north horn for some shark action and our world famous shark feed. White tip reef sharks, Bronze whalers, grey reef sharks, silver tips & 2 very large potato cod were all in attendance putting on a very exiting display of feeding frenzy for all the rather excited guests. After an exciting morning we move the boat over to Admiralty to explore the lagoon of osprey and experience some amazing swim throughs and caves, the night dive was also a treat for the divers getting the chance to dive an isolated reef system at night time and get up close and personal with coral polyps feeding in the prevailing current and witnessing the strange nocturnal behaviour of osprey reef.
We spend our last day of diving osprey at 3 more stellar locations: Half way wall was a beautiful wake up call, pillars of ancient limestone and many entrances into the sheltered coral lagoon gave everyone some fantastic panoramic photography. Around the bend was the next 2 dives and a chance to explore our favourite cleaning station is always a treat for the divers in hopes to glimpse some manta ray action and explore the super healthy grotto with its abundance of fish and corals, silver city was the next up on the list and another spectacular dive site complete with swim throughs and some very interesting coral structures and hidden lagoon entrances, and up to 20 juvenile grey reef sharks swimming around the lagoon.
On Sunday morning we arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed at steves bommie for two dives, steves was possibly the favourite dive of the trip with many exciting sightings of wobbegong shasrks octopus and cleverly disguised stonefish. We spend the last two dives of the trip at flair point & century bay and this was highly praised amongst all the divers as this gave us a chance to get up close and personal with a very curious green turtle, hanging around long enough to give everyone some great photos and what a great way to end our trip.
Thank you to all aboard this trip we hope to dive with you all again in the not too distant future.
Congratulations to Jenny for completing your PADI Advanced open water
Until Next time Explorers
After a nice leisurely walk around Lizard Island we departed the clear waters of Watsons bay with our 19 3 day Cod Hole passengers and our 4 new guests & our captain Tony and slowly steam over to wards the ribbons. Mother nature and her 30 knot winds dictated the fact that Osprey Reef was out of the equation for this weekend. To help compensate for that we had 3 dives planned for this afternoon and evening at The Monolith. 2 fantastic day dives and one awesome night dive! Every dive revelled in the beautiful marine life at this awesome dive site. After dessert we set sail north for some very rarely dived sites in the northern ribbon reefs.
Friday morning we awoke up north above the ribbon reefs to a place called Sand Cay 1. A very strong current meant a SUPER drift dive! All the divers raced along the reef wall without even kicking. All they had to do was sit back, relax and watch the movie of the Great Barrier Reef play on in front of them. The challenge was getting back in the boat but everyone managed it with relative ease. Next stop was a little further north and the polar opposite to dive 1. A slight current and 10-15 metre visibility meant a bit less stressful dive. An elusive crocodile fish was spotted sitting on the rocks, posing for photographs and being awesome. The last two dives of the day were at a site called The Cod Caves, a beautiful site with nice swim throughs and caves. With many sharks and turtles making an appearance this rarely dived site really turned it on for our guests. During dinner we set sail south, back to the Ribbon Reefs.
Awaking to a slight drop in the winds, we were tucked in Watsons Bay on Lizard Island. The first dive was planned for a return to the Cod Hole. So we dropped the mooring and headed for the northern most edge of Ribbon Reef #10. I had planned a second helping of our Cod Attraction dive but after everyone formed the required circle we looked around... no cod... An impromptu Red Bass feed and then a leisurely dive around The Cod Hole. Alas at the end of the dive a big Potato Cod had turned up ready for a meal. Luckily I had plenty of fish still in the bucket so most divers still got to see a feed. After second breakfast we head up to Inside Out, nicknamed Inside Oot as homage to our Canadian friends on board. This was a nice drift along a beautiful wall. Next stop was Rod's Rock. A bit of current didn't faze our divers as they played with the Olive Sea Snakes and weaved around the bommies. The last two dives were at Pixie Gardens. The last being a night dive. Both dives were eventful and a very relaxing way to end the day!
Sunday morning we arrive at Steve's Bommie, two dives at this beautiful location was a great way to start off a great day of diving. As usual Steve's was one of the most popular dives of the trip and its no wonder why, with so much life condensed onto one small reef system its enough to do two dives and still be identifying new species. After the morning at Steve's we cruise over to Joanie's Joy and Flair Point to end the trip in two shallow sandy lagoons, with turtles coming up to the surface to breathe and sunshine illuminating the contrast of coral & sand from above the waters surface it was the perfect end to the trip of a lifetime.
Congratulations to Cesar and Lydia for completing their Nitrox Certifications whilst on board. Also Megan for her 100th dive and Cate for doing her 200th dive!
Many thanks to all our wonderful guests this week; we hope you come back in the not too distant future.
Day 1 was completed with 2 dives on Saxon Reef at the picturesque dive site Coral Gardens. People came out of the water enthusiastic after the first dive. Amongst the gardens of coral there was a large turtle and a few white tip sharks. They could not wait to jump in the water for the second dive and after a short surface interval, all the other divers were eager and ready to explore the other side of the beautiful coral wall. With the sun setting to the west we set sail north to the Ribbon Reefs enjoying a very nice dinner served by Alex.
What can I say, day 2 started off with a bang! The Cod feed was first thing on the menu for todays schedule. The whole group followed the directions given during the briefing. After creating a perfect human circle, the show began. One big dominant Cod was competing with a lot of Red Bass for their share of breakfast and everybody got beautiful close up pictures. After second breakfast we had a drift dive at the world famous Cod Hole planned. The tenders dropped everyone one in but with not much current at all, it was more of a leisurely swim than a drift. Either way this was a spectacular dive and a unique way to see the Cod Hole. Dive number 3 was at Snake Pit. Always a fan favourite... no one was disappointed! No manta rays this week, but the Olive Sea Snakes entertained everybody instead. We did the last two dives at Challenger Bay. The second one, after dinner, was a night dive. We jumped in the already dark and warm water excited and ready for an amazing dive. The night dive was memorable, at least ten different sharks accompanied us for the duration of the dive, many Giant Trevally seemed crazy in chasing the lights of our torches attacking little bait fish. A very friendly Moray Eel made an entertaining appearance to most divers.
Everyone awoke to a beautiful sunrise on Wednesday morning. We moved onto Pixie Pinnacle during our first breakfast. A very enjoyable dive and a perfect way to start of the day. Our, hopefully, resident Lacy Scorpion fish was spotted by most divers. Nudibranchs galore was the order of the day at our second site, Pixie Wall. A scrumptious pizza lunch was served by Alex before our third dive at Lighthouse Bommie. Everyone marvelled at the thousands of bait fish circling the pinnacle whilst barracuda and mackerel swooped in for the kill.. The last dive of the trip was at Dynamite Pass. A perfect way to end the day, and for some on board their trip. We jumped into some beautiful blue water. Those good on their air and last out of the water were treated to 2 manta rays gliding over their heads at the end of their dive! The trip concluded with an Australian style barbecue on the alfresco deck with a good view of Lizard Island under the stars. A special mention to Phillip for completing the Nitrox course. To those leaving Spirit of Freedom we thankyou for joining us on board and would love to see you back.
With the sun shining over the golden sands of Watsons bay we welcome our 23 newest passengers just flown in from cairns and our 7 day guest Blake aboard spirit of freedom. After a few introductions from Captain Cameron and the crew we disembark Lizard Island and steam towards the ribbon reefs for 2 leisurely dives and a chance to make some new friends.
The Monolith was our first destination and the 2 dives were world class, with a nice array of marine life to keep everyone amused all afternoon and the calm sea conditions were ideal for our snorkeler Dvora to enjoy the reef from above. Dinnertime was highly anticipated and our culinary king whipped up a fest fit for a king and queen, once we had our fill we begin our overnight steam towards the almighty osprey reef for a fun filled 2 day adventure. Our first day of diving at osprey saw us dive at premier locations consisting of 1000 metre drop offs, beautiful sandy lagoons and a maze of swim throughs and caves, a nice variety of marine life both pelagic mega fauna and excellent macro life everything you could want in a dive site. The first location was Silver city and a scalloped hammer head cruising around under the boat was a nice surprise for everyone, a great barracuda waiting to greet all the divers in the shallows and 25 baby grey reef sharks warming up in the lagoon made this an epic first dive at osprey. Around the bend was next up and a drift dive over the cleaning station in hopes to find some manta rays, dog tooth tuna and big sharks being cleaned, this was also a great opportunity to enjoy a nice drift snorkel and admire the beautiful coral from above and get up close and personal with turtles. Admiralty was our final location for the day to enjoy our afternoon and night dive. Beautiful swim throughs and caves, sharks, parrot fish sleeping inside their bubble, loads of crabs and lobsters some unidentifiable to the divers made this a great experience for the group and an unforgettable dive site. Saturday morning we move spirit of freedom up to North horn for some hard-core shark action and sheer walls decorated beautifully with soft corals and giant sea fans. Approximately 45 - 50 grey reef & bronze whaler sharks were looming around north horn awaiting the weekly feed and a 3 metre silver tip curiously came in very close to the arena to check out the action. After all the mayhem of the shark feed we move south towards castles and half way wall for some relaxing dives in two very beautiful sandy lagoons boasting super healthy corals, great macro and some of the nicest photos taken on any dive site this trip. With 9 dives done at some of the best dive locations in the coral sea we disembark osprey and begin the long steam back towards the ribbons. Happy Easter to all and what better way to celebrate than with an easter egg hunt on steve's bommie, the easter eggs were delicious but the marine life was pumping and the main attraction for everyone. The final dives of the trip were at flair point and Cam's bommie and a few surprises awaited us in the water. Guitar sharks, Manta rays and 20 - 30 pilot whales made an appearance making this one of the best dive experiences for the wonderful people aboard the mighty spirit of freedom.
Thank you to all the thrill seekers aboard this trip and to Nicholas, Stephanie, Derek, Tilly and Fiona who are on their 3rd trip with us we hope to see you all for trip number 4 and we look forward to seeing Stephanie and Nicholas for the far north exploratory charter in november.
To Matthew Douglas for completing his PADI Advanced Open Water course, you keep diving Matt!
And to Thibault and Cat who finished their last week working on spirit of freedom, we wish you guys all the best for the future.
Until next time, thanks explorers
We welcome aboard 19 new and exciting divers and snorkelers from various locations around the globe, from places such as: USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, Indonesia and France. Everyone was excited to start diving but before we head off towards Norman for our first 2 dives we all gather in the dining room to be officially welcomed to spirit of freedom by captain Tony and the crew before we throw ropes and begin the steam towards the great barrier reef.
Two relaxing afternoon dives at Norman reef was an excellent way for everyone to wet their gills and find their sea legs before we steam up to the ribbon reefs and cod hole. The first day up in the ribbons we stay in the vicinity of ribbon reef 9 to dive: pixie pinnacle, pixie wall, two towers and challenger bay for the afternoon and night dive. The morning dive at pixie pinnacle was a nice way to start the day with almost no current and 20 metre visibility the divers got to experience large schools of barracuda, reef sharks, anemone fish and everyone's favourite the ''disco clam'' or flame file shell. Pixie wall was very popular amongst the group with a nice variety of swim throughs and coral pinnacles to explore. As the surface current was quite strong it gave our two lovely snorkelers Gudrun and Daniella an opportunity to do tender drops and drift back to the boat along the top of the reef platform and judging by the big smiles on their faces it was a fantastic snorkel adventure. Two towers was very anticipated by everyone as it was a great opportunity to get up close and personal with olive sea snakes. Challenger bay was a real high light for everyone with the majority of the divers claiming it to be the best dive of the trip so far and the night dive was especially fun and a first for some. Challenger bay was alive with plenty of sharks and actively hunting moray eels and loads of nocturnal critters on every corner of the reef. The last day of diving with spirit of freedom saw us diving at some stunning locations such as the cod hole, dynamite pass, and a very seldom dived reef wall. The morning dive was at a location named inside out, a beautiful deep reef wall boasting nice swim throughs and stunning shallow coral gardens, groupers and barramundi cod were out in abundance and large schools of parrot and surgeon fish lent themselves naturally to some beautiful photography. The cod hole was spectacular with great visibility and quite a few of the resident potato cod waiting to greet us under the boat, over in the feed area 4 large grey reef sharks and a rather friendly napoleon wrasse were very eager to join in the feed, a few close encounters with the cod were very exciting for the divers and the exploratory dive of the area was nothing short of amazing. We end the trip with a bang, a drift dive at dynamite pass and for some this was a favourite dive after getting up close and personal with a very large manta ray.
After all the diving was finished we all congregate on the sun lounge together to enjoy a few wines, swap a few diving stories .
A big congratulation goes to Jaymee for completing her Advanced open water and we hope you make friends with those potato cod next time you dive with us.
Also to: Jacob, Jordan, Joanne, David & Maurizo for participating on your first night dive,
And to our 2 lovley snorkelers Daniella & Gudrun you ladies are true mermaids!
Thankyou very much to all on board spirit of freedom this trip please be sure to come back and see us In the not too distant future
13 lucky Manta Ray loving guests awoke on Thursday morning to sunshine and the anticipation of visiting Lizard Island. A short thankyou speech and some group photos and before we knew it we were trekking over Chinaman's Ridge heading to the lookout. The view was fantastic with the sunshine and a great photo opportunity. After the lookout we headed down to the Marlin Bar awaiting the planes to come. 9 guests, Cameron and Alex boarded the planes back to Cairns whilst 18 guests plus skipper Tony joined us on board for our 4 day Coral Sea trip. We left the glory of Lizard Island behind us as we set off towards Pixie Gardens for our two dives of the afternoon, giving chance to refresh dive skills and get back into the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef. Sharks and eels entertained the divers in the blue water. Once the days' diving was completed everyone sat down to dinner and let the atmosphere and excitement flow as we set out into the open ocean bound for Osprey Reef.
After an all night crossing of the Coral Sea, we arrived at Osprey Reef to find gentle swells breaking over the reef of paradise. We moored at North Horn and jumped into tenders for an action packed drift dive along the 1000m reef wall. The strong, flowing current pushed divers along as they swam past schools of Grey Reef Sharks. Visibility was superb, as divers could see well out into the open deep blue and the clarity of the coral wall structure as it plunged into the ominous depths below them. Next on the cards was our Main Event, the Shark Attraction dive. All of our eager shark enthusiasts listened enthusiastically to my briefing and without delay were all in the amphitheatre awaiting the Shark Cage to be lowered. We weren't the only ones waiting.... At least 40 Grey Reef Sharks were lining up for the feed. And hungry they were!!! About 2 minutes after the cage was opened the tuna heads had disappeared. Leaving many disappointed and still hungry sharks but alas there were no more easy meals for today! Smiles were abound as everyone came back to the boat. It also meant a noisy saloon for lunch as everyone talked about the excitement. After lunch we had another dive at North Horn planned and it was a great one! The sun was high in the sky and at the perfect angle on the Soft Coral Wall. Lighting up the scene and showing the reef in its true vibrant colours! A relatively rare sighting of a Loggerhead Turtle was the highlight of the dive. After North Horn we travelled south along the western side of Osprey Reef heading for Admiralty. The last of the sun's rays shone over the coral as divers went to explore the caves and find the giant Admiralty anchor giving the site its name. Night followed the dusk as our team kitted up once more to plunge into the dark waters. Our eager divers revelled in the marine life that adorns the bommies at night. Divers returned to Spirit of Freedom having completed another days' adventure, while wine, dessert and stories flowed on into the night.
A good nights sleep was had by all and everyone awoke to a bit more wind and some heavy rain. This didn't stop us from enjoying a fabulous dive at Castles, weaving in and out of the lagoon. One minute you are swimming over a 1000 metre drop off and then the next minute you are over white sand. The contrast in colours and landscape can be mind blowing! The next site was a very short steam south, Silver City. The resident barracuda stood watch over everyone as they checked out his beautiful home. Next stop was The Gap. Exploring every cave, swim through and overhang every divers enjoyed themselves whilst the sharks hunted over their heads and damsel fish played underneath. The last dive at Osprey Reef for this week was another crew and fan favourite... False Entrance. Everyone took delight in swimming over the 1000 metre drop off and then in to the entrance with its massive channels full of life and colour. A massive school of barracuda that always inhabit this site was the highlight of the dive. An early dinner was planned as we had a bumpy ride overnight ahead of us, steaming for Ribbon Reef #3.
We arrived at Steve's Bommie at Ribbon Reef number 3 for the final day of exploration. Divers jumped into the water ready for an active treasure hunt to find the sites famous residents. Stonefish camouflaged themselves around the bommie, which only the most keen-sited of divers found. Turtles cruised around in the morning light, and Lionfish proudly moved around the walls showing off their elegant armour. The second dive at Steve's Bommie was just as much of a hit, a moray eel lazily eyed those swimming past from within its cave, and Lunar Fusilier, Pyjama Cardinal fish, Coral Trout, Midas Blennies, Black and Blue Damsels lit up the pinnacle like a colourful rainbow. The last two dives at Joanie's Joy and Flair Point respectively provided beautiful walls and coral gardens for our team to relax and end the trips diving, in time for a massive Barbeque feast as we watched the sun set for the last time of our Coral Sea trip.
A big congratulation goes out to Michael for completing his Nitrox certification whilst on board and Emma for logging over 50 dives.
On behalf of the crew of Spirit of Freedom I would like to thank each and everyone of you beautiful people and great divers for a fantastic 4 day Coral Sea trip shared with us here. It has been a pleasure to have you on-board and I hope to see you again in the near future.
Another glorious Monday morning sunrise in Cairns and we welcomed 13 new explorers onto Spirit of Freedom. An ever comedic introductory briefing was made by Captain Cameron and everyone was warmly inducted into life on board. Lunch was served as we made our way north to Jorgeys Patch. A beautiful site just out from Cairns and for some, their first experience in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. None were disappointed as they made their way around Jorgeys for 2 dives before cleaning up for a beautiful roast dinner prepared by Chef Alex. Whilst dinner was served we weighed anchor heading further north to the Ribbon Reefs over night.
Before we knew it, morning was here and we had arrived at the famous Cod Hole, everyone hit the water with smiles on their faces and excitement in their hearts. Several giant Potato Cod presented themselves early in the dive, letting the divers know they were ready for their breakfast. Moderate current made it a more challenging dive for some but the effort was worth it! After yet another breakfast it was already time for the Cod Feed, and as everyone listened carefully to the briefing it was executed with military precision, with the exception of a few cheeky Red Bass! All the divers got extremely close to the majestic Potato Cod being fed directly in front of them, and were delighted to have these beautiful creatures swim in tight circles around them as they happily munched down their fish snacks. It was, as always, a huge success. Third dive of the day was a short steam over to Two Towers, the friendly Olive Sea Snakes tantalised the divers as they circled the towers. Challenger Bay is our usual haunt for a Tuesday afternoon and night dive and this week was no different. The beautiful soft coral that adorns every nook, cranny and bommie was a sight to behold both at day and at night. Congratulations to Ben, Amy, Maki, Kenichiro and Kazuyo for their very first night dive.
The rising sun welcomed yet another day of spectacular diving! First order of the day was Pixie Pinnacle. With 20 metre visibility and little to no current this dive was as beautiful as it was relaxing. A Lacy Scorpion Fish was seen swaying to and fro by most divers. A very short run over to Pixie Wall was made after breakfast. This site boasts a beautiful wall with swim throughs galore and a macro divers delight! A scrumptious curry lunch, my personal favourite, was served by Alex with a trip over to Lighthouse Bommie. Another one of the Ribbon Reefs awesome pinnacle dives! Highlight of the dive was a very relaxed and photogenic Green Sea Turtle allowing everyone to get more than a few great shots of him! Every diver were truly privileged to be able to spend so much time with one the oceans beautiful creatures. Last dive of the trip, the crowd and crew favourite, The Snake Pit!!! Mother nature certainly turned it on for 13 very lucky explorers! Up to 8 majestic Manta Rays swooped in around every single diver, spending nearly the entire dive with the group! There were screams and yells of excitement as the divers reluctantly climbed back on board Spirit of Freedom.
Lizard Island glittered on the horizon as we set sail towards our port of refuge for the night. Several Tawny Nurse Sharks and Giant Trevally came to the boat as we reached the overnight mooring, and circled around the stern, showing off for everyone's cameras. Chef Alex once again outdid himself with a fantastic Australian style Barbecue, and the star-lit night wore on as guests and crew alike shared memories and photos from a very memorable trip.
A very big thankyou to the awesome people that became part of the 'Spirit Family' for the last 3 days, we hope to see you again in this beautiful part of the world, and wish you all the very best of luck in your diving adventures.
After a very educational walk around lizard Island and some breathtaking photos taken from the top of china man's ridge, all the guests from the cod hole length of the trip with spirit of freedom meet with captain Tony to board for their scenic flights back to the city of Cairns after a few very delicious BLT's and some goodbye's. We welcome on board 9 new divers and snorkeler, an exciting bunch from the USA, Canada, Japan & England to join us for the next 4 days to explore the ribbon reefs and hopefully osprey reef. After a warm reception from Captain Cam and the crew, we disembark Watsons bay and set sail towards challenger bay for our first exciting dive experience.
The first 2 days in the ribbon reefs saw us diving at some amazing dive locations such as cod hole, challenger bay, pixie wall and the favourite so far, the monolith. All the dive locations visited so far offered relatively smooth conditions and excellent visibility. The marine life was very abundant and diverse ranging from the tiniest banded pipefish trying to disguise himself amongst the reef to enormous potato cod getting up close and personal with all the divers and closely investigating their reflection in the dome port of our camera housings. The afternoon and night dive at the monolith were fantastic and all the divers witnessed some very colourful cuttlefish and possibly some spawning behaviour. Osprey reef was very welcoming with relatively calm sea conditions and a slight breeze blowing from the northwest. Tender drops with all the divers was an exciting way to enter the shark infested waters of north horn and quite a few of the usual sharks were eagerly awaiting the world famous Spirit of freedom ''Shark Attraction"'. Other beautiful dive sites this trip to osprey reef were Admiralty & due to the northerly winds it meant a chance to explore the walls of the eastern side of osprey. Sheer drop offs, giant sea fans and soft corals and a large abundance of sharks was a real highlight for the group. Sunday morning saw us back inside the ribbon reefs and 2 dives at the world famous Steve's bommie as well as a relaxing afternoon at flair point. The chance to see places with so much variety in both coral and fish were a big tick off the list for all the divers and our lovley snorkeler Sylvia and to end the perfect trip we enjoy a delicious aussie style BBQ prepared by our culinary king Alex.
Thanks to all the wonderful people who joined us, not even the threat of a tropical storm could stop these keen explorers from having a great dive trip and we must have all behaved because the weather was perfect most of the trip.
A big shout out to Sylvia who has never been in the ocean before but braved the waters and went snorkelling for the first time and to Richard who participated in his first ever night dive.....and loved it!
And: to Allen, Christine, Ai, Takanori, Shirley, Cynthia, Savannah, Shirley & Richard thanks for a memorable trip.
This voyage to the ribbon reefs and the cod hole on board spirit of freedom we were joined by a very excited and super friendly group of 16 people from around the globe, places such as: Norway, Latvia, USA, Germany, France, UK and Japan. Everyone was very pleased to make some new friends and dive buddy's to share some life long memories with and after a warm welcome aboard from captain Tony and the crew we depart cairns harbour and head towards our first dive location, Norman reef to conduct our checkout dives and get all the divers ready for the action packed days to come and the undesirable weather forecast was not going to stop us from having the time of our lives
The ribbon reefs await us and some unbelievable marine life also. With such beautiful locations on offer like: pixie pinnacle, the cod hole, challenger bay, pixie wall and the explosive dynamite pass not only did everyone get up close and personal with giant potato cod, docile green sea turtles and some curious sharks, their was also manta ray, eagle ray and cowl tail ray encounters on a few of the dives, one of the highlights this week was the night dive at challenger bay, giant trevally and bronze whaler sharks all over the reef and a fury of red bass and big eyed trevally attracted to the glow from the spotlights gave the slightly nervous but excited divers a very thrilling dive. Many comments were made that the reefs visited looked very healthy and abundant in corals and the presence of sharks and many big schools of fish grazing on the reef were a good indication that the food chain is has a good balance. Another big highlight for everyone were the drift dives at dynamite pass and pixie gardens this offered a bit of variety and a new experience for all.
After all our fantastic dives we say good bye to the ribbon reefs and hello to Lizard Island for an Aussie style BBQ and a few well-deserved beverages.
A very big congratulations to all the divers this trip, some people came on board and doubled the number of dives they had ever done and not only that dived in some less than stellar conditions pushing them outside their comfort zones. An even bigger congrats to everyone for Participating in all the dives on offer and braving the waters at night to do first time night dives, you should all be proud of yourselves.
To Ben (Mr fashionably late) awesome work on completing your PADI advanced course
And to Siv & John who furthered their education by completing their PADI enriched air diver course.
After a brisk walk around Lizard Island, 17 intrepid explorers reluctantly headed for the airstrip, and 4 lucky souls made their way back to Spirit of Freedom to continue their adventure. The rain came in, clouds enveloped Lizard Island... the plane containing our new passengers could not land... hmmm, what next? A detour to Cooktown was made and the plane got refuelled. Another journey back to Lizard and alas the clouds had subsided just enough for the plane to land and the 5 people plus Skipper Tony managed to begin their own adventures. Impromptu briefings were made as we steamed to an awesome dive site called Inside Out. Already behind the 8 ball with the plane delay a condensed afternoon with 2 dives was planned. All divers were thrilled with, for some of them, their first dip into the Great Barrier Reef. An awesome pasta dinner was served by Jack and at about 9pm we set sail for Osprey Reef.
All guests woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed awaiting their first dive at Osprey Reef. Silver City was the site selected by Tony and with a quick briefing by myself all divers were in the water enjoying the majesty. A change of plans was made and all of a sudden the Shark Feed at North Horn was next on the cards. This made a very excited group of divers as they ate their 2nd breakfast. Everyone briefed, and a photo op later, everyone kitted up for one of their most memorable dives of their lives. All divers in place.... Lights Camera Action!!! Up to 50 sharks closed in on the cage and 2 very large Potato Cod vying for a place at the dinner table. Every shark feed is different and this was no exception. All diver surfaced with massive grins on their faces! After lunch we descended upon False Entrance. This site is always a crowd favourite. The ebbing tide caused quite a bit of current so we dropped all the divers off in the tenders and everyone had a very nice, relaxing drift back to the boat. As with almost every Friday we end the day with 2 dives at Admiralty. Admiralty has to be one of the best dives sites around, with its massive bommies you can snake around for hours and a massive drop off!
With a well deserved rest overnight everyone awoke with the rising sun to a beautiful morning dive at Castles. Personally, my favourite site at Osprey and it didn't disappoint. The sheer 1000 metre plus drop off with entrances into the lagoon and towering bommies overhead. The landscape here is spectacular! Next up, two dives on the fabulous North Horn, all divers revelled in the blue water and sheer walls covered in coral and spectacular marine life!!! The deck was solemn when I briefed them noting it will be there last dive at Osprey, but we did choose a beauty! The Gap!! Massive bommies with swim throughs and caves meant that the last hour these explorers had in the water at Osprey was a memorable one.
Sunday morning always means two dives at the world famous Steve's Bommie. A bit of current meant it wasn't just a relaxing meander around the bommie but an exciting journey through a myriad of baitfish frantically trying to spot the elusive stonefish or pipefish for that once in a lifetime photo! Steve's bommie done and enjoyed by all divers, it was time for lunch and then Joanie's Joy. A beautiful spot with everything going for it, a wall, a slope and a whole bunch of life! Even a beautiful turtle poked its head up during the briefing, as if he was welcoming the divers to his home! ON the way to our next and last site for the trip we had a very entertaining man overboard drill with passenger interaction a must with everyone on the top deck on spotter duty! Flair point is our usual Sunday afternoon haunt. All bar one explorer, Carol, kept out of the water by a pesky flight on Monday morning, embarked on their final underwater odyssey on the Great Barrier Reef.
With all the exciting diving done the only thing left to do was have a few celebratory beverages and a good old Aussie BBQ! Thanks Jack for the awesome meal!
Big congratulations to all the divers this week, some doing all 26 dives! That's a monster effort!
Congratulations and birthday wishes to Zak for celebrating his 22nd birthday here on board with all of your new found friends on Spirit of Freedom.
Twenty-one divers boarded Spirit of Freedom with the rising sun on Monday morning. An introduction to the vessel and crew by Captain Cameron set the pace, and soon after we steamed from the port of Cairns bound for our first dive site of the trip- Coral Gardens. Lunch and briefings were held underway and upon our arrival to the reef we kitted up to step into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef- for some of them, the first time! Both dives were equally as fantastic and a great way to begin the trip with Giant Green Sea Turtles, Great Barrier Reef and Clown Anemone fish, white tip reef sharks and Striped Lionfish being found in the waters of 20 meter visibility. Once, the divers kitted down, dinner was served underway, heading north to the world famous Ribbon Reefs!
A new morning arrives and almost by magic we are up in the Ribbon Reef system. The westerly winds meant that a different from the usual dive site needed to be plucked out of the hat and Cam managed to grab us a beauty! Vertical Gardens!!! As the name suggests, it is a big wall absolutely covered in a soft coral garden. Strategically positioned right next to the mooring line was a family of Clown Anemone Fish happy to pose for photographs. Covering all of the coral was a plethora of reef fish, if you got a fish identification book out, I reckon you could have almost ticked all fish off the list! This site was so good; we decided to stay for another!!! Once again, all divers were amazed by the abundance and beauty of the colour and life. Next stop, after an awesome pasta lunch, thanks to Jack, was Two Towers. All divers circled both bommies, entertained by Olive Sea Snakes, Spanish Mackerel, Lion Fish and a very photogenic Hawksbill Turtle. I think almost every one with a camera on this dive got at least a few great shots of him! North Westerly winds caused a change in planned dive sites, instead of Challenger Bay, we had a rarely dived site, Wildside. An almost sheer wall on the western side of Ribbon Reef 9 ¼. Beautiful soft coral adorns the wall with bait fish galore with the odd pelagic swooping in for the kill. That was the action off the wall, on the wall there was nudibranch and flatworms, enough to have kept even the late Neville Coleman amused for hours! Wildside was also the site for our night dive for the trip. Nudibranchs, stonefish, flatworms, banded cleaner shrimp, an epaulette shark and a very cute decorator crab was reported by the divers. All divers came out of the water buzzing with excitement. With everyone showered, dessert was served and one after one the living areas seemed to empty as people retreated to bed, dreaming of the Cod Hole to come.
With the rising sun on Wednesday, The Cod Hole loomed on the horizon. Everyone was very excited on deck as this was the main event! What they have all been waiting for! So a bit of swell, current and surge didn't stop anyone from exploring every inch of The Cod Hole on the first dive. After the dive, the deck was buzzing with excitement and as all the divers ate 2nd breakfast they were all anticipating the next dive, The Cod Attraction. A succinct briefing, everyone eagerly donning equipment, and as soon as we hit the water 2 massive Potato Cod were ready in waiting. These beautiful creatures are very relaxed, even around so many people and don't mind posing for as many photos as people want! The rest of the day out of the water was spent trolling through hundreds of cod photos, looking for the best one! After lunch we steamed up to Dynamite Pass. Usually current of explosive proportions is here but with the neap tides and the dive time falling on slack water, it was more of a relaxing wall dive instead of pure unadulterated mayhem! Reports of sharks, damsels, anemone fish and barracuda thrilling the divers none the less. Last dive of the trip was a crowd favourite, and one of my favourites also, The Snake Pit. The Olive Sea snakes entertained the divers whilst the ever present Batfish posed for photos on the mooring line. Even an eagle ray passed by a group of divers and was the talk of the town. A short steam over to Lizard Island and a beautiful sunset, we couldn't have asked for a better afternoon. Jack cooked up a scrumptious Aussie BBQ and plenty of beer and wine was consumed before everyone peeled off into their cabins to get some well deserved rest.
Thursday morning is always one of mixed feelings, pleasure for a great 3 days in the ribbons but sadness to see all our new friends leave. A short walk on Lizard Island is a great way to round off a trip and the view from the lookout is spectacular!! Well done to Rob for completing your Advanced Course. We hope that with the skills you have acquired during this time will make you a more confident and competent diver, may your Padi education and certifications continue!
And to all of you wonderful people who have chosen to dive with us here on Spirit of Freedom on the Great Barrier Reef, it has been a fantastic and memorable trip only made possible by you all. On behalf of the crew I would like to say it has been a memorable trip and we do hope to see you back in this magical part of the world again some day soon.
Until then.... DIVE TIME!
After a relaxing tour of Lizard Island the group from Blue Water Scuba returned to Spirit of Freedom to welcome our new guests Sue, Jeffrey, Niclas, Francesca, Greg and Jocelyn on board as they had just flown up on a beautiful scenic flight to join us. Formal introductions were made by Cam and we set off for our first destination. Challenger Bay was the sight of our 2 orientation dives. These were both very relaxing and exciting as Sharks, Eels, Barramundi Cod, Nudibranchs and every reef fish you can think of excited our divers. Dinner was had before we weighed anchor for Osprey Reef.
A full nights steam saw us at Osprey Reef. Mother nature had shown up with moderate monsoonal North Westerly winds. This meant a trip to the seldom dived Rapid Horn, a crowd favourite! Sheer 1000 metre wall covered in beautifully coloured sea- fans, soft and hard corals. The cutest of baby grey whaler sharks were buzzing around the divers as they explored the beautiful wall. The galley was full with excited divers as they ate their 2nd breakfast, we steamed up to another rarely dived site, Fan Ledge. This site is what Osprey is famous for, just like Rapid Horn, we had a 1000 metre wall, blue water and sharks. The sun had come out by this stage so as we all hit the 10 metre mark towards the end of the dive, we were amazed by all the colours come out of the coral. With sharks swimming over our heads, damsels galore, trout, cod, beautiful hawkfish and many more showing us their colours. Lunch served with a trip up to North Horn for the main event, the shark feed. The Blue Water Scuba guys gave us their whale shark song on the dive deck whilst preparing to jump in for the feed. All divers in place…. Lights Camera Action!!! The latch was pulled, tuna heads devoured, a 20 minute shark feed felt like about 3 minutes and before we knew it, the cage was on the surface and all divers set off to explore North Horn. You can’t beat the excitement on deck when all divers return from the shark feed discussing their personal angle on the action. A short steam south saw us inside the lagoon of Osprey for dive #4 of the day. A nice relaxing dive to end the day and all divers returned talking about white-tip reef sharks, clownfish, butterfly fish, angelfish and many flatworms and nudibrsnchs. Tropical lows up north mixing with a large monsoon trough had spelt an early end to our time at Osprey as we retreated back to the Ribbon Reefs, looking for some calmer waters and still breath taking diving.
An overnight steam meant we were back in the ribbons again with our first dive of the day at Pixie Pinnacle. Schools of barracuda, mantis shrimp, lion fish and the ever popular Disco Clam greeted the divers in the early hours of the morning. 2nd breakfast consumed and we moved to an unnamed dive site on Ribbon Reef 9 and 2/3rds. A breathtaking wall dive with nudibranchs of all shapes, sizes and colours were found, a macro divers dream! A suggestion for the name of this site was Nudi Corner, I think the site lives up to that name! Pasta for lunch and a steam to Two Towers… A little bit of current made diving a little bit difficult but it was worth it with turtles, clownfish and the ever charming olive sea snakes curiously exploring the divers. Lighthouse Bommie was the site chosen the next two dives, a leisurely afternoon dive and the night dive. This night dive was even a crew favourite with many turtles seen resting around the bommie. Sleeping parrotfish, giant trevally, banded pipefish and mackerel were reported by the divers. Congratulations to Rachel and Jocelyn for the first ever night dive, what a place to induct yourself into the underwater world after dark. This has been an action packed day with 4 different dive sites, weather changes by the minute and spectacular diving.
Sunday saw lighter winds and 2 dives at the world famous Steve’s Bommie, as divers descended on the pinnacle big eye trevally circled them, sometimes being rudely interrupted by a Spanish mackerel slicing through the schools. With this action happening in the blue water, most eyes were fixed on the bommie trying to find the ever elusive pygmy seahorses… not found by our eagle eyes explorers… Once they had given up this search attention was set to search for the Disco Clam, nudibranchs, tiny glass shrimps of all shapes and sizes, well camouflaged stone fish and the ever elusive wobbegongs. No one who has dived Steve’s Bommie can say this is not the one of the best dives of their lives. Certainly a macro photographers dream! Lunch was had and just when we thought things were back to normal, another wind shift, change of plans, a temporary mooring in… Cam had managed to find us a pearler of a new dive site, situated just on the eastern side of Ribbon Reef #2. Named 2nd Ridge, was the site of our last 2 dives of the trip. Every diver ducked and weaved through caves a swim throughs, large to baby Grey Whalers were so curious; I don’t think any of them had even seen a diver before.
After all the exciting diving done this trip we hall congregate together on the alfresco deck for a hearty Aussie style BBQ and to enjoy a few wines, beers and share some tales about a very adventurous voyage on the coral sea.
Big congratulations to all the divers this week, the weather threw us a few curve balls, but you all braved the ocean navy seal style, you guys are all amazing.
Congratulations to Rachel Isaacson and Jeffrey Loo for completing their Nitrox Course whilst on board. Making them 2 of the newest Nitrox dives in the world.
Renee & Simon
A very beautiful day and glassy sea conditions were a fantastic way for everyone to begin our voyage to the Ribbon reefs. After captain tony welcome aboard our 25 very excited divers and our awesome snorkeler Patrick we set sail for norman reef for some diving. The marine life very abundant and some interesting and rare macro life was to be found amongst the coral. After some fun in the sun and the water and with everyone feeling ready to head up to the ribbon reefs for some exploration, we begin our overnight steam towards ribbon reef 5 to a few rarely visited and unexplored dive sites.
We all awake to one of the most awe inspiring sun rises and with a beautiful full moon reflecting on the smooth waters surface some fantastic photos were captured. We start our day off with tender drops and a nice relaxing drift dive. Some of the most healthy and abundant corals were to be found up in the shallows and the amazing water clarity gave everyone a taste of things to come, next up we head over to the clam gardens and the sheer size of the giant clams found all over the dive site were mind blowing for our divers and our snorkeler many other great animals like flat worms, nudibranchs many different surgeon and parrot fish and a very affectionate turtle ( whom got up close and personal with one of our divers Alicia ) were only a handful of the wonderful critters awaiting everyone. Next exciting dive on the agenda we tie spirit of freedom up at a premier location, a great dive site fondly named the blow hole, A large opening in the reef plummeting down to over 80 feet, opening up along a gorgeous wall, beautifully decorated with giant sea fans and a large variety of corals. The top of the reef was a frenzy of large grouper and spawning surgeonfish. For our afternoon and night dive we head over to georges wall, this was nudibranch heaven for the divers and the night dive was nice and relaxing for everyone, with minimal current and great visibility a dive enjoyed by all. With everyone back on board, we all share photos and identify the many different fish and other marine life identified during todays dives. After some hearty talks and a few glasses of wine we all retire for the evening to rest up for the next day of diving the ribbon reefs.
In the morning we head over towards dynamite pass for some super fun drift diving. The current was flying down the reef a great speed which allowed us to drop everyone quite far from the boat. Cruising past coral and fish without even having to kick was a very relaxing start to the day. Next up we head over to snake pit for some further reef exploration and a chance to get up close and personal with some olive sea snakes, moray eels and stone fish, the fish were out and about in abundance showing our divers just how beautiful the great barrier reef is. For the last 2 dives of the trip we head over to cod hole to feed the potato cod and enjoy yet another stellar dive location. The cod were very active this week ,very eager to be fed and photographed, after the feed the divers enjoyed a nice cruise around the cod hole encountering a very inquisitive humphead wrasse and a few curious sharks that seem very comfortable to come up close to the divers.
In the evening we all congregated upstairs to enjoy Alex's super BBQ and share trip stories with each other. A very special thankyou to all the guests on spirit of freedom this trip we wish you all the best for the future and hope to see you in the not too distant future.
Congratulations to Ken & Lisa you are such troopers, not only did they participate in all the dives this week and participate in their first night dive, they doubled the number of dives they had ever done, great work guys
Also to, Tomoya, Ai, Izumi, Tomoko & Shoko who also participated in all the dives
And to Alicia for completing her 100th dive you all rock!
16 explorers disembarked the plane at Lizard Island runway to jump straight into the tenders bound for Spirit of Freedom sitting majestically in the bay of Watson's anchorage. After being introduced to the friendly crew, specifics of the dive vessel and the following 4 day itinerary, we left the bay and steamed to Pixie Gardens. The first two dives of the trip allowed the new coming divers to familiarise themselves with gear and get comfortable being back underwater, while our 7 day passengers happily took off along the wall searching for the treasures this site had to offer. Our solo snorkeler, Katherine played around on the shallows of the reef wall sighting a Black-Tip reef shark, Parrotfish, Giant Clams and Surgeon fish amongst the gardens of coral. Dinner was served to all once back on-board warm and dry. As desert and wine were served, conversation and photos accompanied the beautiful food as we left for Osprey Reef in our quest for adventure.
Bright and early Friday morning we arrived at North Horn for two racing drift dives down the Eastern and Western walls and the all-important Shark Feed that everyone had signed up for. On the drift dives it was evident that the sharks were gathering in force and waiting to be fed. The visibility was exceptional and as everyone descended into the depths along the wall they gazed downwards to the disappearing and ominous 1000 meter ocean floor that waited at the bottom of the grand and majestic coral wall. After a massive hot breakfast, we stepped into the blue waters once again to dive down to the 'amphitheatre' of North Horn. Divers arranged themselves around the coral ledge and waited as the large cage was pulled from the surface and instantly surrounded by more than 30 hungry Black, White Tip and Grey Whaler Sharks. The resident Giant Potato Cod asserted his dominance, getting right into the action and fighting alongside the sharks in an impressive display of united aggression. After the Tuna heads had been devoured and another fantastic Shark Feed was over, divers continued on the wall to find some depth and explore North Horn. In the afternoon we sailed south along Osprey Reef to a site named Admiralty where we spent the 4th and 5th dives, being the night dive! Everyone had a blast exploring the tranquil and clear caves and caverns that dotted the site, finding Scorpion and Squirrelfish, Lion fish, Giant Trevally, Spotted Wrasse and thousands of colourful small reef fish that teemed over the site. The night dive was a big event for many, being a first for some. The brave divers entered the dark moving waters that were alive with Giant Trevally and Red Bass on the surface, but as they descended everyone found that the visibility in the dark was much better than expected. Torch beams showed Parrotfish sleeping within their mucus cocoon, crustaceans crawling into the cracks in the reef, sleeping Loggerhead Turtles, while out in the deep hung reef sharks that stalked the night.
The Gap was the first site of the day, and with 30 meters plus visibility it was a relaxing and picturesque morning dive, full of lyre tail sand perch, Fire Dart Goby, Whitespotted Puffer, Bobbit Worms, Threadfin Butterfly fish and Bluelined Snapper. Over the second dive at Castles the visibility had improved even more, providing clear and which divers wound their way through the bommies and cruised around the sand patches in the shallows finding Garden Eels and Cleaner Wrasse grooming larger Coral Trout and Reef Cod. The guests and crew took some well-deserved rest and relaxation over lunchtime, escaping the heat of the day and finding the time to watch photos and videos from the trip so far. The afternoon's locations at Secret Caves and False Entrance were not to be missed, as they were awarded the best sites of the trip by some as they took in the dizzying 1000 meter walls, gardens of coral and immense blue ocean before them This also brought to an end our diving adventures in the Coral Sea at Osprey Reef, as we steamed overnight towards the Ribbon Reefs for our final day of diving, fun and sun!
Sunday morning we arrived at Ribbon Reef number 3 for two dives at the infamous Steve's Bommie. The pinnacle was alive with fish-life schooling around the colourful hard and soft corals in the morning ray's of sunlight that pierced the blue water. The disco clam was a favourite for many, along with the well-camouflaged resident Stonefish that took some the whole dive to find, and a stop at the plaque dedicated to Steve himself for a photo amongst the corals. The third dive at Temple of Doom was a big hit, with untouched corals blooming all over the site, schools of Great Barracuda, families of True and Great Barrier Reef Anemone fish, Lobster and many assorted Nudibranchs. As the sun trailed it's across the sky, we completed the last dive at the beautiful coral gardens of Flair Point, where a huge Manta Ray cruised past many of the divers to their stunned amazement. Once everyone was warm and dry, we had a beautiful barbeque feast on the alfresco deck, as the new Spirit family shared the highlights of their diving adventures from the last 4 days as we steamed homewards to the port of Cairns.
A big congratulations goes out to Dominic and Martina for completing their Advanced Courses, we hope that you have come off Spirit feeling confident and ready for the next level in your diving exploration. Great job guys! Also to Steve and Jess for taking part in your first ever night dive, we hope it was everything you expected it to be.
And to all of the awesome people that have dived with us out here on this beautiful and unique coral ecosystem, it has been our pleasure to host you aboard Spirit of Freedom and we do hope this is not the last time to see you underwater here on the Great Barrier Reef.
Twenty divers and two snorkelers boarded Spirit of Freedom with the rising sun on Monday morning. An introduction to the vessel and crew by Captain Cameron set the pace, and soon after we steamed from the port of Cairns bound for our first dive site of the trip- Jorgeson's Patch. Lunch and briefings were held underway and upon our arrival to the reef our divers and snorkelers- explorers- kitted up to step into the pristine waters of the Great Barrier Reef- a first for many! Both dives were equally as fantastic and a great way to begin the trip with Cuttlefish, Octopus, Giant Green Sea Turtles, Great Barrier Reef and Clown Anemone fish and Striped Lionfish being found in the waters of 30 meter visibility. Upon returning to the real world the beauty surrounding Spirit of Freedom was absolute, with a setting sun giving light to the pink sky and perfect glass-out conditions with dolphins hunting in the near distance. As everyone sat down to the first of many meals to come, we left the site and set our bearing to the north, bound for the Cod Hole the next day.
With the morning's arrival we too sailed into the Cod Hole at Ribbon Reef number ten, thus commencing our first dives within the Ribbon Reefs. Divers went down to find depth of the bow of Spirit of Freedom and slowly worked their way into the shallows, finding Juvenile Sweetlips, a large school of Great Barracuda, Rainbow Wrasse and Common Coral shrimp hiding amongst Giant Sea Fans. After second breakfast we jumped in again for the Cod Feed, the main reason for why we were here in this beautiful part of the world. With everyone following the briefing with military precision, our divers formed a circle and the feed show began. Several Giant Potato Cod battled with the Red Bass for their share of the meal, and as we worked around the circle, everyone had the opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures being feed directly in front and beside them. The clear waters allowed for excellent photography and after the feed was over, many chances for macro photography was found in the hundreds of assorted Nudibranchs covering the bommies and reef walls. In the tradition of Spirit of Freedom- dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, sleep- lunch was served to our ravenous crew shortly after the dive as we steamed a short distance south to the unique pinnacle dive of Lighthouse Bommie. Sea Snakes and Turtles were the main attraction of this site, as the eel-like creatures wound their way around the legs of many unsuspecting divers, harmlessly checking out the scene in their near-blindness. The afternoon dive at the one and only Challenger Bay was followed by an amazing dinner and night dive in quick succession. The sun set below the horizon and so too did the day-time marine life, being replaced by the night-time creepy crawlies that came out to play. The walls and shelves of coral that were lit up by the beams of light from the torches showed various sizes and shapes of red and yellow eyes, each unique to a different species of either fish, crustaceans or something larger... like White Tip sharks that lurked in the depths. A big congratulations goes out to Dominic, Martina and Bjorn for overcoming their nerves to partake in their first ever night dive out here on the Great Barrier Reef!
After a beautiful morning enjoying the golden sands of Watsons bay and a leisurely walk along the paperbark and pandanus trail. All 26 passengers and myself head down to the Marlin bar to meet up with Captain Tony and enjoy some refreshing snacks before the scenic flight back to Cairns. With the 10 passengers staying on board we head back to spirit of freedom where we will be shortly joined by Captain Cameron and the 16 newest guests to join us. After some introductions from the crew we disembark Watson's bay and head towards the ribbon reefs to commence our afternoon of diving. We spend the afternoon exploring pixie wall and some very interesting marine life was found hidden amongst the coral, Cuttlefish cleverly disguised around staghorn coral, a large school of electric blue fusiller and white tip reef sharks casually sleeping in the sand were just a few of the sightings at pixie wall. We all climb aboard the boat to a delicious meal and some well-deserved wine, and get to know each other a little better as we begin our long nights steam towards osprey reef.
As the sun began to emerge from behind the horizon we arrive at silver city the first stop at Osprey. One thousand metre walls beautifully decorated with giant soft corals and amazing sea fans, sloping up into a dazzling sandy lagoon alive with brightly coloured butterfly fish, a large variety of sand gobies and a graceful green sea turtle warming up in the shallows are always reason to look forward to a dive at silver city but a nice unexpected surprise was the school of 30 + juvenile grey whaler sharks circling out in the blue. After such an amazing first dive at osprey we head over to another fantastic location false entrance to explore one of the most visually spectacular dive sites at osprey reef. With another thousand metre wall to explore along boasting large schools of trevally and barracuda and many sandy bays and rows of super healthy coral species playing host to a plethora of life false entrance was a truly spectacular dive that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Our last stop of the day was admiralty for the afternoon and night dive, this was a crowd pleaser with a labyrinth of coral walls and openings into the reef to investigate and well hidden swim throughs kept everyone exploring for the afternoon. Once back aboard we begin preparations for the night dive. For a majority it was either the first time or a long time since their last night dive and we had a few nervous divers anxious to jump in. the lack of current and great water clarity really took the edge edge off and helped everyone to have a very relaxing dive. Bumphead parrot fish, reef sharks, moray eels and parrot fish cleverly hidden inside their bubble of invisibility were just a few of the noctournal life found at admiralty.
Another day, another early start, we move the boat up to North Horn for an exploratory dive and conduct the shark attraction. Everyone was blown away by the sheer numbers of sharks and healthy reef walls of north horn a great sign that the eco system is thriving. The shark attraction was the dive of the trip for the majority of the group and it was not hard to see why, over 60 grey whaler, bronze whaler, and white tip reef sharks swam towards the reef with the sound of the boat giving them their cue the feed was about to commence, two very large potato cod not phased by the frenzy of sharks pushed their way in to get at the bin of tuna heads. After all the shark action we move the boat south towards the direction of castles and half way wall. A nice relaxing afternoon exploring the stunning sandy lagoons and sheer walls and drop offs of osprey reef was an excellent way to experience the diversity of this very special place. We leave osprey with a big smile on everyones face and some truly unforgettable dives.
Sunday morning back in the Ribbon reefs we start our last day of diving at the world famous steves bommie and the sea conditions were very favourable on the surface and underwater as well. The disco clam, lion fish, stone fish and wobbegong shark kept everyone blown away from beginning to end and a slight current brought out some very large schools of fish. In the afternoon we head over to flair point / century bay to enjoy our last dives of the trip, with slack tides and a beautiful reef platform to explore along.
After we tidy the deck and dress in our finest we enjoy a BBQ feast fit for a king and queen and toast to a trip that we will all remember for a very long time to come
A very special thank you to all of the guests aboard this week, and on behalf of all the crew of spirit of freedom we wish you all the best and hope to see you in the not too distant future.
Congratulations to Dylan & Sophie enjoy your honeymoon and great work on your completing your enriched air nitrox course Sophie.
As the sun was gleaming upon us in the lush tropical surrounds of Cairns, the crew welcome aboard the 25 newest guests to embark on a trip of a lifetime with the all amazing spirit of freedom. After some very memorable introductions conducted by our skipper Tony we disembark Cairns harbour and begin our steam towards Norman reef to commence the first two dives of the trip. Everyone was very excited to jump in and start enjoying the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef and with the sun shining upon us and smooth sea conditions the water was very enticing. A large array of marine life was seen by the divers and with green sea turtles and cleverly disguised cuttlefish amongst being the highlight of the dive, it was also very cool to see a massive school of baitfish skimming the waters surface closely followed by some hungry sea birds. We all settle in after a very satisfying meal to get to know each other and enjoy some highly deserved cool beverages and begin our steam towards our next destination, Pixie Pinnacle up in the Ribbon Reefs.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed we arrive at the ribbons to commence our first dive of the day. Pixie Pinnacle was a very enjoyable dive for the group with species of fish only to be found on the Great Barrier Reef and stunning corals. it was a dive of discoveries and appreciation of the reef. After our 2nd breakfast we move the boat over to Pixie Gardens to enjoy a few swim throughs and explore the shallows of the reef platform. Cuttlefish gliding over staghorn coral, reef sharks casually sleeping in the sand and big schools of chevron barracuda hanging out feeding in the current were what was on offer for the dive. With another dive done and dusted we slowly move over to Two Towers to play around with some rather curious olive sea snakes and all the spectacular marine life offered at this site. More cuttlefish and Turtles were found around the site as well as some very nice macro life, another creature that added to this awesome dive site were more than a dozen giant jellyfish gliding past in the current providing everyone with some rather impressive photography. We slowly move over to Challenger bay for the afternoon & night dives and safe to say these were the favourite of the trip so far, the night dive especially with the back of alive with hungry red bass & giant trevally enjoying the buffet of small fish attracted to the light from the boat. During the dives we were all treated to some free swimming moray eels searching the reef for some unsuspecting fish to feast on, closely followed by a barrage of giant trevally hoping to score some leftovers. Some rather large sharks were seen in hunting under the boat and on the reef coming in quite close to the divers. Needless to say this was a fantastic day of diving for everyone and off to bed to get some sleep and recharge for the next day of diving.
We kick things off in the morning with a very exciting drift dive at Dynamite Pass and for some of the group the first time to do a drift dive. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the thrill ride of Dynamite Pass and were even more excited to dive at Snake Pit and get up close and personal with some sea snakes and possibly a manta ray hanging out at the cleaning station. The large variety of life from nudibranchs to loggerhead turtles were a treat for everyone and the healthy condition of the coral was enough to make this one of the top dives of the trip. The last dives of the trip were at the cod hole to feed the locals and find some new and interesting marine life. 5 large cod were eagerly waiting to be fed coming in quite close to the group giving everyone a glimpse of just how large theses animals are and some very cool photos. Other marine life seen: Bull sharks, Leopard sharks, flute mouth, napoleon wrasse and many other wonderful sightings. After all the diving was done, we pack up shop and steam towards lizard island for a sunset BBQ.
A very big thank you to all the wonderful passengers this trip, you are a very exceptional group of people and from all the crew at spirit of freedom we wish you safe travels and hope to see you in the not too distant future
Eight of our Cod Hole explorers returned to Spirit of Freedom after a beautiful and educational walk across Chinaman's Ridge at Lizard Island. Before long though, the scenic reef flight from Cairns had arrived carrying our 18 Coral Sea passengers and new Captain Tony. Onboard as everyone got to know each other and the boat, Tony introduced the crew and gave an expected Itinerary for the next 4 days... Ribbon Reef and Osprey sounded great to everyone, and with the sun shining brightly outside and not a cloud in the sky, we left the calm waters of Watsons Bay and headed out to Pixie Gardens, eating lunch and setting up dive gear along the way. Our two afternoon dives gave everyone a chance to either get used to new gear, get back into the feel of diving and the underwater world, or for some to stay dry and take rest in the warm sunlight. The coral at the site was so pretty that a few decided they just had to return for a quick snorkel on the surface. Team Italy had the chance to see one of the largest Barracuda's they had ever seen, about 2m long and a powerful fish. Dinner was served promptly once everyone was in their evening wear, and it wasn't long before many turned in for the night as we set sail North-East towards Osprey Reef, ready for the days of diving, sun and adventure that awaited us in the Coral Sea.
The calm seas and morning sunrise sailed with us to Osprey Reef as we arrived at False Entrance ready for the first of our dives in the Coral Sea. The air was electric on the dive deck as divers and crew alike were excited to jump into the waters. A strong surface current subsided once divers reached the bottom, finding Black and White Tip Reef sharks, Red Bass, and a Giant Moray Eel. The second dive at Silver City was incredible, with 50 meters plus visibility giving light and depth to the columns of coral that towered throughout the site. From the Giant Sea Fans to the most miniscule of Nudibrachs, Silver City was a favourite amongst all. Lunch was served steaming hot for everyone once they were out of the water, and as we moved to The Gap, some decided to let their stomachs settle and take some sunshine out on the alfresco deck, saving their energy for the afternoon and night dive at Admiralty. We set the anchor and moored to the stern line where immediately a massive school of Giant Trevally positioned themselves under the boat for protection. Once again the visibility was at its best, and as divers cruised around the site and in and out of caves and crevasses, fun was had by all. A juvenile Moray Eel was found amongst the plate coral, a giant Cone Shell on the sand, Coral Trout under bommies, Fairy and Rainbow Wrasses cleaning the larger fish, but for many the highlight was the calm, clear and tranquil waters inside the caves giving a surreal feeling as you passed through the void. After yet another delicious dinner (its just dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, sleep on this boat!) with nerves of steel we took the plunge back into Admiralty for an epic night dive. Even in the dark so much was visible, and our teams of divers went in search of Moray Eels, Parrot Fish sleeping in their mucus cocoon, crustaceans, and most importantly...sharks. Tens of Black, Grey and White Tip reef sharks cruised in the outer edges of the deep guarding their territory and displaying their fearful dominance in one quick sweep of their tails.
Camera, fins, action! Saturday morning got off to a roaring and adventurous start as Captain Tony treated us to 'live drops' along the magnificent Eastern Wall of North Horn. I would like to congratulate you all on how well you performed the entry, with your military precision making you all looked like real diving professionals! Once under the water we found that this wall was the local hangout for all the Reef sharks, with Black, White, and Grey Reef sharks waiting in the current for their breakfast feed. And feed them we did, on our second dive at North Horn feed area. Divers descended down the mooring lines to the Amphitheatre where they positioned themselves around the bommie that would shortly come alive with Shark and fish life. Up to 40 Black, White Tip and Grey reef sharks dominated the feed area competing with the Giant Potato Cod for their share, while a large Silver Tip stayed out in the blue circling around in the deep water. The feed lasted an extraordinary 12 minutes, and afterwards many went off to explore the depths of North Horn point, finding Octopus, a Green Sea Turtle, Lion fish and more Sharks! After lunch we did another drift dive from tenders down the Western wall of North Horn, and for some it was the best dive yet, with huge Gorgonian Sea Fans, hundreds of different sizes, shapes and colours of soft and hard corals. Our time at Osprey Reef had come to an end in the afternoon as all of us jumped in at the Magnificent Castles for the last dive of the day.
Sunday morning we arrived at Steve's Bommie bright and early to jump into the water for the first 2 dives of the last day. Divers found Stonefish, the famous Disco Clam, Gold Saddle Goat fish, Schooling Banner fish, Emperor Angel fish, Giant Moray Eel and Squarespot Anthias spotting the bommie. Joanie's Joy and Flair Point were excellent sites to end the day, with most deciding to jump into the water and others opting for an early beer or two or three! We finished the trip with a massive Barbeque feast on the Alfresco Deck at Irene Reef with the sunset behind the boat lighting up the sky. Drinks, stories and food flowed into the night as we steamed home to the Port of Cairns underneath the sky following the coastline the whole way South.
Congratulations goes out to Eero for completing his Advanced Open Water course, we have all watched you vastly improve your skills and technique over the last 4 days...great job!
And to all of you other beautiful people that have shared this time out in the Ribbon Reefs and Coral Sea, it has been a brilliant and successful 4 day trip and only made better by the amazing divers and friends you have become. Thankyou for choosing to dive with you out here on the Great Barrier Reef, and we hope to see you again in the near future back in this magical part of the world.
Twenty- One fine explorers embarked Spirit of Freedom in the early morning sunlight at Trinity Wharf in the port of Cairns. After a thorough introduction to the vessel, crew and itinerary for the next 3 days we fired up the engines and departed the wharf. Lunch and briefings were offered along the way as we steamed to our first dive site of the trip, at Saxon Reef. 'Dive Time' was called and within minutes the dive deck was swarming with excitable energy. Before long our divers had submerged themselves below the crystal clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef and gone off in search of the wonders and treasures that the beautiful Coral Gardens had waiting to be found. Our two snorkelers for the trip- Rumi and Alex- had a fantastic time on the surface waters, getting used to the art of snorkelling and watching the marine life as it played out before their eyes. Dinner was promptly served once everyone was showered and dressed, as we set sail into the North with the sun setting beside us illuminating the last of a beautiful day.
Overnight we travelled around 140nm to arrive with the sun rising over the calm waters of the Cod Hole. Dives One and Two were stationed here, with a delicious breakfast feast in between. Almost all participated in the Cod Feed, and found schools of Great Barracuda, Mackeral, White Tip reef sharks and common Nudibranchs as they went in search of the majestic Cod, which they found one of and he happily darted in and out and weaved around divers as they sat on the sand in a large circle, having the Cod being fed right before their eyes. As lunch was served and everyone sat down to rest, we moved sites again to the beautiful twin pinnacle site of Two Towers. Divers worked their way expertly around the bommies in a figure-of-eight pattern, finding mostly-blind but extremely curious and playful Olive Sea Snakes that took pleasure in entwining themselves around the legs of an unsuspecting few. We moved once more to Challenger Bay, at Ribbon Reef nine, for our final site of the day and our night dive. Some took the opportunity to enjoy the last of the sun's rays and enjoyed a fine glass of wine and desert, while others soldiered on, set on discovering as much of the beautiful ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef as possible. The night dive was nothing short of fantastic, with plenty of Giant Trevally and Red Bass action on the surface. Black Tip and Grey reef sharks buzzed around in the deep dark waters, and as the divers went down to 14m they discovered the night scene coming to life at Challenger Bay... Schools of Fusiliers surrounded the corals, and different shapes, types and sizes of Crustaceans hid themselves in the crevasses and caves in the reef, along side a Giant Moray Eel and several Green Sea Turtles taking their night's rest.
Wednesday morning we al rose early ready for the final day of diving adventures in the Ribbon Reefs. Pixie Wall was a short drive from our overnight anchorage, and after a quick but thorough briefing our divers and snorkelers alike kitted up and jumped into the blue waters. Along the wall Lionfish, Cuttlefish, Great Barrier Reef and True Anemone fish fluttered in the slow currents. Pixie Pinnacle was as magical as ever, and despite the slightly poorer visibility everyone returned to the boat overjoyed to have experienced such a beautiful and unique bommie site. According to some it was like 'diving in an aquarium', and the Flame File Shell was a highlight for many. We moved onwards and upwards to our final two sites of the trip, Acropolis and Snake Pit where the sheer beauty and formations of the hard and soft corals had everyone's eye. Schools of Giant Trevally and Shark Mackerel, Juvenile Spotted Sweetlip, Batfish, Parrot fish munching the corals, Bleniidae, Magnificent Goby Yellow Tang and a Painted Crayfish gave much conversation and excellent photos to be shared as we steamed into the dying sunset to Lizard Island for the Australian Barbeque of a lifetime prepared by our Chef Alex.
Thursday morning held no opportunity for sleep-in, as everyone climbed into the tenders and took a walk up and over Chinaman's Ridge at Lizard Island. Spirit of Freedom sat proudly in Watson's Bay, as our Cod Hole Passengers bid their farewells to crew and new-found friends to take the scenic reef flight back to Cairns.
I would like to extend a massive congratulations to Barbara for completing her Advanced Course, we hope that the skills you have gained during this time will serve you well in your future diving travels. To Tiana for overcoming your nerves to take the plunge into the dark waters of Challenger Bay for your first ever night dive! Welcome to the addiction!
It has been a most enjoyable trip for myself and the crew here on Spirit of Freedom, these last few days have been made only as brilliant as they were because we had the opportunity to share them with such competent divers and beautiful people as yourselves. Thankyou for choosing to dive here with us, and we hope to see you again out here on the Great Barrier Reef. Best of luck to you for your future diving adventures!!
Christian and Sinddy started the second half of their seven-day trip on Spirit of Freedom with a walk around Lizard Island in the bright sunshine and sweltering tropical heat. Once we were back on-board Spirit of Freedom is was time to relax in the sunshine while our new passengers arrived on the scenic reef flight from Cairns. The planes landed on the airstrip at Lizard Island and made their way down to the tenders that were resting on the beach and transferred across to the main vessel. After the introductions were completed our 17 new passengers unpacked their belongings and set up their dive gear as Spirit of Freedom headed out to the Cod Hole for the first dive of the trip.
Cary refreshed his dive skills after a break from diving for a few years and was amazed to see the huge Potato Cod come swimming right up to him. Phil, Anthony and Adam jumped in and went off to explore the Cod Hole and discovered the Potato Cod hiding in the cracks and canyons in the reef. The visibility was still quite low after the massive storm last week but the schooling marine life made up for it with the divers being surrounded by the gold and blue flecks of the schooling fusiliers and trevally as they made their way back to the boat. Our second dive was at Snake Pit where the amount of fish was amazing. The visibility was pretty low but the huge ancient Hawksbill Turtle was hanging around the cleaning station and the Olive Sea Snakes that reside at Snake Pit were as curious about the divers as ever.
As the divers returned to the boat the sun was starting to turn the sky a beautiful shade of pink and sunset drinks were served on the Alfresco deck upstairs. Hans and Renee, Mark P, Rod, Alan, Ken, Phil, Anthony and Adam sat back and caught up on the world of tourism in the Cairns area while George filled out his Advanced Course paperwork and then hurried to join his father Robert for the sunset. After the sun set everyone returned to the dining room for dinner and dessert and more relaxed conservation about life, the universe and everything.
Overnight Spirit of Freedom travelled 100 nautical miles out into the Coral Sea and arrived at Osprey Reef around 6am in the morning. With the ocean swell still rolling in at over 1.5m from the northwest, the remnants of recent severe weather event ex-TC Oswald, Spirit of Freedom could not tie up to any sites on Osprey. So Captain Cam manoeuvred the vessel into position while I briefed the divers on the live drop procedure so that they could drift along the amazing eastern wall of the world famous North Horn. Soon the one minute marker was radioed to the dive deck from the bridge and the divers stood in lines, holding onto the boat and each other, as Spirit of Freedom rolled and swayed into place near the reef edge. Then the "Dive, Dive, Dive" command came from Captain Cam and the divers jumped from the side doors in military precision, one after the other, and swam over to the reef edge to start their first dive along the 1,000m deep walls of Osprey Reef. The visibility was unbelievable with crystal clear water showing all the sharks swimming in the depths, the soft corals and fans growing along the edge of the wall and the schools of fish running up and down the wall. The divers surfaced, raving about the visibility, the sharks and all the amazing marine life that they had spotted along the wall and continued discussing this over breakfast as Captain Cam manoeuvred Spirit of Freedom back and forth along the reef edge using her stabilisers to full effect and allowing the divers to eat breakfast in comfort in comparison to the condition of the ocean. Everyone was soon kitting up and ready to go again as Dive Time was called and everyone was briefed for the Shark Feed. Spirit moved into position and the divers jumped out of the side door again and descended in the crystal clear water to the Shark Feed area. Once everyone was in place, Tibo released the line and Lucy dropped in the Shark Feed cage from the tender. There were over 30 Grey Reef Sharks circling by this point and as soon as I opened the cage the sharks went into a feeding frenzy, taking huge chunks of the Tuna heads on each pass of the feed. Once the feed was over the divers headed along Soft Coral Wall and at the end of their dive ascended to be picked up by tender and returned to the main vessel. After lunch Captain Cam took Spirit of Freedom into the lagoon area of Osprey Reef as the wind changed direction to blow from the west and we set up for our afternoon dives in the shelter of the lagoon area. George completed his Navigation dive and Night dive towards his Advanced Open Water course and Phil, Adam, Anthony and Matt G worked on their Nitrox theory in between the dives so that they could start the third day of diving with the benefits of extended bottom times on the deep walls of Osprey.
In the morning Captain Cam took Spirit of Freedom to the southern tip of Osprey and we live-dropped everyone onto Fan Ledge and Rapid Horn for the first two morning dives. The visibility was stunning again and the schooling fish and sharks were amazing. Matt L and Hasan drifted slowly along the wall admiring the soft coral and huge fans growing out from the ledges in the wall while Sinddy, Christian and Matt G immersed themselves amongst the schools of paddle tail snapper and grabbed photos of the giant Maori Wrasse that was hanging out on the plateau of Rapid Horn. The southern tip of Osprey usually receives the full force of the trade winds for 9 months of the year and it had created huge ridges and canyons in the coral formations that Hans and Renee imagined to be a highway and sat on the bottom pretending to drive their car along it, giving all the onlookers a hilarious experience as Hans pretended to change gear and Renee pretended to do her make up in the rear view mirror! Sadly after our last dive at Flat Top on the southern tip of Osprey it was time to secure the vessel and steam back to the Ribbon Reefs overnight, taking 13 hours to reach Steve's Bommie for our morning dives on Sunday. The schools of fish and macro life on the isolated coral pinnacle were amazing and even two dives on the pinnacle did not reveal all the secrets hidden there. The Wobbygong Shark, Flame File Shell, several nudibranchs, Pipefish, Banded Boxer Shrimp, true Clownfish and the clouds of Anthias and Fairy Basslets provided great interest and amazing photos and made George's final dive of his Advanced Course, the Naturalist dive, simple to complete. We moved to Century Bay for the final two dives of the trip and Captain Cam took the divers to one of his favourite locations on Ribbon Reef 3 to search and explore the deep lumps of coral off the eastern wall of Ribbon Reef 2 2/3. There were three Leopard Sharks spotted on the sand and four Cuttlefish found hanging around the branching corals in the shallows that caught everyone's attention. Even Matt L said that while he was not a massive fan of looking at corals, the amazing coral gardens were breath taking to behold as they swam back along the sheltered edge of the patch reef.
Our final evening together was spent on the top deck watching the sun set over the glass like ocean as the wind dropped to nothing and the ocean became still. The colours of the sunset were reflected on the surface and the divers relaxed with a drink as the smells of the BBQ drifted across the top deck. The atmosphere amongst the divers was relaxed as Spirit of Freedom headed back to Cairns after four days of spectacular diving in the Coral Sea.
I would like to congratulate Christian and George on completing their Advanced Open Water course and also Sinddy, Matt G, Phil, Adam and Anthony who completed their Nitrox Courses during the Coral Sea trip. Many thanks go to Matt L, Hasan, Hans and Renee for the constant jokes, fun and amusement throughout the trip, both above and below the water, and I am looking forward to seeing the comments online regarding their experience, as discussed at great length at several points throughout the trip.... Also thanks to Mark P, Rod, Alan and Ken, some of the Cairns legends for the interesting discussions that filled the evenings. I hope that we will see all of you again some time soon for some more amazing diving on the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea.
Eleven passengers boarded Spirit of Freedom on Monday morning after the rains had cleared and Spirit of Freedom departed Trinity Wharf in bright sunshine and sweltering tropical heat. Leland had just completed the 4 Day Coral Sea trip and was pleased to meet the 10 new passengers, Bruce, Manfred, Christian, Amy, Clint & Jen, Sinddy, Mark, Malcolm and Raphael. We started our afternoon with two dives at Jorgies Patch and refreshed Mark and Malcolm's diving skills after completing their course last year. Soon they were comfortably swimming around with Tibo and immersing themselves in the schools of fusiliers that were cruising along the reef shoal. Sinddy, Raph and Bruce headed off in a tender with Clint and Jen for the second dive of the afternoon and were dropped on the northern tip of Jorgies Patch to drift along the coral shoal back to the boat. Christian and Amy practiced for their Advanced Course with their first tender drop and Leland showed us what he had learnt on his Advanced Course during his previous 4 days on the boat. As the sun started to set the last of the divers emerged from the water and Spirit of Freedom departed the mooring, heading north overnight to the Ribbon Reefs.
Overnight we travelled up to Ribbon Reef 8 to start with a drift dive at Cracking Drift where Amy and Christian experienced the thrill of floating along in the current as part of their advanced course. Sinddy, Raph and Bruce cruised along the coral ridges on the southern side of the reef wall before joining Clint and Jen in the coral gardens just underneath the boat. We dived at 8-Ball amongst the biggest schools of fusiliers, trevally, jacks and barracuda before moving further north to Wonderland. Raph and Sinddy joined Christian and Amy to explore the gardens side of the patch reef and we discovered that one of the entrances to the swimthroughs had been closed off since the storm passed through last week but that the main entrance and huge canyon into the reef system was still as amazing as always! The winds dropped during the day and Captain Tony decided to take us to Challenger Bay for our afternoon and night dive, even though the wind was blowing from the north west. With ropes securing us to the moorings in three directions, we were given the Ok and dived eagerly into the fish soup that is known as Challenger Bay. The recent storm had damaged some of the delicate coral structures in the shallows but the schools of unicornfish, surgeonfish, batfish, barracuda, snapper and trevally were still there to amaze the divers. The night dive was a first for both Amy and Manfred and Amy finally got to see her first ever shark, which resulted in a scream through her regulator that was almost heard back on the boat!
Mark and Malcolm had doubled their number of dives by the time they jumped in at Pixie Pinnacle on the final day of diving and as they descended the schools of anthias and fairy basslets adorning the top 15m of the amazing coral structure greeted them. Clint and Jen circled around the pinnacle and found the torch by the Disco Clam (Flame File Shell) and, being the amazing thoughtful people they are, picked up the torch and brought it back to the boat for us... thankfully with 3 guides and only 11 divers, everyone was shown the Disco Clam in their individual groups. Amy and Christian dropped down to 30m to feel the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis on their advanced deep dive and then spiralled their way around the coral formation discovering all the little hidden treasures living there. Rod's Rock gave Mark and Malcolm their first sighting of a sea snake; Clint was getting some amazing photos of the Olive Sea Snake but apparently had an interesting look on his face as the curious sea snake decided to get very close to the lens, much to Jen, Mark and Malcolm's amusement. There was a big Green Turtle hanging out amongst the coral too, which brought smiles to many of the divers' faces. The final dive of the trip was at the Cod Hole where one of the massive Potato Cod family turned up to put on a show for the divers and pose for some brilliant photos. He seemed to take a liking to Bruce and rested on top of Bruce's head for a while after the feed was finished and then rested on the palm of his hand showing us Bruce's calm and understanding nature being a retired dive instructor. As the sun set we arrived at Blue Lagoon on the south east side of Lizard Island and everyone gathered to grab some photos of the stunningly scenery before getting ready for the evening BBQ on the top deck.
I would like to congratulate Amy and Christian on completing their Advanced Open Water Course on the trip and also mention Mark and Malcolm's leap in experience from 4 dives over a year ago to having done 9 of the dives offered. Amy and Manfred also doubled their diving experience on the trip and had some amazing experiences along the way. Thanks to the rest of the group for a fun and exciting 3 days on the Great Barrier Reef!
Thursday morning we set off once again in the tenders to be taken ashore in the Blue Lagoon at Lizard Island where our departing Cod Hole passengers left us and our arriving Coral Sea passengers joined the group. Once back on Spirit of Freedom, Captain Tony introduced the crew and himself and gave us a rough plan for the next 4 days. We set sail from Lizard Island shortly after bound for the magical Hicks Reef to begin our 4-day Coral Sea trip. Our divers eagerly geared up and after listening to the briefing jumped straight into the waters to submerge and go in search of the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. Black and White Tip sharks were out in force, with many being sighted along with schools of Great Barracuda and a Blue Spotted Lagoon Ray. The second dive proved to be just as beautiful, with everyone feeling super comfortable in their gear and settling into the diving scene once again. Dinner was served shortly after as we set sail to head North and onwards to Creech Reef, where who knew what awaited us below the surface.
Early Friday morning Spirit of Freedom pulled up at Creech Reef to check out the scene. We were most probably diving on a wall that had never been dived before so this provided much excitement between the crew and passengers, and with an action style 'live drop' from the mother ship, the day of diving began. Captain Tony had made the best decision he could for us by bring the boat so far north, and it was evident in the calm surface conditions and sunshine piercing the water as the divers went down deep. They drifted along the gorgeous Cree h wall, with a rare find of a Leafy Scorpion fish being pointed out to everyone, and a large Moray Eel hanging lazily in his cave. The second dive from the boat at Goby had not even a name, but did hole plenty of treasures on its coral walls. A leopard Cat shark was found by Team Simon hiding under a coral ledge, a first sighting for many, even crew. The smells of lunch cooking drifted through the dive deck and towards the water, as divers returned refreshed and ready for more of these untouched diving sites. Moray Eels, schools of Great Barracuda, Burgess' Butterfly fish, Silver Tip, White Tip and Grey Reef sharks, and schools of Giant Trevally and Juvenile Sweetlips. As the dive deck was being packed up for the day all of the guests headed inside to dine together while the sun made its way below the horizon and we steamed all night back to the world famous Cod Hole.
Happy Australia Day!!! We arrived at dawn at Sunrise Surprise, to the new light of the golden sun breaking over the horizon. Everyone geared up and jumped into the calm waters as fast as possible to find all the creatures of the deep and reef making their transition from night to day. At Inside Out the action was on, as divers and crew stepped into tenders to be taken to the very tip of the reef and drift swiftly and safely back to the boat. Moray Eels, Green Sea Turtles, Lionfish and a large Potato Cod were found amongst the rainbows of fan, hard and soft corals. After lunch had been digest4ed and the sunshine had been taken advantage of, we steamed further south to a gorgeous twin pinnacle site called Two Towers. Sea Snakes riddled the site, and in their near blindness and insistent curiosity they wound themselves around the legs of divers- to the amusement of many and the fright of some! We ended Australia Day in style at Vertical Gardens. For some it was even the best site of their trip, with excellent visibility and swim-throughs for everyone to play in. The night dive brought a few nerves on deck, but once in the dark waters that was all forgotten after sighting a rare Epaulette Shark, Flat Worms, Hermit Crabs, Sleeping Parrotfish in their mucus cocoon, Banded Boxer fish and Nudibranchs the size of a mask!
Sunday morning we arrived at Steve's Bommie for our first two dives of the day, and what fantastic dives they were. White Tip Reef sharks lay resting in the sand, Lionfish elegantly moved around the beautiful soft corals in regal grace, female Bird Wrasse, Moon Wrasse, Giant Trevally, Great Barracuda, Napoleon Maori Wrasse, Yellow faced Puffers and several Stonefish were found amongst the layers and varying types of corals. At Joanie's Joy Common Cuttlefish, Giant Clam Beautiful Feather Stars, and Queensland Sea stars were but some of the treasures discovered, with excellent chances for macro photography with Glorious Flatworms, Fan Worms, and Red-Gilled Nembrotha covering the site. After some relaxation in the sunshine we moved site to Flair Point for the final dive of the trip, as almost everyone jumped into the pearl waters of the Great Barrier Reef for hopefully not the last time and enjoyed the colours and magic surrounding them. A massive Barbeque Feast was being prepared as we returned to the boat and divers and friends alike enjoyed the food, wine and stories of recent days well into the night as we set sail back to the port of Cairns.
A would like to extend a massive congratulations to Neil and Lucky for completing their Nitrox courses, and to Leland for the completion of his Advanced Course, we have all watched your technique and skills underwater improve vastly over the last 3 days,. To Silvia, Frida and Haakon for your first ever night dives., you should all be very proud of yourselves!
It has been a huge four days out here in the Ribbon Reefs, and despite not making it out to Osprey Reef due to the challenging conditions we would like to believe that it has been a fantastic trip none the less, we have had the opportunity to dive reefs that have never been touched before and on behalf of all the crew here on Spirit of Freedom it has been our pleasure to share this unique experience with such lovely people and amazing divers as yourselves. Best of luck in your future diving adventures!
Fifteen of the best boarded Spirit of Freedom bright and early Monday morning bound for their adventure diving across the Ribbon Reefs. Captain Cameron introduced the crew and vessel, welcoming everyone aboard their new home for the next three days. We left the port of Cairns and steamed North towards our first dive site of the trip- Coral Gardens. Divers and snorkelers alike kitted up and took their firsts steps into the endless blue waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Some found Lionfish and Great Barrier Reef Anemone fish prouding protecting their coral homes, while others found White Tip Reef sharks at rest in the sand, a small school of Great Barracuda and a large Hawksbill Turtle. Despite a small chop in the surface conditions, our two snorkelers Jay and Suzy found Giant Clams and admired the amazing colours of the reef from the surface. Once everyone was back on board we all sat down to a scrumptious dinner prepared by Chef Alex as our Captain Cameron took us into the North and onwards to the Ribbon Reefs to continue our adventure.
Tuesday morning we awoke to the first dive site of the day, a drift dive along the wall of Piece of Eight. After being loaded into the tenders and taken to the drop zone divers had a brilliant time getting depth and then continuing along the wall to find Threadfin Anthias, Coral Trout, Queensland Dotty backs and Coral Cardinal fish. We all returned for breakfast and some relaxation, and then jumped in at Wonderer for a unique bommie drift dive. The western wall dropped out into the blue, while on the top of the bommie the fan corals, clams and sea and feather stars dotted the site giving it a rainbow of colours. Bicolour Blenny's, Snooty Maori Wrasse and a school of Chevron Barracuda swam against the current in the site as divers calmly drifted past. While the outside conditions were a little wet and wild, that didn't dampen anyone's spirits as they jumped excitedly into the moving waters. A Giant Moray Eel was the highlight of the dive with almost everyone coming back having seen it peeking its head through its hide-away cave to ogle at the divers. Dive four at The Crack proved to be a big hit, with a Yellow-faced Nudibranch of about 20cm in length being found by Team Simon and being the largest Nudibranch ever seen by many of the divers. As the Sun began to set on Day Two, everyone sat down to another amazing meal and shared their stories and exploits of the day. But the day's diving was not done and we had saved the best for last, a night dive at the Crack! After a thorough briefing to calm some nerves everyone geared up and plunged into the pitch black waters. The strong surface conditions added some action to the beginning but once everyone had descended below the surface they discovered that the site was very visible from their torch light and the light emitted from Spirit of Freedom which allowed them to move around comfortably. Giant Trevally and Red Bass took their turns to swim in stealth behind the divers and dart viciously towards unsuspecting bait fish caught out in the divers' torch light. Two Moray Eels made an appearance, and many Black, Grey and White Tip Reef sharks loomed out in the dark waters, venturing in close to divers before darting back out into the abyss. The red eyes of Crustaceans dotted the coral wall and a sleeping Green Sea Turtle was found under a coral outcropping. It was a fantastic end to an amazing day's diving, and it wasn't long after desert and wine that many turned in for the night, in order to take enough rest for another day aboard the Spirit of Freedom.
Mother Nature had her own plans for us on the third day of the trip, as we awoke to an amazing ominous sky filled with several variations of cloud. Due to the impending weather conditions we had to stay behind the protection of Lizard Island. But alas, it was a great two dives along the wall of Lizard Head. Nudibranchs covered the site from top to bottom which gave many a chance to scour the fish book library over breakfast. On the second dive our two snorkelers; Jay and Suzy had a marvellous time drifting through the shallows spotting a Green Sea Turtle and many Clown Anemone fish. A large Tawny Nurse Shark was spotted by team Matteo, gliding gracefully through the water at depth. The weather had calmed a little by lunch as we steamed out towards Comorant Wall forour last two drift dives. A large Black Manta Ray was spotted from the surface, and on the dive schools of Shark Mackerel, Silver Sweeper, Beaked Coralfish and Mimic Filefish. We picked up anchor and headed back towards Lizard Island for a massive Australian Barbeque prepared by Chef Alex and shared tales of our adventures over the last three days.
A massive congratulation goes out to Locky and Helen for overcoming their nerves and taking their first ever Night Dive here on the Great Barrier Reef, great job guys!
It has been a very different style of trip, challenging but rewarding and on behalf of Spirit of Freedom I would like to say that it has been a pleasure to share this time with you all for the positive and friendly atmosphere that you all provided. We hope you have felt at home here in the last 3 days and hope to see you in this part of the world again some day soon. Until then.... DIVE TIME!!!
Our five passengers travelling with us for the entire 7 day trip, Scott, Rob, Chris, Jefereson and Patricia, said their farewells to the 3 Day Cod Hole group and jumped back into the tenders. As we headed back to Spirit of Freedom we could see the storm clouds coming closer and soon after we were back onboard, the wind started to pick up and the sky darkened. Our new passengers arrived from their scenic reef flight from Cairns and were loaded into the tenders on the beach as the rain started to fall. Colleen and Don arrived, dried off and headed upstairs to their cabin to get changed while Elliot and Suzanne made themselves comfortable in the dining saloon. Captain Cam arrived in the final tender run and got Spirit of Freedom underway, heading for the Ribbon Reefs to start our four days of diving at Lighthouse Bommie.
The rain didn't dampen anyone's spirits as we descended onto the tall thin pinnacle of coral and were immersed in a massive school of fusiliers that sent sparks of gold, silver and blue flashing through the water as the school moved as a unit. Sasha and Adam, Christoph and Andrea were treated to an Olive Sea Snake winding its way up to the surface to breathe and swimming right past them as they descended along the float line. The huge resident Green Turtle made an appearance on the second dive and amazed Don, Colleen and I, as he sat and rubbed his shell against the coral for over 15 minutes with a look of satisfaction in his eyes. While Rene was diving, Doreen put her mask and snorkel on and jumped in to have a look at the wonders of the marine world from the surface and saw the turtle coming up for a breath of fresh air!
At dinner time the group chatted and swapped stories from home, travels and previous dives and there was a great atmosphere amongst the group. Sasha and Andrea filled out their Advanced Course paperwork and settled down to study for their deep dive in the morning. Captain Cam headed north west along the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and into the northern Coral Sea overnight and we set up for a day of exploring new and exciting reef systems as the north westerly winds blew and the rain fell. Jen and Kristian were out on the dive deck ready to go within seconds of the words Dive Time being mentioned and Kristian hung out with the crew while we filled tanks too. Sophie and Glen buddied up and jumped in the tenders with Ollie and Rene for the first tender drop and drift dive at Beautiful Bommies. Jeferson and Patricia the Garden of Eden with Tibo where there were more fish in one place than I have seen in a whole week of diving! We stayed there for a second dive and Doreen jumped in for a snorkel even though the wind was blowing and the rain was falling! We found a new spot to dive for the afternoon and night dive which gave us some protection from the rising storm winds and the hardcore group of divers jumped back in to explore the south eastern side of Eve Reef during the daylight and again at night, when the sharks came out and hunted around in the divers torchlight.
Overnight the weather worsened and the storm clouds did not break for the entire day. Needless to say everyone was going to get wet with the amount of rain falling so we put our wetsuits on and jumped for each of the dives to explore the rarely dived reefs near the Waterwich Passage, in search of some of the treasures hidden there. Elliot jumped in for the second and third dives each day while Suzanne aimed to complete one of the largest crosswords I have ever seen, assisted by all the other passengers and crew at different stages throughout the day. The awesome foursome of Sasha, Andrea, Christoph and Adam were honing their dive skills to perfection, especially the girls as they completed their navigation dive in low visibility and on a flat bottom site that was littered with similar coral lumps on the bottom. Doreen jumped in to snorkel at almost every site certainly earning her the award of the most hard-core snorkeler ever seen on Spirit of Freedom!
For the final day of diving we headed south and managed to outrun the storm front for the majority of the day and had two dives at Steve's Bommie where the marine life was amazing as always with schools of yellow lined snapper covering the coral formation, the anthias and fairy basslets covered the pinnacle in flecks of purple and orange, schools of barracuda, batfish and trevally massed in the current and a Grey Reef shark circled around in the depths. The stonefish were hidden away deep into the coral and the Wobbygong Shark was right underneath the float line, again hidden in the depths of the coral, so it was clear that the marine life knew that the storm was on its way. The weather did not reach us until we had completed the final two dives of the trip and were heading back to Cairns but everyone gathered inside for our BBQ night and we had a great party night on the way home with "the vegetable game" making me laugh so hard while trying to finish the accounts!
Thanks to everyone for such a good atmosphere and so many fun times during the last four days, even the weather couldn't dampen our spirits and we had a great time sharing our diving experiences and exploring some new and wonderous dive sites. Special congratulations to Sasha and Andrea for completing their Advanced Open Course during the trip as well!
Monday morning saw 25 excited passengers boarding Spirit of Freedom full of enthusiasm for the 3 Day Cod Hole dive adventure. Captain Tony introduced the crew and everyone joined in to wish Lucy a Happy 21st Birthday in several different languages! After the briefings were complete and everyone had worked on their tans in the glorious sunshine Spirit of Freedom arrived at Jorgies Patch for our afternoon dive. The ocean was like glass as the divers made their giant stride entries from the back deck and the schools of fusiliers parted in a glittering cloud of silver and blue as the ripples expanded from the back deck. Under the calm surface of the ocean the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef awaited the divers with Hawksbill Turtles, White Tip Reef Sharks and schools of unicornfish being spotted.
After the diving was done Spirit of Freedom departed the local Cairns Reefs and headed north overnight with the stars shining in the clear night sky and arrived at Ribbon Reef 8 for an early morning drift dive at Crackin' Drift. The incoming tide was flooding between two patches of reef and the divers were loaded into tenders and dropped off along the wall to drift back to the boat. Chevron Barracuda, schools of Blue Lined Trevally and Grey Reef Sharks were hanging out in the current and as the divers approached the mooring line, an Octopus appeared out of a crack in a boulder coral and flashed several different colours to announce its presence before disappearing back into a tiny hole. Spirit of Freedom travelled up to the outside edge of Ribbon Reef 9 for the second dive of the day at Vertical Gardens where the large bay in the outer wall was filled with White Tip Reef Sharks, Chevron Barracuda and schools of Trevally to distract the divers' eyes from the fields of soft corals growing along the sloping reef wall. Buddy teams were swapped, chopped and changed as the group dynamic built and at Pixie Wall there were teams of explorers, photographers and floaters heading off along the coral gardens and Team Crazy featuring Tex, Scott, Christian and Clem were not far behind. At the end of the dive Tex came back whooping with joy as Team Crazy had found some Cuttlefish changing colours and shapes in the branching corals in the shallows at the back of the boat. At Challenger Bay for the afternoon dive, Jeferson and Patricia; Tom and Rhonda; Sally and Brigette; Anthony and Maria; and John and Andrea joined Cat and I in the amazing aquarium of the Great Barrier Reef that was present in the shallow coral gardens at the back of the boat. The schools of fusiliers engulfed the divers while the Red Snapper, Jacks and Trevally schooled near by, White Tip and Grey Reef Sharks cruised along the sandy bottom, and several massive Maori Wrasse swam lazily along the edge of the pristine coral gardens. The night dive was amazing with the crystal clear water giving the marine life nowhere to hide from the torchlights searching for it. There were several Moray Eels and Sharks hunting in the torchlight, a Pleurobranch crawling along the sand, massive tube worms looking for food, a juvenile Crocodilefish hiding under the coral feeding, and Giant Trevally and Red Snapper following the divers in search of fish lit up by the bright beams. An awesome first night dive for Bruce, Brad and Gordon!
Our second day of diving started at the awesome Snake Pit where the schools of bannerfish and fusiliers obscured the coral gardens with black and white stripes and flecks of gold and blue as the divers drifted along with the current. Todd, Bruce, Jason and Grant went exploring with Team Crazy following close by while Dave and Chris dropped out into the thousands of tiny baitfish hanging off the ridge of coral. As the tide flooded in the gap between the reef at Cormorant Reef we loaded the tenders again and drifted along the soft coral covered wall of Dynamite Pass where we found Cuttlefish hiding in the sandy bays near the boat. Then it was off to the world famous Cod Hole for the Cod Feed where the giant Potato Cod was very hungry and put on a great show, gulping the morsels of fish right in front of the divers eyes and circling around. The final dive of the trip allowed everyone to explore the beautiful coral ridges of the Cod Hole and play with the White Tip Reef Sharks lying in the sand, be engulfed by the schools of fish circling under the boat and admire the stunning coral formations that the Potato Cod were hiding in now that they were full and content. The BBQ evening on the sundeck was a great night with many laughs and interesting conversations while the beers and wine flowed but all too soon the Cod Hole adventure came to a close.
I would like to wish Brad a happy Birthday for the 18th January, I hope you have a fantastic day and also to congratulate Jason for completing his Nitrox course during the trip. A mention must be made for Clem who turned up with 4 dives and more than doubled his experience with us and improved his dive skills on every dive. Thanks to Dave for the constant heckling in true Aussie style and also to the loudest member of Team Crazy, Tex, for the atmosphere you guys and girls provided.
Thursday morning we set off on foot for a walk across the beautiful Chinaman's Ridge at Lizard Island bound for the Marlin Bar where those who were leaving for Cairns on the scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef they had just spent 3 days diving, and our new explorers had just arrived into paradise, ready to set out into the Coral Sea and beyond. After an introduction to our friendly crew and update on the gorgeous calm weather around us for the next few days, we left the clear waters of Watson's Bay bound for Inside Out for two afternoon dives. We spent the afternoon getting comfortable in the water and new gear and exploring all possible corners of the magic Inside Out has to offer before setting sail to Osprey Reef ready for 3 days of adventure, sun and excitement.
After a calm crossing of the notorious Coral Sea, we arrived at Osprey Reef to find the ocean as flat as glass in the morning sunrise. We tied up at False Entrance and even just looking over the side of the boat you could see Sharks, Fish and different types of coral from the incredible visibility. Dive time was called and excitement flooded through the boat as everyone geared up and jumped into the cooling water. False Entrance was a network of coral bommies and divers weaved their way through the maze, finding Black and White Tip reef sharks, hundreds of different types of soft coral boasting an impressive array of fish and marine life. A school of Shark Mackeral loomed out in the blue and Angelfish, Beaked Coralfish, Bennet's Butterflyfish, and Goldsaddle goatfish dotted the bommie. The fun had only just begun as we steamed slowly towards North Horn to do our second dive as a drift dive along the spectacular 1000m+ walls, and the highlight definitely being the sheer number of sharks that showed up as soon as divers hit the water, and 2 large Hammerheads swimming close-by in the blue. The Shark Feed that everyone had signed up for was next. After following the briefing with military precision, our team arranged themselves around the natural amphitheatre and waited for the show to begin. The second the Tuna heads popped out of the cage, the feeding frenzy was alive. With 50 sharks in attendance and about 20 White, Black Tip and Grey Reef sharks competed with the Giant Potato Cod, buzzing in and out viciously ripping into the flesh. Sergent fish and Red Bass lingered around pecking at the remains, while a 3m long Silver Tip hung out in the blue keeping an eye on everyone. Everyone returned having experience the Shark Feed dive as they had hoped for and more. But the adventure was not over, as we steamed south to Admiralty for a beautiful afternoon dive and night dive. For Prashun and Maureen it was a massive event, being their first ever night dive! They bravely joined the other divers in the dark waters and explored Admiralty at night, finding Flashlight fish, Trevally hunting in their torch beams, Hump headed Parrotfish, Parrotfish hiding in their mucus cocoon, a Moray eel and an assorted variety of Crustaceans that gave everyone plenty of species to look for in our Fish ID library, accompanied with a scrumptious desert and wine that everyone enjoyed after a massive and successful day's diving.
We were in for a very special surprise that Captain Tony had planned for us on the third day. Due to the incredibly calm weather, we were able to steam further south of Osprey Reef to the magical and rarely dived reefs- Vema and Shark Reef. Spirit of Freedom is only capable of diving these reefs on the most perfect of conditions, around four or five times a year, so anticipation and excitement flooded the dive deck from guests and crew alike. Dive One at Vema reef was incredible, with 60m visibility and fields of coral stretching as far as the eye could see, divers drifted back to the boat in the current and many were lucky enough to spot a 3m Tiger Shark. After breakfast we moved further north to Shark Reef for another drift dive back to the boat. The calm surface conditions and blue skies surrounding the boat had everyone in high spirits as they rolled into the water from the tender and went of to explore, finding Lobsters, Moray Eels, Reef Sharks, Maori Wrasse and Black and Blue Spotted Stingrays. We were diving on top of a large and flat bommie that dropped off into a thousand meters of deep wild ocean. The southern tip of Osprey Reef, Rapid Horn was our third dive site of the day, and yet another drift dive back to the boat allowed divers to cover much more distance underwater than a stationary dive. Schools of great Barracuda and Trevally, Stoine fish, Spilt banded Cardinalfish, Palette Surgeonfish, Diagonal Banded Sweet-lip and Yellowstripe Goatfish were found amongst the walls of soft and hard corals and giant gorgonian fans. After a well deserved rest and relaxation time in the sun for our awesome divers, we had arrived at our last dive site at Osprey Reef. The Gap was just as its name suggests, a network of caves and maze like structures of bommies that everyone had fun navigations in and around, with still perfect conditions bringing to a close the end of a fantastic day's diving in the Coral Sea. Mother Nature gave us a beautiful display of colours as the sun set below the ocean's horizon, lighting up the sky as we set sail following its trail of light , as everyone sat down to dinner and desert and shared their stories well into the night.
Sunday had arrived before we knew it as we moored up at Dungeons and Dragons for our first two dives at Bouganville Reef. Captain Tony had spoiled us again bringing us to this pristine site, and it was evident just how lucky were to be out here as soon as we hit the water. The sheer walls grew up into a maze of channels and caverns that looked like an underwater city, dotted with gorgeous soft corals, Octopus, Green Sea Turtles and a large male Bullray. But the amazing structural geography of this site had most happy to just cruise around in awe of the beauty before their eyes. After some relaxation and lunch we kitted up again to dive at Corner Shop where we went deep down to the cleaning station to find a school of around 60 Barracuda, 30 Maori Wrasse and several Octopus. We went out in style with a massive and fantastic final dive at Anchors Away, yet another pristine site with 50m+ visibility and walls of every kind of soft and hard coral packed tightly onto the walls of one thousand meters of depth. The dive deck was alive with excitement and activity as everyone returned with smiles on their faces and ready to tell the world of the amazing trip they had just completed here on Spirit of Freedom.
A would like to extend a massive congratulations to Matthew and JL for completing there Nitrox courses, we have all watched your technique and skills underwater improve vastly over the last 3 days, and also to Maureen and Prashun for their first ever night dives., you should all be very proud of yourselves!
It has been an amazing trip out here on Spirit of Freedom for this Coral Sea Trip, my crew and I are privileged to say that we have seen the best that Osprey and the Coral Sea reefs have to offer and we are all very lucky to have been able to share this amazing part of the world with such great people. Best of luck in your future diving adventures, and we hope to see you again in the near future.
Twenty five explorers arrived at Spirit of Freedom early Monday morning in high spirits as the air of excitement consumed the boat. After a quick introduction to the crew and vessel, we departed Cairns bound for the local Saxon Reef. Upon arrival our divers geared up to enter the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the first time for many! White Tip reef sharks, Hawksbill and Greensea Turtles, a school of iridescent blue Fusiliers and Nudibranchs scattered across the gardens of coral just off the stern of Spirit of Freedom. Day turned into Dusk as divers entered the water again, witnessing the transition from day to night underwater. Upon returning to Spirit of Freedom ready for dinner cooked by our Chef Alex, we dropped lines and travelled through the night to the northern Ribbon Reefs, where the magic of the unknown awaited us.
Our divers awoke to the sun rising from the East over Ribbon Reef number ten as we collected our lines at the infamous Cod Hole. Diver after diver eagerly jumped into the water to find the Giant Potato Cod that gives this site its name and fame. Black Butterflyfish darted around beaneath the boat, Lionfish moved with regal grace amongst the soft corals and reef Sharks cruised past divers presenting themselves to those who had not yet seen them. The second dive- the Cod Feed- was what we were all here for. Divers had close-up and personal encounters with these magnificent fish as we moved around the circle to watch them gulp down their breakfast. Many returned to Spirit with excellent footage and photos, and definitely everyone returned with smiles and memories of this unique experience. We steamed over to Lighthouse Bommie for our third dive of the day, and onwards to Challenger Bay for the afternoon and night dives, a site teeming with marine life. Barracuda, Shark Mackeral, Fusiliers, Lionfish and families of Great Barrier Reef Anenome fish decorated the aquarium-like site. A big congratulations to Katy for taking the plunge to get back into the water to have an amazing dive, great job! After dinner the bravest of our divers dared to enter the dark waters to swim amongst the sharks stalking the night. Schools of Trevally and Red Bass surrounded the boat, with the reef sharks circling on the outer reaches of torchlight. A Moray eel free swimming between its coral homes, Loggerhead turtles sleeping beneath a cave, shrimps and crustaceans scurrying around lighting the water with their glowing red eyes.
Day three was upon us as we arrived at Pixie Gardens for a gorgeous morning dive. Little current and excellent visibility on the dive mirrored the almost glass-out conditions on the surface. Divers cruised past the soft coral walls filled with colour and a buzz of morning activity. Nudibranchs of all colours, shapes and sizes were found amongst the coral, Horned sea-stars and Feather stars, a Blue-spotted ray at rest in the sand, Coral and Leopard Trout and thousands of Glass fish hovering below looking like a sheer curtain. We moved just down the road to Pixie Pinnacle to circle around this picturesque Bommie. Mimic and Scrawled Filefish, Tritan Triggerfish, Black Spotted Pufferfish and Black Damsels were found amongst the schools of Trevally and a few stray reef Sharks circling in the blue. Dive three at Two Towers proved to be a big hit for many who were face to face with a large and very inquisitive Olive Seasnake who happily wound himself between the legs of some very surprised divers. A last and final dive at Snake Pit was the perfect way to end a perfect trip as divers applauded themselves and each other and jumped into the cooling waters of the Great Barrier Reef for the last time. A amongst the divers it was decided overall that this was the best dive of the trip, a fantastic note to end on. Two juvenile Devil-Rays cruised past several times, following divers through the coral system, a large Leopard shark, two huge Loggerhead Turtles and an impressive school of Bumphead Parrotfish. After the dive we headed into the sunset bound for the magnificent Lizard Island looming before us as everyone sat amongst their new-found friends enjoying the view and company, ready for the Australian Barbeque feast that awaited them. Tawny Nurse Sharks and Giant Trevally greeted us upon our arrival at Watson's Bay, as the Sun set on the last night of our Coral Sea Trip and we enjoyed the abundance of food and drink well into the night.
Congratulations to Lincoln for completing his Nitrox Course and to Susan for her 350th dive.
I would like to say that it has been our pleasure to host all of you amazing divers and people aboard Spirit of Freedom for the last 3 days, best of luck with your future diving explorations and until we meet again... DIVE TIME!!!
On Thursday morning, Dan, Rafaella, Carlos, Gelma, Alex, Tania, Deborah and Andrew waved goodbye to the departing group after the walk around Lizard Island as the planes descended with 17 new passengers. Soon out new passengers had boarded Spirit of Freedom and were introduced to the crew and the vessel. Dmitry, Anastasia and their daughter Sofia, Evgeny, Ryszard, Elzbieta, Vladmir and Natalya were soon donning their scuba gear for the first of the two afternoon dives at Pixie Gardens. Belinda and Jeremy buddied up and headed off along the reef wall to explore the coral gardens that were inundated with fish feeding on the nutrient particles floating in the water. The visibility was not the best but the amount of marine life made up for it with Grey Reef Sharks, Barracuda, a Queensland Grouper, big schools of Batfish and Trevally hunting along the wall. After dinner we secured Spirit of Freedom for an open ocean crossing and departed the Great Barrier Reef destined for the deep 1,000m walls of Osprey Reef.
The wind had picked up overnight as we travelled the 100 nautical miles across the Coral Sea but the clarity of the water was excellent and several large Grey Reef Sharks were cruising along the wall as Duncan and Dallas joined me for their first ever dive on the ‘bottomless' walls of Osprey. At our second site, Around The Bend, Deborah and Andrew, Joerg and Christine and Chris and Heather headed around the bend and out to the cleaning station at 32m where they were greeted by several large Tuna swimming along in the depths. Our second dive at ATB had a good current running along the wall so we loaded the tenders and dropped the divers off to drift back to the boat and explore The Grotto as they finished their safety stops. At Admiralty, the topography of the dive site was incredible with the coral forming huge cracks, canyons and swimthroughs with the Admiralty anchor hidden in the middle of one of the swimthroughs being a highlight for the divers while they explored with their torches. There were 5 large Grey Reef Sharks cruising under the boat was we returned from the massive coral head formations and made everyone very excited about the night dive. The night dive brought out some of the best of the reef life with the sharks hunting unsuspecting fish in the divers torchlight. Several people stopped and explored the canyons at night and found the green flashes of the flashlight fish appearing from the cracks.
Our second day at Osprey started with a trip to the northern most point of Osprey, the world famous North Horn. There was no current there so the divers dropped in from the side door and headed along the wall to find the field of massive soft corals growing from the top and disappearing into the depths well below us. The Grey Reef Sharks collected together at the tip of North Horn as we directed them into their spots in the natural auditorium for the Shark Feed. Once the cage was lowered into the water the sharks encircled it and followed it as it was pulled down and secured to the coral bommie at the front of the auditorium. Once the cage was opened the tuna heads rose up on the floats and the sharks went into a feeding frenzy, feasting on the tuna heads. There were too many sharks to count and even the Potato Cod got in on the action, lying right next to me as I pushed the final pieces of the tuna towards him and watched them get gulped down quickly before the sharks could notice. Our afternoon dives at Castles and The Gap were awesome with the massive coral formations offering huge features to swim around with the sand at Castles reaching the edge of the plateau and seeming to drip off the edge into the depths below. Joerg, Dallas and I explored the swimthroughs at The Gap while Cat and Jeff investigated the ridges in between the coral formations.
We departed Osprey in the early evening to traverse the 120 nautical miles back into the Great Barrier Reef and arrived at the world famous Steve's Bommie for our first two dives of the final day. The marine life at Steve's was epic as always with the schools of Blue Lined Snapper engulfing the divers as they spiralled around the 35m deep pinnacle of coral. Nudibranchs, Banded Boxer Shrimp, Flame File Shell and the Wobbygong Shark were all hidden amongst the coral and the divers immersed themselves in the clouds of anthias and fairy basslets adorning the shallower section of the pinnacle, searching every little hole for the glimpse of something unique. Our final two dives of the trip were in the beautiful coral gardens at Century Bay where Vlad nearly bumped into the huge Loggerhead Turtle that seems to resident in the area. During the break between dive 3 and 4, our wonderful hostess Kiri, challenged Duncan, Jeremy, Dallas and Jeff to eat a Weetbix within a minute with the promise of a free beer if anyone managed to complete the task. Needless to say the free glass of milk after the 60 seconds was up was nearly as welcome as no one managed to finish the whole weetbixbut Duncan only had the final 20 seconds of chewing to go and was by far the closest one to finishing!
Congratulations to Evgeny who completed his Nitrox course, in English, with me during the Coral Sea trip.... It's no mean feat to try and understand partial pressures, equivalent air depths and oxygen exposure at the best of times, let alone in a second language! Many thanks to our seven day passengers, Deborah and Andrew for the fun and games all week, Dan, Rafaella, Carlos, Gelma, Tania and Alex from Brazil and well done to Alex for joining his experienced dive buddies and diving some of the finest wall dives around!