Beyond the Reef
Australia Mike Ball Dive Expeditions: Spoilsport
Mike Ball's resumé reads like a history of scuba innovation. He was co-inventor of the dive skin (known as a "stinger suit" in Oz), the first operator in the world to use a twin-hulled dive vessel and the initiator of the Safe Solo Diving Program (a forerunner of today's technical certifications). It's little wonder that, in 2004, he joined the likes of Hans Hass and Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.
So what does an innovator do after all that? He keeps innovating. In addition to offering a photo competition on every expedition, including its Coral Sea/Cod Hole itinerary a tradition began in 2005 Mike Ball Dive Expeditions keeps adding features aimed at helping underwater photographers get their dream images. In addition to solo diving, experienced and properly equipped divers can do deep dives to technical depths, and rebreather support, currently available upon advance request, is slated to become a regular offering in 2009.
As Mike Ball puts it: "Think of it as a ski run. If you're a novice or you haven't done it in a while, we'll put a guide with you to not only show you everything, but to quickly get your skills up a level or two just like skiing with an instructor at a resort. But if you have the expertise and the equipment, we aren't going to make you jump through a lot of hoops to dive to the extent of your abilities."
This keeps novices from feeling overwhelmed, while allowing advanced divers to experience a true adventure.
Now operating out of Cairns, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions and Spoilsport hold an Advanced Ecotourism Certification through Australia's Nature and Ecotourism Accreditation Program, recognizing the company's commitment to the environment. Daily presentations are provided on the biology, ecology and geography of the Great Barrier Reef, and each year Spoilsport hosts researchers from James Cook University in Queensland; so these are expeditions in more than name only.
Spoilsport is a 110-foot, twin-hull luxury yacht with a 36-foot beam, carrying up to 28 passengers (20 average) in 13 cabins, served by a crew of 11. Nitrox is available, and rebreather support is available upon advance request. Diving is done both from Spoilsport and with the use of two support dinghies. There is a photo competition on every trip. For more information: sportdiver.com/mikeballexpeditions