7 Nights - Minkes, Ribbons and Coral Sea Hosted by Mike Ball

2017 Departure date: 13 July.

26 Dives. Suits: Novices to Advanced Divers. Hosted by Mike Ball, this annual expedition combines the best of the Great Barrier Reef’s Ribbon Reefs with the plummeting walls of the Coral Sea and amazing encounters with special marine creatures including Minke Whales and Nautilus. Dive with Mike.

  • Dedicated time to find/be with the Minkes,
  • Prime Ribbon Reef sites,
  • Diver size fish at the Cod Hole,
  • Outstanding marine life biodiversity,
  • Plummeting Coral Sea wall dives in gin clear water,
  • Exciting shark action in the Coral Sea,
  • Catch and release dive with ancient Nautilus,
  • Superior vessel stability in adverse weather conditions.

Minke Whale Expeditions

A Mike Ball Dive Expeditions Minke Whale trip is much more than a ‘dive’ trip. Each passenger is able to partake in Minke Whale behaviour monitoring and research, attend lectures by trained crew on the ecology of the reef and discuss all facets of Minke Whale behaviour, biology and research with research volunteers.

What awaits you?

Since commencing Minke Whale Expeditions in 1996 we have had a 98% success rate. The largest pod seen was 28 whales, the longest encounter was 10 hours. Every day has a high probability of dwarf minke encounters. For more information, see our Dive Site Guarantee at the bottom of this page.

Cruising out of Cairns

As the sun sets over the coastal port city of Cairns, you’ll board Mike Ball’s Spoilsport to begin your epic diving adventure. Meet the crew, mingle with guests and settle into your cabin as you cruise northward overnight to the magnificent Ribbon Reefs, home to the migrating Minkes.

The turquoise chain of Ribbon Reefs

This 55 mile chain of reefs from Lizard Island to Cooktown is the most prized dive region of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: it is also where the Minke Whales migrate too each year, to breed and calve. This is where you can see more of the Great Barrier Reef’s 1,500 fish and 400 coral species than elsewhere.

Diver size fish at the Cod Hole and Cod Wall!

One of the Great Barrier Reefs most amazing phenomenons awaits at the Cod Hole. Swim with incredibly inquisitive ‘small diver size’ potato cod. Tidal currents ensure the coral growth here is very diverse. The Cod Hole’s Shark Alley is a great place to see sleeping white tips in the sand and the occasional grey reef shark.

Shallow but fantastic - Gotham City

One of the Ribbon Reefs most interesting sites is Gotham City, a sloping reef with large sandy patches. The biodiversity here is outstanding, rich with hard and soft corals and all the associated reef fish. Minke Whales are sometimes spotted here and this is a great night diving location.

Fairy Grotto - Coral Sea

Traveling overnight Friday, we venture northeast 75 miles beyond the Great Barrier Reef to the remote Coral Sea. Here we find plummeting walls in gin clear water. Fairy Grotto is a great introduction to Osprey Reef with lots of small caverns and swim throughs, and a wall that plummets away to 1,000 meters.

North Horn - Coral Sea

Exciting shark action in the Coral Sea! Your Osprey Reef adventure builds to a climax with a spectacular shark dive at North Horn. You will see 10-30 grey reef sharks, white-tip reef sharks as well as other species. You can photograph these sleek high order predators at close- range, or not so close, you choose!

Admiralty Anchor - Coral Sea – Nautilus Time

At Mike Ball we are committed to the ongoing protection and preservation of the marine environment. We proudly support several research initiatives, including the study of the ancient Nautilus being conducted by the Central Queensland University. This is your chance to get involved.

False Entrance - Coral Sea

Schooling trevally & barracuda in the Coral Sea! The dive at False Entrance is not to be missed. Colorful gorgonian fans, whips and soft corals flourish beneath the reef undercuts, while the tops are encrusted with hard corals. The resident schooling big eye trevally and barracudas make for a great photo opportunity.

Lighthouse Bommie – Ribbon Reefs

This is one of the best places to see dwarf Minke Whales! These are the smallest of the baleen whales. A fully developed adult is approx 7-9m (25-30ft) in length and 5-7 tonnes in weight. Sleek in appearance these whales have a white band on each fin.

Pixie Reef: Pixie Gardens & Vertical Gardens

Pixie Gardens are home to harlequin ghost pipefish, leafy scorpion fish and lace scorpion fish. Vertical Gardens is only accessible on a handful of days every year: this dive site is home to a herd of large green bump head parrotfish. More amazing Ribbon Reef diving.

Steve’s Bommie

On the final day, you will find yourself at one of the Great Barrier Reef’s best and most popular sites, Steve’s Bommie. This site is a photographers dream! It’s hard to put into the words the quantity and variety of Great Barrier Reef fish and corals that you will see here. A showcase of the best of the best.

Returning to Cairns

Disembark Thursday 8:00am at Trinity Wharf, Cairns.

Courtesy transfers are provided from the vessel to the Mike Ball office, inner city hotel locations and the Cairns Domestic and International Airports.

Dive Site Guarantee!

If we are not able to locate whales at our reliable sites, up to two hours at a time would be spent searching for whales further afield. If none are sighted, we will provide as many of the Ribbon Reef dives as possible..

Spoilsport’s outstanding stability minimizes disruption to your itinerary and your scuba diving experience. If weather forces an itinerary change we divert to the best, ‘safe, accessible sites’ to ensure you get the best scuba diving available. 9% of Coral Sea itineraries are diverted to the Great Barrier Reef.

Itinerary’s are subject to change, specific marine life cannot be guaranteed.

Photo Credits: Vanessa Mignon, Catherine Travers, Shea Callaghan, Brandon Cole and Mike Ball.

7 NIGHT EXPEDITION: 14 July 2016

Reef Tax $6.50/day
Fuel Levy $0

7 NIGHT EXPEDITION: 13 July 2017

Reef Tax $6.50/day
Fuel Levy $0

Openwater Referral (PADI)$245
Openwater Referral (non-PADI)$350
PADI Scuba Diver Upgrade$350
PADI Open Water Diver (3 Night Expeditions only)$395
PADI Advanced Diver$215
PADI Nitrox$325 or $200 Referral (incl 3 days free fills). NB referral is from shop (not elearning).
PADI Discover Scuba (Resort)1 free per day (conditions apply). Not available during Minke Season.
PADI Underwater Photography$250
PADI Underwater Naturalist$220
SDI Easy Nitrox$275 (incl 3 days free fills)
SDI Solo Diver$220
Photo Services
Camera Rentals & Extras
Canon G16$60/day
USB Stick - 16GB$15
Holiday Video & Photos
Standard Holiday Trip - DVD$80
Purchase of Second DVD$40
Personalized Holiday Trip - DVD$250 (Max 4 people)
Personal Holiday Photographs$100
Photo CD$50
Purchase of second photo CD$25
Hire Gear
Reg, Ocy, Gauges$15/day
Snorkel Gear$5/day
Safety Sausage (SMB)$10/trip
Cyalume Light Stick$2/each
Nautilus Lifeline GPSNo charge
All of the above$44/day
2L (13 cu.ft) Pony Bottle + Reg$15/day
15L (120 cu.ft) Steel Bottle$25/day
Nitrox Fills$75 for the 3 or 4 night/ $150 for a week
Extra Charges
Reef Tax$6.50/day
Sole OccupancyBerth cost + 70%
Fuel Levy - Standard Expeditions$0 (subject to change)
Fuel Levy - 7 Night Northern Reef Exploratories$44/pp (subject to change)
Yongala Environment Charge$13.55/day
Personal Dive Guides$250/day (+ berth cost for guide) or $50/dive.
Nitrox FillsSee below
Hire GearSee below
CoursesSee below
Photo ServicesSee below
Special Catering Admin Fee$30/trip
Bar and Ship Shop PurchasesVariable
Hire Gear - Sizes
BCDAqualung Wave x5 sizes.
FinsTechnisub Stratos (full foot) x6 sizes. We recommend wearing sturdy or neoprene socks with full foot fins.
Wetsuits5mm full length steamer. 6 male and 6 female sizes. Includes 3mm hood.
Non-diver10% (not applicable on Minke Whale expeditions)
Non-diving child (8-15 years)25%
Global Shark Diving5% (must quote card number)
Airline Staff5%
Dive Industry Staff$200.00
Agents / Media / ResearchersVariable discounts offered
Discounts are only accepted at time of booking and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Proof of employment is required.

Fitting extra small and extra large people can be difficult. Please bring your own equipment if concerned about fit. View Sizes chart


Sample itinerary, subject to change based on conditions.


  • Check in at our office (3 Abbott St, Cairns) between 8.30 am and 4.00 pm.
  • From 4.00 pm:  Make your own way to Mondos Café, Bar & Grill (200m from MBDE office) to meet your fellow passengers.  Please note that dinner is not provided on the first evening so you may wish to eat before boarding.
  • 5.50 pm: Our crew will lead you from Mondos to board Spoilsport.  Enjoy a glass of champagne and light snacks while your Trip Director provides a full briefing.
  • 6.00 pm:  Spoilsport departs Cairns
  • Time to organise any rental equipment and put your dive gear together on the dive deck.

Friday:  (4 dives + night dive)

This is a sample of a ‘typical day’, however exact times may vary to optimise the prevailing weather conditions on the day.

  • 6.30 am: Wakeup call, light breakfast available in dining room
  • 7:00 am: Dive brief & diving commences
  • 9.00 am: Full cooked Breakfast
  • 10.30 am: Dive brief & diving. “Open decks” accommodate 1-2 dives either am or pm
  • 2.00 pm: Lunch
  • 3.30 pm: Dive brief & diving
  • 4:30 pm: Afternoon Tea
  • 6:30 pm: Night dive brief & dive
  • 8:00 pm: Dinner

Sat – Tue:  (4 dives + night dive)

  • As per above

Wednesday: (4 dives)

  • As per above. Exit last dive 5pm.
  • As the sun sets we pour the champagne, lay out the nibbles and get ready for a final farewell party!
  • Overnight cruise to Cairns


  • 7.00 am:  Light breakfast
  • 8:00 am:  Disembark and courtesy transfer to Cairns inner city hotels, the airport or our office where we can store your luggage until 5pm if you have a later flight.


  • We recommend that you allow 24 hours between your last dive and your onward flight (all diving is finished by 5pm Wednesday).
Minkes, Biodiversity and Adventure Diving
Novice to Advanced divers
Thursday 6pm – Trinity Wharf, Cairns.
(Check-in before 4pm at the Mike Ball office).
Thursday 8am - Trinity Wharf, Cairns
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