To practice for our whale expedition in Tonga, we decided to do a three night minke whale trip for Queen’s Birthday. Someone forgot to tell the whales, because they were nowhere to be found ! Still, we had three great days of diving on the reef.
We flew from Melbourne to Cairns, with a day buffer in case of flight issues. We stayed at the Hilton, which isn’t the cheapest option but the location can’t be beat. At 7am, we met the 22 other passengers, weighed all of our bags, and headed to the airport where we boarded three small planes for the one hour flight to Lizard Island.
We booked a premium cabin on Mike Ball’s Spoilsport, and were assigned to cabin #3 when we arrived. Even though we spent VERY little time in the cabin, it was nice to have the extra space. Not that there was a lot of space, just more than the smaller cabins. The air conditioning was sufficient, and there was plenty of hot water in the ensuite bathroom. Pictures of the cabins and boat layout can be viewed here.
The dive deck is organised well, but a tad too crowded (we’re totally spoiled though). There were dedicated rinse tanks and storage areas for cameras.
We had one rough night and one REALLY rough night – to the point where we flew into the air as the vessel plodded through waves. I started the trip with a half Kwells and was on a whole two times a day four days later. Historically, June has the least rain and the best vis. September / October looks like a good bet for future trips.
Each day started with a cheery wake-up shout from our expedition host Ollie. Those who wanted a light breakfast or coffee gathered upstairs before the dive briefing around 7am. The first dive was around 7:30 and was followed by a full breakfast. Then, we either stayed in the same location for the second dive, or moved on to a new spot. Lunch was served around 1, followed by an afternoon dive an hour or so later. A night dive was offered around 6 or 6:30, and dinner was usually served around 8.
This was a minke whale expedition, but the minkes did not cooperate. We did have some good dives in between searching for the elusive cetaceans. All dives were done from the boat, and you could chose to go with the group or go off on your own.
- Goggle Garden – Our first dive, some really colourful coral and lots of little reef fish.
- Cod Hole – Lived up to its name with several giant, friendly potato cod.
- Coral Garden – More lovely coral and lots of little reef fish (and a few sharks)
- Lighthouse Bommie – INSANE current. Only time I actually waved for the tender to come pick me up rather than swimming back to the boat.
- Steve’s Bommie – I sat this one out because I didn’t sleep the night before, but based on Andy’s photos, this was the best site of the trip.
Had we booked this as a three night dive trip on the reef, we would have been thrilled. But we had our hopes up for minkes, so we were a bit disappointed. I think this is the first time we’ve ever been skunked on a wildlife encounter ! That said, the crew was fabulous, and the food exceeded our expectations so we may have to give it another shot next winter, just later in the season 🙂