The Coral Sea is a marginal region of the South Pacific, stretching from the Great Barrier Reef on the northeastern coast of Australia out to the islands of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. It is a region of plunging depths and seamounts rising steeply 6,560 feet (2,000 m) from the sea floor, attracting pelagics and affording excellent wall diving in 100 to 130 feet (30 to 40 m) of visibility. To dive the best of the remote Coral Sea you need to travel by liveaboard.
Mike Ball Dive Expeditions has been running trips out there since 1981. Mike’s boat, Spoilsport, is Australia’s most awarded liveaboard dive vessel. It’s a stable, twin-hull cat, custom-built for diving. There’s a spacious dive deck and comfortable twin/double cabins accommodate up to 28 passengers.
Mike’s been exploring various sections of the Coral Sea over the years and there are a few sites that stand out as favorites.
North Horn – Osprey Reef
Osprey is a submerged atoll, sitting some 37 miles (60 km) from other reefs. Nearly vertical walls rise from the deep, attracting plentiful sharks. Mike runs a controlled shark feed here that buzzes with up to 40 grey reef, whitetip reef and occasional silvertip sharks. It’s an exciting dive and afterwards, keen photographers can do a private shark photo-shoot dive with limited numbers of divers, ensuring fantastic, clean and up-close photos.
Crystal Plateau – Bougainville Reef
The reef descends to a spectacular terrace of hard corals at 65 to 98 feet (20 to 30 m) before edging over into an abyss hundreds of feet deep. Sea fans and colorful soft corals adorn the reef wall where sharks also patrol.
Dungeons and Dragons – Bougainville Reef
The reef top here is cut with an incredible maze of caves, tunnels and swim-throughs, making it an exciting place to search for fish and other critters. Venture beyond the shallows and you’ll find a wall descending to over 3,000 feet (1,000 m) where sharks and barracuda cruise out in the blue.
MV Antonio Tarabocchia – Bougainville Reef
This cargo ship struck the Reef in 1961. The scattered remains include a huge engine block and propeller which now lie on the gentle, sloping terraces of the reef. The clear water, strewn wreckage and abundant fish life, including a resident diver-size potato cod, make fantastic diving.
False Entrance – Osprey Reef
This site never disappoints with exciting fish action alongside colorful gorgonian fans, whips and soft corals. Resident barracuda and schooling bigeye trevally make for great photo opportunities. Keep an eye out for cruising hammerheads in the blue.