Coral Sea Dive Expeditions From Cairns

Scuba Dive The Coral Sea with Spirit Of Freedom Or The Mike Ball’s Spoilsport

The world has a new and the largest marine reserve being developed. The Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve is currently in a transition stage to full protection.

The reserve is the size of Great Britain, and France put together almost one million square kilometres. For scuba divers travelling beyond the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, this means greater protection for the famous Osprey and Bougainville reefs.

The Osprey Reef is the most frequently dived of the Coral Sea Reefs.

coral sea

That does not mean that it gets many divers, being about ten hours beyond the Great Barrier Reef. On average, there are only two recreational dive boats that visit the reef each week.

The Osprey Reef sits about 130 km from the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and rises from the Queensland Plateau that is 1,000 to 2,000 feet below sea level. The Osprey Reef is a mountain top of an undersea mountain range and in places reaches to the surface. The reef that has formed is an atoll that covers 348 km2.

The central lagoon is about 25 km long and over 8km at its widest point. It has a maximum depth of about 30 meters. However, many portions are less than 10 metres. The rim of the reef is around 500 metres wide and mostly just a few meters below the surface. Outside of the rim, divers will find a slope down to about 40 metres which then drops straight down.

On the rim, divers will find several tunnels and caves. Giant sea fans and large corals are abundant. The coral covering is astonishing. While the Great Barrier Reef has a coral covering that averages about 32%, the Osprey reef has a coral covering of over 56%. Osprey attracts pelagic fishes such as Giant Trevallies, Mackerel, Barracudas,  Rainbow Runners, and Tunas. Think of it as the only truck stop in 100 km. Everyone stops when they are in the area.

Sharks are also attracted to this reef.

There are such a variety of shark species that the reef is the premiere shark research location in the world. At the north horn of the reef, many dive operators conduct shark feeding. Because of the distance to other reefs, the Osprey Reef is considered its own ecosystem.

There are hundreds of species here that are unique, having developed differently from similar species on the Great Barrier Reef. Another attribute that divers are attracted to is that many of the species found on the reefs slopes are normally found in water too deep for divers. This gives the diver exposure to marine life that most marine biologists have never been able to see.

Getting To The Osprey Reef


While other vessels will visit the reef, only two Liveaboards make the trip on a frequent schedule. Those are the Spirit of Freedom and  Mike Ball’s Spoilsport. These vessels sail from Cairns on a seven-day schedule that splits into a three-day ribbon reef and a four-day Osprey Reef segment. The itineraries of the Spirit of Freedom is similar to the Spoilsport of Mike Ball’s Expedition. Both vessels visit the Osprey reef on the four-day segment. However, the Spoilsport does it between the Cairns departure and arriving at Lizard island, while the Spirit of Freedom does it after leaving the Lizard Island on the return to Cairns. The Spirit also stops in the outer reefs when it leaves Cairns while all the Spoilsport diving is further north.

Spirit Of Freedom Ship Information

Designed specifically to cruise the Coral Sea, The Spirit of Freedom is a steel hull 37 metres long 7.2-metre wide vessel. She can carry 26 guests in her 11 different cabins and sails with a crew of 10. 9 of her cabins are on the lower deck, while two are on the upper deck. The main deck has a dive deck, dining area and a lounge. The upper deck is both the bridge deck and the sun deck.

Mike Ball’s Spoilsport

The Spoilsport has 14 cabins, most with en-suite facilities. She is a 30-meter long twin-hull vessel.  The Spoilsport is an older vessel but one that was designed as a Liveaboard for these waters. She is very stable in the waters, both inside and outside the protection of the reef. For decades, Mike Ball has been setting the standard that other Liveaboards around the world are measured against