Fifteen Days in Australia
A Trip to Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, and Diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea
- United Global First Class Lounges – Washington-Dulles and Los Angeles
- United Global First Class Los Angeles to Sydney
- Sydney: Days One and Two (Arrival, Walking Tour, Manly Beach, and Darling Harbour)
- Sydney: Days Three and Four (Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, Bondi Beach, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Woolloomooloo, and the Sydney Fish Market)
- New Year’s Eve at Sydney Harbour
- Virgin Australia Economy Class Sydney to Brisbane to Cairns
- An Evening in Cairns and a Flight to Lizard Island, AU
- Spirit of Freedom Live-aboard Dive Trip (4-night Coral Sea and GBR)
- Qantas Economy and Business Class Cairns to Sydney to Melbourne
- Two Days in Melbourne and the Park Hyatt Melbourne
- United Global First Class Sydney to San Francisco
Spirit of Freedom
We were greeted in Lizard Island by Captain Tony and the Spirit of Freedom crew. After a short walk to the northern beach, we boarded a dinghy in crystal clear water and motored off to the mothership! After a thorough introduction and safety presentation, we were shown our rooms. Since it was all that was available at the time we booked, my dad and I shared a quad room with four bunks and a bathroom. It was exactly what we expected, and all we needed during the trip.
The boat itself is basically a three-story yacht configured to make it a diving vessel. As such, there’s 1/3 of a deck fully dedicated to SCUBA diving operations — equipment setup, tank filling, storage, etc. Inside from the dive deck is kitchen and dining room where we enjoyed the wonderful meals aboard Spirit of Freedom. Further forward on the same deck is the main lounge on the boat, which featured a huge sofa, a bar, and television – it was really a great place to relax between dives. Six of the cabins were located a deck lower, and a few were on the top deck, just forward of the good-sized sun-deck and aft of the bridge.
Spirit of Freedom certainly delivered on the promise of world-class diving. Over the four days, we enjoyed no less than fifteen dives! Yes, 15!
On the day of arrival, we enjoyed two afternoon dives on Ribbon Reef number 9 on the Great Barrier Reef. These dives featured incredible corals and marine life, including a school of barracuda and a large hammerhead shark!Disclaimer: The below diving pictures from this trip were compiled by the guests and crew of this dive trip on the Spirit of Freedom from 02 January to 06 January, 2014 — I unfortunately did not take these pictures
Overnight, we steamed over a hundred miles out into the Coral Sea to Osprey Reef – an atoll basically in the middle of nowhere — certainly not a commonly dived part of the world. The water here was so clear, it was breathtaking. Visibility was upwards of 200 feet, and was some of the clearest water I’ve experienced anywhere — including the notoriously crystal clear freshwater of the Florida Springs.
We dived five times on the second day of the trip. The first two dives were on the North Horn. The second dive was a shark feeding dive, where a box of bait was essentially lowered on to the reef in the middle of about 30-40 sharks.
A feeding frenzy ensued. And it was awesome.
That afternoon, we took in two more dives on Osprey Reef, including “Secret Caves” and “Admiralty” – both dives were complete with a network of tunnels and caves, which were some of my favorite dives of the trip. After dinner, we enjoyed a night dive of Admiralty, and it was purely spectacular.
The next day, we steamed South to Shark Reef, where we saw an abundance of Silvertip Sharks an unbelievably clear water. Later in the day, we dove Vema Reef and then returned to the southern tip of Osprey Reef for the final dive of the day at “Rapid Horn” which was probably the best dive of the entire trip due to the impressive wall, abundant sea life, and sheer number of large sharks. The final day was spent at Bouganville Reef for a fourth day of spectacular diving. That final day, diving ended a bit early so we could cruise back to Cairns, where we disembarked on the morning of January 6th.
The food was outstanding. It was far better than I expected, and was frankly better than almost any cruise I’ve ever been on. The presentation and taste of every meal was top-notch. Every day, we were woken up at 6:30am for a light breakfast before our first dive. This was usually a continental affair featuring cereals, muffins, yogurts, juices and coffee. We then proceeded to do our first dive of the day. Upon finishing the first dive, we returned to the dive boat with the aroma of a freshly cooked breakfast greeting us as we walked inside. This was a hot breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, and a variety of other goodies. Lunch was usually quite elaborate, and featured a wide range of cuisines throughout the trip. Dinner was alway a treat, as the staff served us course by course with some delicious meals ranging from beef tenderloin to chicken to a wonderful fish dish. The final night of the trip was highlighted by an on-deck barbecue with chicken, steak, sausage, and kangaroo, along with delicious sides — it was just amazing having the meal on deck in the middle of the Coral Sea. There was PLENTY to eat, and all the food was just first-rate.
Simply fantastic. They bent over backwards for us all week. The trip director, Nic led an amazing lot of dives, and provided excellent dive briefings before every dive, and summaries of the day every evening. Hostess Jill and the team really couldn’t do enough for us all week — everything we needed was taken care of. The crew was really as good as it gets!
I really can’t say enough about our time on the Spirit of Freedom. It was a SCUBA diver’s dream — plain and simple.
The diving was some of the best in the world. The vessel was a world-class live aboard ship. The crew couldn’t have been any better. The food was borderline gourmet. Everything exceeded our wildest expectations. We really viewed this as THE highlight of our entire Australia experience. I really couldn’t have thought up a better way to spend some great quality time with my dad than this.
Though the Spirit of Freedom is priced a bit higher than some of its competitors, I can say that you get what you pay for. Pricing information can be found on the Spirit of Freedom website, here. I highly recommend this trip to all divers — it’s certainly a bucket list-type trip!
How I Booked it…
No points or miles here! I sent in a reservation request on the website and finalized the details via e-mail with the Spirit of Freedom staff…