Dive Boat: Nimrod Explorer
Operator: Explorer Ventures
Location: Outer Great Barrier Reef, Australia
See: Pictures from the diving
My rating: Five stars (out of five)
The crew on the Nimrod Explorer was wonderful. Everyone did a great job with what they were supposed to do, and I also felt they had a good grasp on the personality of the guests as well. This is important ... knowing when to goof off and when to be professional is the mark of good professionals!
Then, before every dive, we were given an additional briefing on the dive site, which included a sketch of the dive site, details as to what interesting fish and/or coral might be seen there, as well as a proposed dive plan. Every dive was given a 70 minute limit, returning with 50 bar of air. This is more than enough for any recreational diving. Most of us averaged dives between 45 and 60 minutes. Additionally, one or both of the dive masters was usually available for a guided tour of the dive site (this would depend, I would guess, on whether anyone on the boat is doing a dive course.)
The dive crew also stressed good reef ecology at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. I was happy to hear this, even though I felt that all of us guests had a pretty good idea of what to do and what not to do anyway. When we did encounter some dwarf minke whales on the second and third mornings, we were given another briefing about the minke whales, what to do, what not to do.
Food and amenities
Petra was the hostess. She was in charge of keeping the place looking good, waking us up cheerfully every morning at 6:30 am (knock, knock, Wakey! Wakey! Time to dive!), and provide for any other little things not taken care of by the dive crew or the chef. She did a great job, especially with the little things. Two things of note were that the first night I found that my pillow was much too thick for my liking (sounds picky, I know), and I asked for a thinner one. She got one for me right away. The second was cuter. I always travel with a little bear (Mei), and every day when she made the beds, Petra would put Mei on top of one of the little pillows on the bed, making the bear look very regal. It always put a smile on my face when I walked into the room. All the big things (cleanliness, etc.) were taken care of so well, it was the little things that were also taken care of that got my attention (and yes, the first sheet of the toilet paper got folded over every day.)
Overall, the personality and integration of the crew was great. We were a relaxed bunch of guests, and they relaxed around us, and provided quite a bit of amusement, as the picture of them in the silly hats shows.
The Dive Sites
Overall, I enjoyed the selection of dive sites we went to. We ran into a patch of rough seas, and were unable to go out to the coral sea as planned, but that was most certainly a good decision by the captain as some of the swell within the reef was a bit extreme. It would have been awful outside the reef!
Our dive sites included bommies (pinnacles), walls, and coral gardens. We went to enough different places that I probably saw every single thing on my fish and coral identification chart, save dolphins and dugongs.
Sometimes it seemed like the dive sites were chosen at the last minute (one briefing even had to be redone because the dive site changed at the last minute.) While this may seem bad, I think it was just the captain trying to ensure that we had the best seas as possible for our diving. I don't think this would be as much of a concern outside of the winter season, however.