Liveaboard diving is considered by many experienced divers the best way to enjoy dive vacations. Sometimes jumping aboard a dive safari is the only way to reach remote areas like Cocos Islands in Costa Rica or the Similan Islands in Thailand. Other times, dive charters allow you to explore vast areas and dive different parts of a country, like in the Maldives or in Raja Ampat.
It can be called liveaboard, dive safari or dive charter, but what is it exactly? A liveaboard is a scuba diving purposely-build boat, or an adapted existing vessel that offers diving trips that usually last longer than one night. The average duration is 7 nights but you can find both shorter and longer trips. Usually the dive boats host between 12 and 30 divers but event here you can find both smaller and larger vessel. In most of the cases the diving, as well as the food and drinks, are included in the price of the trip and most of the liveaboards range between $1,000 to $2,000 per trip. The boats offer comfortable diving deck where you can prepare you equipment and usually they have one, two or more tenders to take divers from and to the dive sites.
Not every dive destination is a liveaboard destination. In some countries, liveaboards simply don’t exist. In others, dive charters may not be the best option you have. This is a list of the best liveaboard destinations worldwide.
There are some reasons why experienced divers prefer to dive from a diving boat rather than staying at a land-based accommodation. Let’s go through them.
It wouldn’t be fair to just list all the positive parts of liveaboard diving. Of course, there are a couple of negatives as well.
Now that you know more about what you’re likely to find on a dive safari lets see what kind of boats are out there and which one to choose.
Known also as a powerboat or yacht, these are usually the most comfortable option. They give you the most living space per foot of boat length, and they tend to be more stable and fast. Good examples of this kind of boat are the Belize Aggressor III or the Aqua Cat.
These dive boats are usually the local, wooden ones. Gorgeous and stylish, they are great options especially when you sail in Asia. Even if the wood can get a bit noisy, the experience of diving from one of these sailing boats is memorable. Good examples of this kind of boat are the Indo Siren and the Cuan Law.
More than a type of boat, this is the way the service is handled. On these boutique liveaboards, you’ll get pampered like a king. Expect 5-star accommodation with gourmet food and personalized service. Good examples of this kind of boat are the Majestic Explorer and the Scubaspa Yang.
Many liveaboards around the world are owned and operated by independent providers, but there are some fleets that have boats spread around the globe. These boats are owned by the corporation or franchised by an independent operator. The benefit of choosing one of these fleet ships is that you’re likely to get the same standard of service and safety around the world. On the other hand, picking a local provider could give you the level of personalisation and new adventure you were looking for.
This is definitely the most famous liveaboard fleet out there. Operating for more than 30 years and serving in more than 30 destinations worldwide, the Aggressor Fleet is a safe bet for your next liveaboard vacation.
While many liveaboard operators will provide you with a packing list upon confirmation, there are a few must-pack items. Here are our suggestions:
Don’t overpack! Space can be at a premium on liveaboards and airlines are charging more baggage fees than ever. Here is what you shouldn’t bring:
Many liveaboards have two options. You can pay the single supplement and have a private cabin. Or you can ask the liveaboard operator to pair you with another single diver so that you don’t have to pay the additional fee.
It depends on the boat. Many liveaboards now feature en-suite bathrooms, but some of the more budget options have communal bathrooms.
Most liveaboard boats have a small safety deposit box that guests can use. However, don’t expect to store larger items.
Again, this depends on the boats. Most liveaboards utilize small dive tenders to make diving easier and to protect vulnerable marine environments.
However, some liveaboards are small enough that it’s easy to just jump right in without worrying about boarding a second boat.
Tipping is never required, but most liveaboards encourage the practice. It’s common to give a tip of 5-10% of the liveaboard price at the end of the trip.
In short, yes. If you know you are prone to seasickness, it’s a good idea to carry medicine for any boat journey.
Yes, many liveaboards offer a range of courses. Just be sure to book this ahead of departure and bring along proof of your previous certifications.
Most liveaboards serve a variety of freshly prepared meals to reflect both Western and local cuisines. You can expect buffets, table service and snacks between dives.
Let your liveaboard operator know in advance so that they can prepare for your needs.
This depends on the liveaboard. Some include a full range of alcohol while others only offer a limited selection of beer and wine. Other boats don’t include any alcohol in the price.