There’s something exotic about waking up every morning in the middle of open waters, being guided to some of the most remote dive sites in the world, and launching on a worldly expedition that’s accompanied by travelers who are as fanatic about diving as you are.
This is essentially what it’s like to stay on a liveaboard.
Available throughout the globe, a liveaboard is a privately owned and operated vessel that hosts divers on week or two-week long trips to daily dive sites without ever, (or at least rarely), touching land.
Liveaboard vessels come in all sizes and styles, from luxurious yachts to schooners and houseboats, and can suit virtually all budgets, party sizes, and destinations.
It’s an enticing lifestyle, especially for divers who would prefer to be under the water more than on the surface, but there’s a lot to think about before taking the plunge.
What to Consider when Deciding If a Liveaboard Is for You
- Your Location – Some places on the globe are best accessed by a liveaboard – particularly clusters of islands that are miles away from the nearest continent, or regions that have tons of dive sites to explore, like the Galapagos, Truk Lagoon, Palau, and the Great Barrier Reef. Other destinations where shore diving is popular, like Curacao and its neighboring Caribbean islands, are better suited for resort stays.
- Your Accommodations Preference – Make no mistake, liveaboards are not for the claustrophobic. Not only will you be on a vessel that fits an average of 20 passengers or so, but the rooms are traditionally small – if you’ve been on a cruise ship, you know what I mean. If having lots of personal space to move is at the top of your list, then a diving resort may be a better fit, or you should consider ponying up for a deluxe suite – which, depending on the vessel, is a luxurious cabin that rivals any resort.
- Your Diving Dedication – While many liveaboards may make a couple stops at islands or ports of interest, allowing visitors to explore attractions on land, the vast majority of your time will be spent on board. Divers who’d rather enjoy a few days of exploring, relaxing, or just spending some time on a beach would be better accommodated at a resort.
- Your Traveling Style – Remember that on a liveaboard, the day’s schedule and sites are decided by the captain and / or the group. Travelers who like to have a lot of flexibility to dive where they want and when they want may have trouble adjusting to a vacation that’s somewhat pre-determined and out of their control. Go with the flow types, however, or divers who like to rely on more experienced divers and the captain’s expertise, will have a blast. And if you’re not up for a before pre-breakfast or an post-dinner dive, you certainly can opt out and enjoy the peace and quiet on the boat!
What to Keep in Mind When Planning a Liveaboard Trip
- Travel insurance Is a Must. Liveaboards are more susceptible to bad weather conditions than land-based resorts, meaning trips are more likely to be cancelled.
- Do your Research. The thousands of liveaboards in third world countries often aren’t as regulated as popular resorts are. Be sure and pick a liveaboard with a good reputation. Read other traveler reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor.com or do a Google search on a liveaboard trip you’re considering.
- Review the Itinerary. While most dive sites are chosen to cater to average diving abilities, check beforehand if you’re not confident about your skills. After all, if a problem arises, accessing a hospital or hyperbaric chamber will most likely require an air lift.
What to Pack for a Liveaboard Trip
- Sun protection – Sunburn is more likely due to the reflection off the water and unlike a regular half day on the water, you’re on the water from sunup to sundown.
- Two wet suits – So one can dry while you’re using the other on the daily dives.
- The little things you use in a week – Small items like Tylenol, laundry detergent, and ear plugs for light sleepers will come in handy.
- Reliable gear – Check out ScubaToys.com for everything you’ll need for the trip. You don’t want an equipment failure ruin your trip!
- Not much else – Keep the stylish clothes to a minimum but be sure to bring a light jacket, even if you’re in the tropics as it can feel much cooler on the water at night.
A liveaboard can be a dream for divers who want as much bottom time as possible in a single vacation. A definitive departure from the resort crowd, liveaboards are easily the most exotic and unique means to discover the globe’s best diving sites. Here’s some info about diving the Galapagos and the Great Barrier Reef via a liveaboard!
Is a Liveaboard Dive Trip For You?
A liveaboard dive trip offers optimum diving opportunities - usually more dives to more remote sites than land-based trips. Here's what you need to know.