In this guide to liveaboard dive holidays we explore why we love the scuba diving boat life. We look at the many reasons to choose a liveaboard scuba diving holiday and factors you should consider before booking.
Why we love the scuba diving boat life
For many divers the quest to experience new waters, explore unknown dive sites and encounter increasingly diverse aquatic life, only increases with time and experience. Like travelling, the more you do, the more you want to do.
As you look to enhance your underwater experiences, it probably won’t be long before you start looking at liveaboards. The liveaboard experience offers something different and more ‘divey’.
Liveaboards are, as you might imagine, boats that you live on. Liveaboard dive holidays usually last a week to 10 days. However you also get liveaboard trips for just a few days or two weeks or more.
Guide to liveaboard dive holidays
But is a liveaboard right for you? Here are some things you should consider about the scuba diving boat life.
Scuba diving ambition
Without a doubt, the number one reason we love liveaboards is the opportunity to dive at sites that we would otherwise never explore. Sulawesi in Indonesia, the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, and Australia’s Coral Sea are just a few examples.
From shore based holidays it often takes half a day to get to one or two dive sites and take another few hours to get back to shore. But if you are staying on the boat you can travel overnight and wake up at a new dive site each morning.
It might seem you are in the middle of nowhere. But beneath the surface you’ll discover less visited and relatively untouched underwater wonderlands.
There’s nothing more appealing than experiencing things most diver’s don’t get to see. Whether it’s big oceanic pelagics, seasonal migrations, matings or spawnings or to enjoy unspoilt coral gardens as far as the eye can see.
This is stuff that only happens out in the big blue. And it’s why we love the scuba diving boat life. Are you ready to join us?
Level of dive experience
You don’t need to have hundreds of dives and specialist qualifications under your belt to enjoy liveaboard dive holidays. But as they are quite an intensive diving experience, it does help if you are a confident and committed diver.
In particular you should have kept your skills and safety awareness up to date. Furthermore, many liveaboards will only take divers with an advanced certification or above.
This is because the dive sites visited are more challenging or prone to changing currents or conditions. Dive sites that are less easy to predict simply require better skills.
They don’t want to take a load of divers out to the middle of the ocean to find one less experienced diver struggles with the pace or conditions. This would spoil it for others, or potentially put them at risk. So please be honest about your capabilities.
That’s not to put you off though. Different boats and trips will be suitable for different levels of expertise including those recently qualified. So do your research.
Specialist scuba diving interests
Let’s be honest scuba diving can be a bit geeky. And if you want to go full scuba geek there is nothing better than a liveaboard. They are great for those who are looking to improve specific or specialist skills, or experience certain types of dive sites.
You can find liveaboards that offer amazing opportunities for underwater photography. Like macro diving, muck diving or want to see specific species? There are liveaboards for every interest.
Because of their focused and confined nature, liveaboards allow you to get your scuba-geek on with like-minded people. So choose carefully and you’ll be in good company. Which leads me on to the next point.
How sociable are you?
I have been on liveaboards where people have wanted to party until dawn, and others that where if you were up past 9pm it was a late night. At times I’ve travelled solo and others with very good buddies. I’ve made good new friends and discovered traits in people I detest. And that’s the rub.
You can never know what kind of group you’re going to be part of – even if you do have this wonderful common interest. You don’t have to be sociable if you don’t want to, but it certainly helps if you are.
But you will have to be tolerant to get the most out of liveaboard dive holidays. Other people won’t always pay you the same courtesy but be the better person and let it go – afterall you’ll be spending a lot of time with them.
This all sounds rather dramatic! However 98% of the time it’s absolutely fine as everyone is delighted to be there enjoying the diving. Good operators are also expert at picking up various nuances and annoyances and managing situations should they arise.
If you don’t like meeting new people, or easily fall out if they don’t share your opinion, then face facts. Spending an intensive amount of time in a confined space with strangers probably isn’t for you.
The liveaboard boat
Choosing your boat is very important. Size, facilities, cabin space, food, crew and reputation are all things to consider. I don’t like sharing cabins with people I don’t know. Or bathrooms.
Crew and safety are also a biggie for me. I need to trust the vessel that’s going to be my home and the people who will be running it. They become like family for a week of what is a relatively dangerous pursuit.
Safety, cleanliness and comfort aside, I’m going to be choosing my trip based on the itinerary and dive locations. Obviously, it’s up to you in terms of your priorities. But again, take time to do your research.
Some liveaboards are proper scuba geek havens. They are relatively pared back, full of books, equipment, with group dinner on the deck.
Others are like gin palaces. Massive luxury cruisers that have bars, entertainment areas, jacuzzis and their own submersibles.
Naturally the price tags are equivalent, so be realistic about aspirations and expectations. Which leads nicely into my concluding point of this guide to liveaboard dive holidays.
Costs and value
The costs of liveaboards range enormously as you might imagine. It’s just like looking at holidays, but with more specialist stuff.
A 7-day liveaboard on a mid-range vessel could be in the region of £1500 plus flights (the Maldives in this example). But you might do up to four dives a day with your gear and tanks included. Plus your food and drinks (often not alcohol) and accommodation are all part of the cost.
You can do trips for less and naturally, for a lot more. I’ve seen packages from around £400 to more than £4000!
I believe value is based on expectation in conjunction with ultimate delivery, service and satisfaction. To date, I’ve never been on a liveaboard I didn’t think was good value. But the gin palace awaits!
We hope you enjoyed this guide to liveaboard dive holidays. If you love the scuba diving boat life as much as us then check out our dive holiday discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.