Imagine a holiday where you wake up every day in a new remote location, and all you see for miles is crystal clear turquoise water. No, I am not talking about cruising, instead, I am giving you some insight into the type of holiday you can have on something called a “liveaboard”. And the added bonus of a liveaboard is, you can dive multiple times a day, every day!
For all you liveaboard newbies out there, we’ll give you the lowdown on what a liveaboard is and why you should book one, how to pick one, what to expect, and also show you that there are different types of liveaboards that offer more than just diving all day.
What is a liveaboard?
As the name suggests, a liveaboard is a boat you live on from a couple of days to a week or more, and your main purpose on the boat is to dive! Liveaboards are usually well equipped with sleeping quarters, bathrooms, a dive deck, kitchen and chill-out areas.
Why should you book one?
The key benefit of a liveaboard is that it allows you to get to those remote destinations that are not possible to reach on a day diving trip. Due to the remote location, this means that fewer people visit these dives sites, making them more pristine.
A liveaboard also makes diving easy. You wake up in the morning in a new location, your gear is already on the dive deck, and all you need to do is dive!
Remember though, the downside to being remote is, you are further away from medical attention, so be sure to buy travel insurance that covers divers. Check out our article on how to prepare for an overseas holiday where we share tips on what to look for with diver insurance.
How to pick a liveaboard
There are many things to consider when booking a liveaboard:
- Comfort level – there are very basic liveaboards to super-luxury liveaboards. You need to decide what comfort level is important to you, and what you are willing to pay. Luxuries like having a double bed and your own ensuite, though nice, are not necessary. That is unless you plan on spending lots of time in your room and not underwater.
- Cost – If you want to keep costs down, then look at sharing a room and bathroom. If you are a single diver, paying a single supplement is super expensive and sometimes not permitted.
- Wildlife permits – do the liveaboard you want to go on have the appropriate wildlife permits? Eg. If you are on a Minke Whale trip, does your liveaboard actually allow you to get in the water with the whales, or can you only view them from the boat?
- Inclusions – At first glance, it may seem you are getting a good deal for a liveaboard, but it may not include all costs. Does the liveaboard include all food and drinks? Does it include the reef tax? Is a guide included? Are any additional activities included in the cost?
- Safety & certification level – check that the dive operator is reputable, that their equipment is well maintained and that the liveaboard is suitable for your qualification and experience level.
What to expect
Liveaboard life varies from boat to boat, but these elements are fairly consistent with all the diving liveaboards that my husband and I have been on.
Before boarding the liveaboard:
You typically meet at the dive centre to drop off your luggage, get fitted for dive gear (if you didn’t bring your own) and prove your certification. You also need to let them know what type of air you will be diving on. We recommend diving with enriched air (if it is offered and you are certified).
On the liveaboard:
Once you’re on board, have been allocated your cabin and shown the dive deck, you must check that all of your luggage and dive gear has made it onto the boat
The boat travels to a new location overnight, and you are usually woken up early, e.g. 6 am for your first dive. You’ll head out to the dive deck, set up your dive equipment (note in Asia the equipment is usually set up for you), get geared up and split into diving groups. Note – you are split into groups based on your experience level. We like to try diving with different people, as some are better at finding marine life than others. Then you go off diving!
After the first dive, breakfast is served, meanwhile, the boat usually moves to a new location and the tanks are refilled. You are also free to shower/sleep/ relax until the next dive. This repeats for lunch and dinner and you can do up to 4 or 5 dives a day including night dives.
Dinner is the best time for any drinks (remember you can’t drink until your dives are done for the day) and liveaboards are really social, so it doesn’t matter if you are by yourself you will be sure to make new friends! At night there is everything from games, BBQs, parties, competitions and sharing of the day’s photos and videos. But most of the time, you will find that you want to get an early night, ready for the next day’s diving.
Types of liveaboards
While liveaboards are typically for those that love to do nothing else other than dive, the reality is, some people don’t love diving that much. So if you still want to enjoy the benefits of a liveaboard but are looking for some variety in activities, then you may want to consider one of the following types of liveaboards:
- Dive & spa – there is nothing more relaxing than going to the spa, and combining that with a scuba diving liveaboard sounds like a dream come true! The most famous dive and spa liveaboard is called ScubaSpa which cruises around the remote sites of the Maldives. If you are looking for luxury, then this is it, it even has a hot tub on board!
- Dive & kayak – when you want to explore both underneath and on top of the water, plus also get some exercise, then a dive and kayak liveaboard is for you. There are a few liveaboard options that offer this, with the most picturesque in Raja Ampat in Indonesia amongst the Thousand Temple Islets.
- Dive & fly – While we are taught not to dive then fly, some liveaboards, such as the Fly and Dive expedition on the Great Barrier Reef, allows you to not only enjoy the reef from below, but also from above, on a low-level flight. And trust us, the reef is just as magical from above.
- Dive & snorkel – Besides diving-only liveaboards, dive and snorkelling liveaboards are probably the next most common type of liveaboard. If you are keen to snorkel while on a liveaboard you’ll want to make sure the conditions are suited to snorkellers. For example, if the marine life is down at 30m and you are snorkelling, then you won’t see a thing. Check out Sail Ningaloo, in Ningaloo Reef, Australia, where the focus is on great snorkelling sites and shallow dives.
- Dive & surf – imagine not only finding remote reefs to dive on, but big waves to surf without crowds of people. The Maldives and Indonesia both offer multiple surfing liveaboards.
So now that you know a bit more about liveaboards, it’s up to you to decide if a liveaboard is for you. Will you choose a diving only liveaboard, or try one of the different types of liveaboards?
About the Author
Amanda Bolzan and her husband Dean Samuels have been certified divers since 2009. Amanda has her advanced open water and Dean is a dive master. They have travelled the world and dived many sites in Australia, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean.
Amanda and Dean have a travel blog called Scatabout which details the fun and unique experiences they have had on their world travels. You can find them doing something adventurous like scuba diving, hiking or something strange like running down the side of a building.
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