Have you ever dreamed of living and scuba diving right on top of one of the world’s best dive sites, starting the day by pulling on your wetsuit, slipping into your dive gear and dropping into the clear, warm ocean above a coral reef teeming with fish all waiting to wish you good morning?
This is the dream made real by liveaboard dive boats, which have been multiplying in recent years in response to demand from divers with busy lives who want to make the most of the leisure time they have.
There are options for all budgets, from dormitory accommodation to palatial private cabins, from canteen-style buffets to fine dining. You can share the deck with a couple of dozen other keen divers or scuba in style on an exclusive boutique luxury vessel with personal rinse tanks and dive valets to look after you and your gear. Some liveaboards offer weekend schedules; others extended voyages to really let you get away from it all.
What are the pros and cons of Liveaboard Scuba Diving?
The main advantages are that you get access to more remote and unspoilt places that see comparatively few divers and you can easily dive four or even five times a day.
The disadvantages are that you are living on a boat, which can be uncomfortable if sea conditions become rough. Your food options are limited and nightlife is usually non-existent. If you do not get on with your fellow travelers it is hard to escape but liveaboards are usually very convivial places full of like-minded, outgoing folk.
A Typical Liveaboard Day
You wake early, roused from your sleep by sunrise and the sound of activity. You throw on your swimsuit and a t-shirt and head for the galley for a snack to wake you up and give you energy and hydration for the first plunge of the day.
You greet your companions on the dive deck where your equipment is ready to go. You showed the crew how you like it set up on the first day and they are quick learners. During the trip, your dive gear lives permanently in the space allocated to you. Your wetsuit hangs nearby although you will be diving so frequently it will never get really dry! On some boats you gear up fully on deck and jump straight in; other liveaboards use small boats called tenders to take you back and forth to the sites.
Breakfast follows the first dive and from there the day progresses in a sequence of rest – dive – eat – rest – dive – eat until you fall into bed and are rocked to sleep by the sea.
Every boat has a sunbathing area, shaded deck space and a communal lounge where there might be a Scrabble game going on or someone running through their photos from the last dive. If you want some privacy, you can retreat to your cabin, which on most boats is a shared twin room with bunks or single beds. If you are traveling alone you may find yourself sharing with a stranger, usually of the same sex. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You may find you have made a buddy for life!
There are fresh water showers on deck and usually in the cabins but expect hot water to be in short supply. Think of it as a wonderful surprise if you get some and use it sparingly as you may not be the most popular person on board if you are the only one that got to enjoy it!
Tips for Liveaboard Trips for Scuba Divers
Join a pool session or a local dive. Run an in-water check on your equipment before you go. If you find problems get them fixed and then go back in the water and check everything again before you leave.
Pack light: liveaboard life is very informal. Take a few T-shirts and pairs of shorts, a sarong or two and a sweatshirt for the cool evenings at sea. Don’t bring shoes apart from those you wear to travel; you will go barefoot on board and can use your dive booties for any beach walking.
Be prepared with: –
- Multiple surface signalling devices such as a torch, a noisemaker and a tall, brightly coloured safety sausage
- A small spares kit containing mask strap, regulator mouthpiece and two fin straps, (as they both tend to break at the same time!)
- A personal medical kit containing anti-motion-sickness pills, patches or wristbands; eardrops; antibiotic ointment for coral cuts and hydrocortisone cream for hydroid stings.
Warning: liveaboard diving can be very addictive!
Simon is the best-selling author of Scuba Confidential – An Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Better Diver and Scuba Professional – Insights into Scuba Diver Training & Operations. Both books are available from Oceanic Ventures. Simon has also just published a new book for divers-to-be and absolute beginners called Scuba Fundamental – Start Diving the Right Way.