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Liveaboard Scuba Diving, What You Need To Know

Taking a Liveaboard scuba diving trip is the dream vacation for many divers. It represents a 100% focus on your diving and allows you to share that focus with a number of other divers. Deciding to take a liveaboard dive vacation is a major decision for many divers. Liveaboards were mentioned in the Dive Vacation Planning article of the beginner’s guide as a potential dive vacation. While that article broached the topic there is a greater “depth” to the topic.

When you are looking at taking a liveaboard and starting the process of selecting one there are a few things that you need to consider. While some of these are interrelated these are some of the key items:

  • Experience level
  • Expectations
  • Your Budget
  • Your Desired Location

Experience Level

One of the first concerns that a diver may have is experience level. Two other articles posted here on this website gives some examples of the extremes of this. In the article, Cairns Liveaboards, Not Just for Experts , the discussion is on learning to dive in Cairns on a liveaboard. One of the dive shops mention in that article is Pro Dive and they have been recognized for having more than 150,000 certifications. While not all of those were on liveaboards, it does show they know what they are doing and it shows that even beginners can stay on a liveaboard.

The article on diving in remote locations highlights three locations that are only for experts. Liveaboards in the Galapagos Islands generally require being certified as an advance diver and having logged over 50 dives. Evaluate honestly your experience level and if you are a fairly new diver seek the advice of a dive professional or a very experience diver as too what within your skill levels. Also consider if you would consider taking additional training either before or during the trip.

I recently saw a post on a message board where a diver was seeking advise on locating a liveaboard. He was looking for one to take him and his three friends to the Galapagos Islands because they wanted to dive Wolf and Darwin Islands. The diver also stated he wanted a liveaboard without the “ridiculous” requirement of fifty log dives. He stated that his friends and him were ready for the trip, however they all had less that a dozen dives after certification. Many consider the dives around Wolf and Darwin as the most adventurous dives available to advance recreational divers. Needless to say the replies he received were not all kind.

What Are Your Expectations?

Make yourself a checklist of what you expect from your vacation. List must haves and nice to have features. Doing so may reveal that a liveaboard will meet your dive expectations but be a utter disappointment in other must have goals. Going to a different restaurant or disco each night is not an option you will find on a liveaboard.

One of the items that you really need to focus on is your stateroom and onboard requirements. While cabins that are so small you need to step into the hall to change your mind are becoming things of the past, there are some liveaboards that still fit that mindset. Think about hotel rooms you may have stayed in before, what was acceptable to you and what was not. How much deck space is there and how important is it to you?

liveaboard diving the red sea
Liveaboard Diving the Red Sea photograph by Richard Peck

Your Vacation Budget

The cost of your liveaboard scuba diving vacation is going to depend mostly on two factors. The location and the level of luxury of the liveaboard. Location wise, If you are in Europe, the best value for you may be Egypt. Currently there are some safety and security concerns, however, the Red Sea has always been a good value destination. Almost all of the Red Sea Liveaboards are below $150 a day with the majority below $100 and a few below $80. Many of these are luxury liveaboards. In other parts of the world both Thailand and Bahamas will be available for under $200 a day. The Galapagos Islands will find the average liveaboards closer to $500 a night and topping out over $750 a night. You need to remember when you make your budget consideration the airfare and other travel expenses to get to and from the liveaboard. Also remember that almost all of your expenses on a liveaboard are upfront. Food and diving is included.

Most liveaboards are comfortable and in many cases the mid-range priced liveaboards for a given destination will be more luxurious than the diver is accustom too.

Your Desired Location

It is your vacation so you should be able to go where you want. The experience level may take a few destinations out of consideration, and the budget might also reduce the potential destinations. However, it is likely there will be more than one destination that can fit both your budget and skill level.

Look at the destinations that are remaining and evaluate which ones do you want to visit and dive. Given them a ranking and start exploring the destinations to find what dive areas you may wish to see. Read reviews of destinations and look at the liveaboards that sail in the locations that interest you the most.

Selecting Your Liveaboard Scuba Diving Vacation

Use the parameters you have already examined and start looking at individual liveaboards that meet your desires. There are a number of websites now that provide peer reviews so it is somewhat easier to find a match for what you are looking for. Remember that each individual has their own viewpoint and sometimes a writer may have a grudge that has nothing to do what the review is really about. Also in some cases friends might post fake positive reviews. So look for patterns. If you have questions get in contact with the liveaboard and ask questions.

Most of the liveaboard websites will have information about the dive sites they normally dive. Look for information online about those sites, do they seem within your experience level and what you want from your diving. The websites will generally have images and maybe even videos of the ship and the living areas. Check them out and see if you think they will meet your expectations. Many of the liveaboards have even posted menus so you can judge if the food is the type that you will eat.

The dive deck is very important, so look at the website for clues on how it is laid out. Check if Nitrox is available if you are qualified for it and if it is, is there an extra charge.

Read the fine print of what is and what is not included. Extra charges can add up. Dive computer are mandatory on many liveaboards, so if you do not have one that a great “excuse” to buy one. A rental will be near the price of buying one. Also dive insurance including evacuation coverage is mandatory on most boats. It is something you should have anyway.

With proper planning any diver can find a liveaboard that will fit their style.

Charles Davis
Charles Davis
Charles Davis is an active diver for over 19 years who enjoys writing about his favorite activities, Scuba Diving and Travel. Also known as the Scuba Diving Nomad