Whether you’re thinking about your next scuba diving safari or have never been on one before and want to know more, this article should help you to think about how best to choose the perfect dive boat to suit your needs. Scuba dive travel is a growing business as it becomes more affordable and accessible. However, everyone has their own order of ‘What’s most important?’ out of factors such as budget, boat facilities, and where, when & for how long the diving cruise will take place. Many would agree that the following list is a summary of the most popular factors when selecting the best dive liveaboard boat. The correct order of the list depends on each indivicual.
- Boat Facilities
- Cabin Comfort
- Best Time to Dive
- On-Board Dive Courses
- Diving Facilities
- Crew & Staff
- Food & Beverages
Price is an important factor when buying any luxury goods or services. Scuba diving is becoming more affordable, but at the end of the day it’s not cheap to breathe air underwater while looking at fish. Liveaboard diving cruises offer full-board accommodation in & around holiday destinations. And once on board, the guests have no option to ‘shop around’ for better value. Some people save up all year or longer to pay for their scuba diving safari, and how much everything will cost is often the most important factor when choosing which dive boat or operator best suits their needs. For the vast majority, liveaboard scuba diving trips are a luxury, and price affects decision making.
The destination of scuba diving adventures is also a crucial aspect to ensure that the dive cruise is enjoyable & safe. Not only which country or part of the world to visit, but also which dive sites. Novice and inexperienced scuba divers are easily pleased with lots of colour and marine life, but more experienced divers often have a preference about what kind of things they want to see, as well as the sea conditions, such as visibility, depth & currents. Choosing the destination of your next dive liveaboard needs careful thought regarding what’s best for those who will join the cruise. Thailand’s Similan Islands and The Maldives are great diving destinations for all levels of scuba diver to go on a Similan Islands liveaboard or Maldives liveaboard. Also, scuba cruises vary in length from 2 days & 1 night to up to two weeks or more. In The Similans, 4D/4N is most popular, but in The Maldives & Indonesia, most trips are at least one week in length.
Boat facilities include safety, comfort & convenience for all on board. These can be things like air-conditioned indoor communal areas, large sundecks, dive platforms, Wi-Fi and even on-board Jacuzzis. No two boats are the same, and it is well worth researching what each offers before making your choice. Plenty of space indoors & out enables guests to find privacy. Air-conditioned lounge & dining areas are not always found on the less expensive trips, although almost all have air-conditioned guest cabins. Living aboard a boat involves several sacrifices, and after just one day on board guests often feel that certain ‘creature comforts’ are indeed necessary. It is also worth bearing in mind that guests spend up to 20 hours per day of each liveaboard cruise.
For some, cabin comfort is THE most important factor when choosing a boat to live on. While air-conditioning is regarded as standard, it is not guaranteed on mid-range & budget liveaboard safaris in certain parts of the world. In-cabin TV, private bathrooms & even large windows are seen as luxuries more than ‘the norm.’ The best dive liveaboard boats have large suite cabins, with bathtubs & sofas.
The best time to dive is determined by the sea & weather conditions as well as the marine life likely to be seen. It’s no good taking the best dive boat to the best places if the seas are rough or the diving conditions not suitable. Each diving area around the world has a high season when the sea and/or weather conditions coincide with abundant marine life, and therefore provide the best diving conditions. Of course, some divers are prepared to accept more challenging conditions for the reward of particular types of fish, while others may prefer comfortable diving with lots of less exciting creatures to see.
Many guests take part in on-board diving courses to further their diving experience, ability or knowledge. It is commonly agreed that a liveaboard dive boat cruise is the perfect opportunity to take a dive course. Up to 4 dives per day, surrounded by like-minded others, and very few non-diving distractions is the perfect environment. While most diving liveaboards offer a range of on-board courses, it’s important to check what’s available and at what price before you book.
Diving facilities include things like Nitrox enriched air, rebreather diving, a good selection of diving gear for hire, and rinse tanks for cameras. Also, although it’s not seen as something guests talk about before a cruise, the diving platform of each dive boat is something that the owners talk about and are proud of. A bad dive platform is remembered for the wrong reasons, while a good one may not be mentioned. Some boats use tender dinghies to transport divers to and from each dive site. Let’s not forget that the main reason for joining a dive liveaboard cruise is to enjoy the diving time.
The crew & staff of a liveaboard diving boat can make all the difference between a dream diving holiday and an unpleasant time trapped at sea. How friendly and enthusiastic the team are is difficult to research prior to a trip, but it is worth checking how many crew and dive professionals are to be expected. For example, those who are used to diving in Thailand may be surprised by the low number of dive staff on a liveaboard cruise in Egypt or The Maldives, where employers face different or more restrictions when hiring staff.
Of course, the itinerary is certainly something to consider, too. Most liveaboard diving itineraries include as much diving as possible, and this can be up to four or even five dives per day. However, some waste time sailing long distances from one area to another, while others include beach visits maybe to visit Komodo Dragons or local tribes. Some offer other activities such as kayaking or fishing. The first and last days of a diving safari may include a lot of travelling and maybe no diving at all. It is important to check first in order to know what to expect when you turn up ready for your scuba diving cruise.
Finally, good food & beverages are vital to ensure that any scuba diving cruise is enjoyable. Diving makes us hungry & thirsty, and with no local restaurants, bars, or shops to visit, dive guests depend on what they’re served on board. The type and quality of the food and drinks available is vital in keeping happy guests who are likely to pay a good tip, recommend to friends, or even book the same trip again.
Of course, everyone has his or her own order of preferences to choose the best dive boat, and may even include other factors not listed here. However, with our extensive experience from years of dealing with diving guests, we feel that the list is appropriate. Think about what’s most important to you, and enjoy researching for your next scuba diving vacation.