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A Beginner’s Guide to Liveaboard Diving – Read This Before You Go

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A Beginner's Guide to Liveaboard Diving – Read This Before You Go

If you’ve been hesitant about giving liveaboard diving a go, this guide with countless liveaboard tips is for you! For an unforgettable underwater adventure, liveaboard diving offers the perfect opportunity to explore beneath the sea’s surface. With various dive sites available in one vacation, it’s sure to be an exciting voyage.

From close encounters with enormous whale sharks to beautiful coral gardens, liveaboard diving offers a chance to make memories of a lifetime. This beginner’s guide will teach you all you need to know about liveaboard diving – including what to expect and how to choose a boat.

If you are looking for the best liveaboard destinations to add to your bucket list, have a look at our in-depth guide.

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What Is Liveaboard Diving?

A liveaboard vacation is an experience like no other. During your trip, you will eat, sleep, and relax on board a liveaboard vessel as it sails from one dive site to another.

The dedicated crew will care for your meals, comfort, security, and safety. This means you can simply sit back and enjoy the dives – without worrying about the logistics of getting from one dive site to another.

Why You Should Choose a Liveaboard

Even if you’re a beginner, the liveaboard experience is the best way to explore a range of dive sites easily. Let’s look at why you should choose a liveaboard for your next diving vacation.

Visit Multiple Dive Sites

Liveaboard vessels allow you to visit multiple dive sites in one trip. You can simply sit back and relax as the boat takes you from one destination to the next. This is especially great if you’re short on time and want to see as much of the ocean as possible.

Access Remote Locations

Some spectacular dive sites are only accessible by liveaboards. This is often due to their remote locations, making them impossible to get to on day trips. By choosing a liveaboard trip, you can dive into off-the-beaten locations and explore some beautiful, untouched reefs.

Pre-Planned For Your Convenience

Your chosen liveaboard will have a detailed plan, which includes the dive sites you will visit. This pre-planned itinerary eliminates any guesswork and ensures you visit the most spectacular locations.

The best liveaboard operators are managed by seasoned professionals who are well-versed in the local conditions, so you can trust that your trip will be unforgettable.

Save Money

We aren’t going to pretend that liveaboard vacations are cheap. But, when you price up accommodation, meals, transport, fees, and other costs – a liveaboard break can actually be more cost-effective than other options. Always shop around and research to get the best value for your money.

Also, you may often be able to get high discounts on last minute bookings. Check availability and prices at Liveaboard.com frequently to get a great deal.

Add to Your Dive Hours

Even as a beginner, you can benefit from the liveaboard experience by adding dive hours to your certification.

With multiple dives a day, you will quickly increase your dive hours, allowing you to progress faster in your training. Before you know it, you’ll be qualified enough to embark on more challenging dives in different parts of the world.

Make Friends With Other Dive Enthusiasts

Liveaboard trips are also an excellent opportunity to meet other like-minded divers from around the world.

You can share stories, compare notes and gain valuable tips from experienced divers. Diving is a great way to bond with people with the same interests as you – there’s no better way to learn than from those who have been there before.

What Can You Expect From a Liveaboard Trip?

We get it; liveaboard trips can seem daunting if you’re unsure what to expect. But don’t worry – here’s an overview of what you can expect during your trip:

What Can You Expect From a Liveaboard Trip?
What Can You Expect From a Liveaboard Trip?

Accommodation and Food

Most liveaboard vessels come with comfortable cabins and delicious meals. The crew will take care of your food and ensure you have a relaxing stay on board. The type of food and accommodation will depend on your chosen boat, but this is all clearly outlined before you book.

Safety Equipment

All liveaboards are equipped with safety equipment, such as life jackets, oxygen tanks, and first aid kits. This ensures that the crew can take any necessary safety measures during your trip.

Most liveaboards outline their complete safety and medical policies ahead of time, so you can have peace of mind before embarking.

Pre-Dive Briefings

Ideal for beginners on board a liveaboard, it is common for the dive crew to provide a pre-dive briefing before each dive. This ensures divers understand the dive plan and any potential underwater hazards.

During this time, the crew will also provide any necessary dive tips and tricks which you may find useful during the dive.

Downtime Between Dives

Depending on the dive site and time of day, there may be some downtime between dives. This is usually a great opportunity to relax and enjoy the views from the boat. You can also catch up on some sleep, snap some photos or recharge your camera.

You can also use this break between dives to get to know the other divers. You will be around strangers; the sooner you get to know them, the more comfortable you’ll feel. This is especially true if you’re on your own – you can make some lifelong friends here!

Certification Opportunities

Some liveaboards offer additional dive certification opportunities, such as nitrox and scuba diving courses. This is a good way to further your dive education and open up new diving opportunities. However, they are usually at an additional cost, and you may need to meet certain requirements first.

What Is Included in a Liveaboard Schedule?

One essential takeaway from this liveaboard diving guide is that you must always check the schedule of your chosen boat. This will help you understand what activities are included in the trip and any additional charges that may occur.

Each boat has its own itinerary, so every schedule will be different. Some ships may include additional activities, such as snorkeling and kayaking, whereas others may focus on diving. Regardless of how your day is planned, you must ensure you are punctual and always follow the instructions of your dive crew.

If you’re a liveaboard beginner, here is an example schedule to give you an idea of what to expect on board:

  • 6 am: Wake up
  • 6.30 am: Coffee/Snack
  • 7.30 am: 1st Dive
  • 9 am: Breakfast
  • 9.30 am: Downtime
  • 11.30 am: 2nd Dive
  • 1 pm: Lunch
  • 1.30 pm: Downtime
  • 3 pm: 3rd Dive
  • 4.30 pm: Downtime
  • 6.30 pm: Night dive
  • 8 pm: Dinner

This is a sample itinerary, so it should be noted that your exact schedule will depend on your chosen boat.

How to Choose a Liveaboard: For Beginners

Your chosen boat can make or break your liveaboard experience. That’s why it is crucial to research and carefully consider the options available before booking a trip. We each have personal preferences, so what looks good to someone else may not be the best option for you.

To help, we have included some liveaboard tips below – so you know what to look out for.

Points to Consider When Choosing a Liveaboard
Points to Consider When Choosing a Liveaboard

Read Reviews

Don’t just take the word of the boat operator; read the reviews of anyone who has traveled on board before. This is the best way to get an honest opinion of the boat, crew, and service. Checking reviews is invaluable and will help you pick out the best boat to suit your needs. You can find plenty of reviews for every liveaboard out there at Liveaboard.com.

Consider Your Budget

Liveaboards range in price, so you must consider your budget before booking a trip. All boats list the prices of their trips on their website or in their brochure, so you can quickly compare the costs of various trips.

Included Amenities

Do you want a luxurious vacation with a range of amenities included? Or is the main focus a great dive experience? When researching your options, considering what extras are included will help narrow your search. Some boats have hot tubs, bars, and other recreational activities, while others offer a more basic approach.

If you’re a nitrox diver, this is also the time to check if it is available on board. If so, is it free, or do you need to pay an additional fee? Liveaboards will usually highlight if they provide nitrox in the amenities list, so always look out for this when researching your options.

Gear Rental

If you are a beginner diver, you may need to rent some of the necessary gear for your trip. Some liveaboards will have a full range of rental gear, from tanks to regulators, so check this before booking. If the boat does not provide rental equipment, they should be able to give you some recommendations on what you will need.

We always recommend bringing an emergency signal device (DSMB) in case this is unavailable on board. Be sure to check out our complete packing list below!

Check the Itinerary

This is one of the most important liveaboard tips for beginners. Check your chosen boat’s website, brochure, or booking page to understand what the itinerary includes. Remember that additional charges may apply for certain activities, and look to see if meals are included.

Required Experience

Required experience goes hand in hand with the itinerary of each boat. Some dive sites are calm, easy, and ideal for beginners, whereas others are more challenging and require advanced certification. Some boats may require a certain level of experience before you board the ship, so it is important to double-check this.

Check the Duration of Trip

A liveaboard trip can range from a few days to a few weeks. Most excursions last for around a week, but this does depend on the location. The more remote the destination, the longer the trip will usually be.

Dive Insurance

Insurance is a must when it comes to liveaboard diving. Some boats do include dive insurance in their pricing, but if not – you must purchase your own. This will give you peace of mind and ensure you are covered if anything happens. It is often also a requirement for participating in liveaboard trips.

We recommend DiveAssurethe leading dive insurance with the most comprehensive Diving Accident and Dive Travel insurance plans. Get your dive insurance now and enjoy your scuba diving vacation without worries.

Crew to Diver Ratio

If it is your first liveaboard trip, you might want to go with a smaller boat. Fewer divers on board mean more attention from the Divemasters. This is especially important for beginner divers who need extra guidance and support.

Alternatively, if you find comfort in numbers – a larger boat could be the right fit for you!

Sleeping Conditions

Finally, you will need to consider the sleeping arrangements. Most boats offer a range of options, from shared cabins to private rooms. All boats have a limited number of cabins, esp. more luxurious cabins may often be limited to one or two depending on the size of the ship. You may also want to check if the cabins have air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms.

What to Pack for a Liveaboard Vacation

You might be going on vacation, but you won’t need a huge wardrobe on board! Pack light, bringing only what you need for your trip. Consider the weather and type of activities you will participate in and plan accordingly. If you want to rent gear or use nitrox tanks – always let the staff know in advance.

However, many divers do pack their own gear. It is much more cost-effective but can add a lot of weight to your luggage. Always check the airline carry-on rules and regulations so that you don’t run into any trouble. You can always mix and match rental gear and your own as needed.

Here is what we recommend packing for a liveaboard vacation:

Diving Gear

  • Wetsuit (suitable for the climate you’re visiting)
  • Base layers
  • Mask
  • Dive boots
  • Fins
  • Buoyancy control device (BCD)
  • Regulator incl. octopus
  • Surface marker buoy (DSMB or SMB)
  • Gloves and hood (depending on water temperature and local rules)
  • Dive computer or watch
  • Save a dive kit (spare parts, O-rings, and tools)
  • Dive lights/torch
  • Reef hook (for strong currents)
  • Underwater camera (with extra SD cards, charger, and battery)

Essential Documents

  • Passport
  • Travel documents (visas etc.)
  • Tickets (flights, excursions, transfers)
  • Transfer information
  • Dive log book
  • Certification cards (including nitrox, if owned)
  • Dive insurance

Clothing

  • A few changes of clothes (remember it can be colder on the boat than ashore)
  • Underwear and socks
  • Bathing suit
  • Hat
  • Towel (if not provided)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sleepwear
  • Jacket (depending on location)
  • Deck shoes (such as flip flops or sandals) – only if requested by the liveaboard operator. Usually, you take off your shoes once boarding the liveaboard and walk barefoot for the entirety of your trip!
  • Comfortable shoes (only for land excursions)
  • Themed outfit (some liveaboards have themed nights – check this before packing)

Personal Items

  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Medication (if required)
  • Sunscreen (if possible reef-safe sunscreen!)
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Menstrual products

Extra Items

  • Water bottle
  • Phone
  • Travel clothesline and pegs (to dry your gear/clothes)
  • Ear plugs
  • Money
  • Entertainment (books, cards, etc.)
  • Headphones
  • Charging cables
  • Snacks

Liveaboard Tips For Beginners

While we have covered the main points for liveaboard diving, there are many other factors to consider before booking. From packing the right clothing to understanding local customs and regulations, it is essential to plan ahead.

Here are some of our top liveaboard tips:

Be Flexible

Liveaboard diving trips can be unpredictable, so staying flexible and going with the flow is important. The boat may have to adjust its itinerary for many reasons, so be prepared for last-minute changes and understand that this is part of the adventure.

Stay Hydrated

Remember to stay hydrated on board. It is easy to forget this basic rule when you are busy diving and having fun, but it is incredibly important for your safety when out at sea.

Keep a reusable water bottle on hand and fill it up whenever possible. Aside from making you feel unwell, dehydration makes it more difficult to equalize and can lead to ear problems.

Take Motion Sickness Tablets

Even if you don’t need to use them, having motion sickness tablets on board is always a good idea. This will ensure you are prepared in case of rough seas and reduce the chance of feeling unwell during your trip.

Even if you are used to long boat rides – the unpredictable nature of the ocean can surprise even the most experienced seafarer.

Listen to the Crew

The crew onboard are experienced divers who know the area and its marine life exceptionally well. Even if this isn’t your first liveaboard vacation, each location will have different conditions and wildlife.

Pay attention to their advice and recommendations throughout your trip – they will have your best interests at heart!

Research the Area

Some locations have strict regulations and customs that you must be aware of. This can include not touching the coral, not taking souvenirs from the ocean, and understanding the protocols for marine life encounters. Take some time to research ahead of your trip and ensure you know what to expect.

Be Considerate

Remember, all wastewater onboard will be discharged into the ocean. This means you should be mindful of what you put down the drains and avoid pollution of any kind. Consider buying reef-safe sunscreen and toiletries where possible.

How to Choose a Liveaboard Destination

Finally, it’s time to choose your liveaboard destination. There is a wide range of locations available, and the best way to decide is by considering your budget, experience level, and personal preferences.

We have a complete liveaboard diving guide that covers some of the popular destinations around the world, but for reference – here are some beginner-approved locations:

  • The Red Sea: The Red Sea is considered one of the best locations for beginners, with warm and calm waters. This part of the world has an incredible array of wildlife and is especially known for its reef sharks and colorful corals. Most of the liveaboard trips depart from Egypt.
  • The Bahamas: With crystal clear waters, the Bahamas is an ideal spot for beginner divers. You can expect to see a wide variety of marine life, including turtles, eels, and even dolphins – making it a great choice for those who want to explore underwater life in comfort.
  • The Maldives: The Maldives is a tropical paradise with incredible coral and marine life. It’s perfect for wanting to see larger ocean creatures like manta rays, whale sharks, and sea turtles.
  • Thailand: There are many liveaboard diving trips available in Thailand, ranging from beginner to advanced. You can explore the Similan Islands or take a journey to the far south and see the majestic whale sharks.
  • The Philippines: The Philippines offers a variety of liveaboard trips, with something for everyone. With Tubbataha reef’s beautiful corals and Cebu’s whale sharks, you will have a brilliant time!

Even if your dream location isn’t listed here, you can always check the itinerary for a boat in that area.

FAQ

Should you tip the crew on a liveaboard?

Yes, if you have had a great experience, it is polite to tip the crew. However, it is not always expected. We highly recommend bringing cash, in the country’s local currency, on any liveaboard trip. This will cover any expenses during the trip and will also be helpful if you wish to show your appreciation with a tip. Most liveaboards actively express the expected tip – however, this is not a must.

Can I book a solo liveaboard trip?

One of the biggest safety concerns while diving is always ensuring you have a dive buddy. But if you are a solo traveler, there are still plenty of options open to you! You will then be paired with another diver and will be expected to share a room (depending on the cabin you have booked.)

If you don’t like the idea of sharing a room with a stranger, some liveaboards will charge you a supplement fee. This can work out to be very expensive, depending on the % you are charged. Some liveaboard operators cater to just solo travelers, so it is worth researching this option ahead of your trip.

How many dives a day can I expect to do?

This really depends on the trip you are taking and the destination. Generally, you can do 4 dives a day, but this can be more or less. External factors, such as weather, can also affect the dive schedule.

Do you dive directly from the liveaboard?

The answer to this does depend on your chosen boat. Many liveaboards do have tenders, which will be listed in the trip information. However, some smaller boats will allow you to dive directly from the ship.

Some liveaboards are also purpose-built for diving. These custom-made boats often have a dive deck, allowing you to gear up and take the plunge directly from the boat.

Can I request custom meals on a liveaboard?

Most liveaboards provide a range of local and western cuisine, meaning there will be something there for everyone. If you have a specific diet or allergies, most liveaboard operators will be happy to accommodate this request. You should always make sure you make these requests at the time of booking so your operator can plan accordingly.

Final Thoughts on Liveaboards For Beginners

Liveaboard diving is a great way to explore the ocean in comfort and style. With various destinations to choose from, you can be sure you will find something for every type of diver. Always follow our liveaboard tips above, do your research and ensure you understand the requirements for the dive sites you plan to visit.

Finally, don’t forget to ask questions and speak to the crew if you have any concerns. They are there to help you get the most out of your liveaboard experience! Before you know it, you’ll be soaking up the sun (and sea) on your dream liveaboard diving adventure!

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