Liveaboard diving allows divers to experience the ocean from an entirely different perspective. You stay on a liveaboard boat for the duration of your trip, dive multiple sites each day, and enjoy the freedom of exploring remote locations. It truly is a magical experience that every diver should try at least once.
However, liveaboard diving comes with unique safety considerations that are not always present when diving from shore. In this article, we’ll cover all the essential safety tips for liveaboard diving you need to know.
From preparing your gear to onboard safety, these tips will help you stay safe and have a memorable experience!
Your safety starts before you even board the boat. It is too easy to get swept up in the magical experiences you see online or hear from fellow divers – but for your own safety, it is essential to be prepared.
Here are some key points to consider before embarking on your liveaboard adventure.
Some locations have far more liveaboards to choose from than others. Always do your research before booking a liveaboard, even if it looks reputable.
Liveaboard operators and their rules can vary from one location to the next, so even if you’ve had a good experience in the past with one operator, it does not guarantee you’ll have the same experience with another.
Check what safety requirements the boat has in place, how experienced their crew is, what type of medical provisions are available, and whether any extra safety equipment is included. Reviews from previous guests can be a brilliant source of information – so always take the time to read these before making your booking.
We recommend researching the boat and reviews on Liveaboard.com.
Consider completing a refresher dive if it has been some time since your last dive, and practice your buoyancy control before the trip. You may also want to complete an Open Water Course if you’re a new diver.
Some liveaboards require a certain level of certification from their customers, so it’s worth checking this before your trip.
Using nitrox is highly recommended when liveaboard diving. It increases your bottom time and helps when doing multiple dives a day. Nitrox is also proven to help reduce the risks of decompression sickness – so if you aren’t qualified, you should consider it.
Many liveaboards offer nitrox onboard, either for free or at a cost. This will be clearly outlined in the liveaboard information, so check before booking if you’re hoping to take advantage of it.
Check your dive gear is up to date and in proper working condition. This includes checking the hoses, valves, seals, and O-rings on your regulator to ensure they aren’t cracked or damaged. Your buoyancy control device (BCD) should be in good condition, and all of your dive weights should fit securely in the pockets.
It’s also a good idea to check your exposure protection – especially if you’re heading somewhere cold. If you’ve left it too late and don’t have time to buy new gear, many liveaboards offer rental equipment on board. Be sure to inform the operator if you plan on renting.
When diving from a liveaboard, you can travel to some amazing places – but it is crucial to understand the environment and conditions you’ll be diving in. Before the trip, brush up on your knowledge of marine life, hazards, and local regulations. Always check the season and weather conditions, as this can significantly impact your experience.
You should also be aware of any cultural considerations you may need to respect while you’re in the area.
Check out our guide on the best liveaboard destinations to add to your bucket list.
You must be in good health to dive safely. If you have any ongoing health issues, are taking any medications, or have any other concerns – always consult your doctor before booking a liveaboard. While it may be possible to dive with some conditions, it’s always best to get the all-clear from a medical professional.
Dive insurance is essential when liveaboard diving. Most liveaboards will require their passengers to have dive insurance, but it’s always a good idea to get it even if they don’t. Your policy should cover you for accidents, medical costs, and any other losses you may incur on your trip.
While you’re booking your dive insurance, consider getting some travel insurance too. This is especially important if you’re traveling with all your dive gear, as it will help cover the cost of replacing lost or damaged items.
We recommend DiveAssure – the 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.
Safety matters both onboard and in the water. Let’s take a look at some onboard safety measures you should keep in mind when on a liveaboard vacation.
As with any other vessel, liveaboards have their own rules. Usually, these will cover things like no smoking in cabins, behavior while the boat is in motion, and the use of alcohol. Pay attention to these rules, as it will ensure a pleasant atmosphere for everyone onboard.
Liveaboards have a dedicated crew onboard, and listening to their instructions is essential. They are there to ensure your safety and provide you with a great experience, so take their advice, and you’ll be in good hands. This goes beyond the pre-dive briefings, as the crew may point out hazards or advise about local customs when ashore.
Always familiarize yourself with the boat’s layout, including all safety equipment and escape routes. During your pre-dive briefing, the crew will usually point out all of these to you, so be sure to take note. If you don’t understand something, feel free to ask for clarification.
It is also important to note what areas of the boat are off-limits. Staff areas, captain’s quarters, and machinery rooms are usually off-limits to passengers, so check the boundaries.
Most liveaboards have a designated wet deck area for setting up and removing your dive gear. You must pay attention to this area’s procedures to ensure everything runs smoothly.
For example, there may be a designated space for taking off your diving gear. This will help stop other boat areas from getting wet and slippery. If the liveaboard happens to hit choppy waters, keeping any potential slipping hazards in one area will help keep everyone safe.
Not only is hydration vital for diving, but also while onboard. If you’re struggling with motion sickness, dehydration can make matters worse. Being properly hydrated can also help with fatigue and muscle aches. Alcohol can worsen dehydration and impact reaction time (even the next day), so keep it to a minimum.
You will be doing a lot of diving on a liveaboard, so taking breaks and getting enough rest is important. This helps prevent over-exertion while underwater and keeps you energized for each dive.
You will be surprised just how quickly you can tire when diving, so don’t overdo it. Make use of the breaks in your itinerary and listen to your body.
You don’t want to end your liveaboard dive experience with a nasty sunburn! Get into the habit of applying sunscreen first thing in the morning and then periodically throughout the day. Even if you feel like you’re in the shade while on deck or underwater, you can still get sunburnt.
Don’t forget that whatever you apply to your body will wash off into the ocean, so avoid any products that contain harmful chemicals. There are plenty of reef-safe sunscreens available, which will keep you protected and the sea happy!
It’s easy to think that life on a liveaboard will be plain sailing. But safety must still be at the forefront of your mind. Remain alert, use common sense, and always be prepared for the unexpected. Liveaboard diving will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, but don’t forget to stay safe throughout!
You’re all set for your liveaboard experience, but it’s important to remember that safety is still paramount. It can be easy to get carried away when you’re diving multiple times a day and forget basic safety protocols.
While some of these liveaboard diving safety tips can apply to shore diving, it’s important to remember them when at sea.
Listen carefully to the safety briefings and ask questions if you need clarification. The crew may point out hazards, such as currents, water temperature, and marine life, which you may encounter during your dive. If the team advises you to avoid certain areas, ensure that you listen and stick to their instructions.
This goes without saying but always dive with a buddy. Don’t worry if you’re a solo traveler; you will find a buddy onboard. Diving in pairs is standard practice for all divers on a liveaboard, which helps keep everyone safe.
If possible, get to know the other divers on your liveaboard and try to pair up with someone compatible with your own skill level. When you end each dive, always do a buddy check – you can never be too careful.
Together with your buddy, plan out your dive before you go underwater. This helps ensure everyone stays safe and you don’t run out of air or get lost! Never stray from your dive plan without confirming it with your dive buddy. This can lead to uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situations.
You must know the proper way to exit and return to the boat. Some liveaboards use tenders, which are small boats that go back and forth from the dive site to the main boat. Whether you dive directly from the liveaboard or from one of the smaller shuttle boats, knowing where to enter and exit the ocean is key.
This sort of information is given during the pre-dive briefings – yet another reason to pay close attention and ask questions!
Do not touch or feed any fish, corals, or other marine life on your dives. Some species may be more defensive than others, so always pay attention to your surroundings and be aware of any signs a creature is feeling threatened. Aside from this, coral can easily be damaged, and some species can be poisonous.
Local regulations may also be in place that forbids touching reefs, wrecks, and other underwater features. Keep your buoyancy in check and respect the environment you are diving in.
It’s easy to get distracted when beautiful underwater scenes surround you. But it’s essential to keep an eye on your dive computer. Always stay within the limits of your dive (time, depth, and air consumption), so you don’t get into any danger. It also helps to mentally note how often you need to equalize, which can indicate how deep you’re getting.
A surface marker buoy (SMB) or delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB) are great tools to help you stay safe during a dive. They are often required when liveaboard diving, but not always.
Regardless, it’s always a good idea to carry one and use it for your ascent and safety stop. If you need assistance, the SMB or DSMB will help alert the boat to your location.
Being bunged up underwater is not fun and can put your safety at risk. Having a blocked nose can affect your ability to equalize, which can be a huge safety concern. If you’re feeling a bit off, take some time to rest rather than diving. This might be difficult in a new and exciting location, but looking after yourself is crucial.
Understanding and staying within your limits while liveaboard diving is always a good idea. Don’t be pressured into going on dives you’re uncomfortable with or try to compete with other divers – diving is a personal experience, and everyone’s limits are different.
Knowing how your body reacts to different elements, such as altitude, currents, and cold water, is also essential.
If you ever feel uncomfortable or unwell while diving, it is vital to stop and return to the boat.
Consider ascending and descending a little slower than you usually would avoid any issues with your middle ear. Always clean out your ears (not with a cotton swap) and dry them thoroughly. Using ear drops after each dive can also help to reduce any inflammation.
There may be times when you need to act fast to help yourself or another diver. While this may not be common, being prepared for an emergency is essential.
Here are some liveaboard diving rules to follow during an emergency situation.
When boarding your boat, your dive guide should review the safety protocols, evacuation, and emergency procedures. This is usually done during an orientation at the beginning of your trip and will cover what to do in an emergency. Make sure you take this seriously and understand what is expected of you if needed.
The orientation will also cover this, but it doesn’t hurt to know where all the safety equipment is kept on board. This could include oxygen tanks, first-aid kits, and emergency flares.
Knowing where to find these items in an emergency situation could really make all the difference.
It’s important to stay calm and remember that panicking will only worsen the situation. If an emergency arises, take a few deep breaths and assess the situation before taking action. This will help you to think clearly and remember any safety protocols that need to be followed to keep everyone safe.
Liveaboard diving can be a fantastic experience, and following these safety tips will help you to have the best time possible. While the likelihood of something going wrong is low, it’s important to be prepared for any eventuality.
Always prepare for each dive and ensure you understand the safety protocols. Being aware of your limits, having the correct insurance, and carrying an SMB can help keep you safe on your liveaboard excursion. By following the safety tips outlined here, you can enjoy your trip and return with many amazing memories!