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The Scuba Instructors

Ultimate Guide to Liveaboard Diving

diving on a liveaboard
Advantages of a liveaboard

Dive remote areas

A liveaboard will go where most day trips don’t go

Torben Lonne

Scuba Instructor and editor

Torben has a huge passion for Scuba diving and traveling. He's also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of divein. 

Want to dive several times a day for days on end? Want to experience life on the seas and meet a bunch of friendly likeminded people? If so, it sounds like liveaboard diving is right for you.

Liveaboard dive trips are like cruises for divers, but without the shoddy evening entertainment and questionable food! You’ll travel from dive site to dive site and explore the very best diving a region has to offer.

Because you live on the dive boat for between three to ten days, the boat doesn’t need to return to shore and can reach all those remote and untouched dive sites divers lust after.

Sounds great, right?

Plus, with liveaboard dive trips available all around the world, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a destination or choosing a trip.

We put our scuba researchers to work and found you the best deals on more than 250 liveaboard trips in the most popular liveaboard diving destinations.

If you want to learn more, scroll down for our ultimate guide to liveaboard diving where we cover everything you need to know about life onboard.

Ready to step aboard? Let’s get started.

Featured Liveaboards handpicked by our chief-editor:

Turks & Caicos Aggressor ii

Turks & Caicos Aggressor II

Turks & Caicos is a wild frontier where the Alantic Oceans meets the Caribbean Sea.

The Turks & Caicos Aggressor II® offers guests a week of diving the beautiful sheer wall ledges decorated with massive orange elephant-ear sponges, purple gorgonians & crimson rope sponges. Enjoy frequent visits from nurse and reef sharks, turtles and eagle rays as they cruise by in search of prey – read more here

Where: Turks & Caicos
Renovated: 2014
Internet: Yes
Nitrox: Yes ($)

Ocean Sapphire

The luxurious boat was specifically designed for divers to provide them with the best cruising and diving experiences. 

Each cabin is equipped with air-conditioning units, comfortable beds, dressers, and en-suite bathroom facilities.

You can choose to traverse the Central, Southern, or Deep South Atolls of the Maldives. Each of the locations has its own beauty, for instance, in the Ari Atolls, guests will truly enjoy the rich corals in the site, as well as mantas and hammerheads if they are lucky – read more here

Where: The Maldives
Built: 2012
Internet: Yes ($)
Nitrox: Yes ($)

The Bahamas Aggressor

Bahamas Aggressor

When you’re considering your options for liveaboard scuba diving in the Caribbean, the Bahamas and the Out Islands offer a distinct blend of international glamour and tropical ease.

The islands and cays you will see during your Bahamas liveaboard scuba diving trip, sprawl across nearly 100,000 square miles of ocean, beginning at the northern point east of Palm Beach, Florida and spanning practically 750 miles to the southeast where they come inside 50 miles of Cuba and Haiti – read more here

Where: Bahamas
Renovated: 2014
Internet: Yes
Nitrox: Yes ($)

MSV Amira

A beautifully designed hand-built paragon MSV Amira offers a lavish charter with utmost facilities in the best itineraries of Indonesia.

You will be amazed to explore the beauty of underwater landscapes, natural scenery, vibrant coral (both hard and soft), untouched reefs, and thousands of fish species.

Visit the world-famous coral triangle of the Indonesian Sea. While trekking at the world-heritage Komodo National Park, you may get the opportunity to the rare flesh-eating lizard Komodo Dragons – read more here

Where: Indonesia
Built: 2015
Internet: No
Nitrox: No

MV Galapagos Master

The MV Galapagos Master is an astonishing pelagic sightseeing at the Galapagos Islands. 

The stunning liveaboard is built of steel and has a commodious area inside the cabins with an appealing interior

During the dives, you will get an opportunity to explore Galapagos sharks, sea lions, silky sharks, tuna, manta rays, marine iguanas and much more – read more here

Where: Galapagos Islands
Built: 2014
Internet: Yes ($)
Nitrox: Yes ($)

The Best Liveaboard Diving Destinations

While there are plenty of places to go liveaboard diving around the world, some destinations stand out. Here are our firm favorites.

Australia

With over 16,000 miles of coastline and several distinct seas, oceans, and reef systems to explore, it’s little wonder Australia is a popular liveaboard destination. Plus, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of just seven wonders of the natural world, has to be seen to be believed.

See all the Liveaboards in Australia here.

Egypt

Loved by famous ocean explorers Jaques Costeau and Hans Haas, Egypt’s Red Sea boats a level of biodiversity rarely seen. Whether you want to dive the wreck and reefs around the Sinai Peninsula or dive with oceanic whitetips in the deep south, Egypt has a liveaboard to suit.

See all the Liveaboards in Egypt here.

Fiji

Love sharks and can’t get enough of colorful corals? Put Fiji on your bucket-list. Liveaboard diving here takes you to some of the most untouched and pristine dives in the world. With walls, swim-through, blue water dives, and all the pelagics you can shake your regulator at, Fiji is unmissable.

See all the Liveaboards in Fiji here.

Galapagos

For a liveaboard dive experience outside the ordinary, you can’t go past the Galapagos archipelago. With marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins, and plenty of hammerhead sharks, there’s a mix of creatures here you can’t find anywhere else. Dive the Galapagos and find out why Charles Darwin was astounded by the islands.

See all the Liveaboards in Galapagos here.

Indonesia

To get the best of the muck diving capital of the world, discover Indonesia’s secrets on a liveaboard dive trip. Departing from several islands and with a range of trip options, divers of all levels will delight in discovering some of the best biodiversity known to man. With 25% of all fish species and 75% of all corals found here, you’re in for a colorful, critter-filled trip.

See all the Liveaboards in Indonesia here.

Maldives

Scattered over the warm expanse of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives’ 1,200 odd island and atolls have been delighting divers for decades. With plenty of manta rays, whale sharks, colorful reef fish, and the occasional pelagic predator, the Maldives has loads to offer intrepid liveaboard divers.

See all the Liveaboards in Maldives here.

Mexico

There’s more to Mexico than the cenotes and the Yucatan peninsula. Dive deeper into the Pacific Ocean and discover the best of the Sea of Cortez at the Guadalupe and Socorro Islands. It’s all about the big animals here, think whale sharks, great whites, sea lions, and mantas.

See all the Liveaboards in Mexico here.

Myanmar

Although overlooked in the past, Myanmar is growing in popularity as a liveaboard destination. And it’s well deserved, the little nation is home to the largely untouched Mergui archipelago, a group of islands home to some of Asia’s best diving. Plus, you have the chance of meeting the Moken, a water-faring people famous for their freediving abilities.

See all the Liveaboards in Myanmar here.

Sudan

One of the world’s final liveaboard diving frontiers, Sudan has the kind of corals and big pelagic life that even puts Egypt’s deep south to shame. Get ready for some kicking currents, deep blue walls, playful dolphins, and a kaleidoscope of color in this pristine destination.

See all the Liveaboards in Sudan here.

Thailand

Loved by divers around the world, liveaboard diving in Thailand is fun, exciting, and wallet-friendly. Whether you’re exploring the Similan Islands and searching for manta rays and whale sharks or taking in the vistas at the Surin Islands, Thailand’s liveaboard diving is sure to please. Plus, there’s an option to suit no matter your experience level.

See all the Liveaboards in Thailand here.

What is Liveaboard Diving?

In simple terms, liveaboard diving is a multi-day boat trip where scuba divers get to eat, sleep, relax, and dive. Liveaboard dive boats are specially designed or adapted to accommodate divers and all their equipment and feature a diving platform or deck where divers can kit up.

The length of a liveaboard can be anywhere from three days to two weeks, with an average duration of seven days. Group sizes vary depending on the size of the vessel but will typically be 10 to 30 people.

Liveaboard boats have cabins for accommodation, a restaurant, lounge or bar area, sun decks, and areas for storing and washing diving equipment. Many also have photo-stations where photographers can download and play slideshows or videos taken during dives.

Arial rear view of the White Manta liveaboard, Indonesia

Who Can Join a Liveaboard Dive Trip?

A common liveaboard misconception is that the diving is difficult and only meant for expert divers, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You obviously need to know what you’re doing but most liveaboards accept Open Water divers.

Having an Advanced Open Water qualification is often beneficial as it allows you to explore dive sites more fully, but it’s usually not a necessity. Some liveaboards will even allow you to gain your Advanced certification while onboard.

If like many recreational divers you haven’t been in the water for a year or more, refresher dives can be arranged to bring you back up to speed. That said, if you can get in the water before you get aboard and quickly refresh your basic skills and buoyancy, that’s better than do so on the boat.

Do I Need to Have a Buddy to go on a Liveaboard?

Many divers wrongly assume that they can’t go on a liveaboard trip unless they travel with a buddy. But you’ll find plenty of divers on board who also need a buddy. The liveaboard staff will match you up with a dive buddy who has a similar experience level.

Diving Liberation liveaboard, Philippines

Why is Liveaboard Diving Special?

Many experienced divers consider liveaboards and dive safaris as the only way to truly enjoy a diving vacation, especially if heading to remote destinations such as the Similan Islands in Thailand or Osprey Reef in Australia’s Coral Sea.

So what makes liveaboard diving so special and different from daily dive trips?

More Diving

When diving with a land-based dive operator or resort, you’re usually restricted to two or three dives a day at local sites. A liveaboard is all about the diving and you will have the option of doing three, four, or even five dives a day.

Unique Diving

A liveaboard allows travel to far greater distances from shore, visiting more remote and unique dive sites than local dive boats can access. With fewer divers frequenting these sites, the reefs are untouched and more pristine. Being out in the blue means that you will often encounter marine life not seen close to shore, including large pelagic species.

Convenience

There is no diving more convenient than liveaboard diving. You’ll usually be assigned a slot or station on the boat where you set up your gear and it remains for the duration of your trip. Kit up once when you arrive and that’s it! No need to disassemble your equipment until the adventure is over.

You won’t need to haul tanks about either as most liveaboards feature a whip compressor system whereby tanks are refilled in place.

An Experience Outside the Ordinary

What could be better than waking up in the morning, sitting out on the deck with a coffee and being surrounded by blue water stretching for miles? There’s something mesmerizing about watching the sun come up over the water and spending evenings on the ocean. Star gazers are always impressed by the nightly vistas thanks to the lack of light pollution.

When not diving, you often have the opportunity to step ashore on far-flung islands and atolls, or even spend time snorkeling in the shallows. Some liveaboard destinations offer the best snorkeling you will ever encounter.

Meet New People

Liveaboards bring together a group of individuals united in one common interest: diving. Downtimes, meals, and evenings of relaxation provide plenty of opportunities to get to know a group of fellow enthusiasts from different backgrounds and with a range of experiences. Living in such close quarters makes it easy to make new friends.

Dive deck on the Turks and Caicos Explorer liveaboard Turk sand Caicos

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Liveaboard Diving Trip

The list of liveaboard diving options is endless so it can be tough knowing where to start finding a trip that suits your needs. By taking certain things into consideration, you can narrow down the options and make the decision much easier.

Budget

Scuba diving is becoming more affordable but it’s still an expensive hobby so considering your budget is a great place to start. Liveaboards come in all price ranges from budget-friendly to mid-range to expensive top-end options.

At the lower end of the scale, operators will offer shared cabins and communal bathrooms. The more luxurious liveaboards feel like boutique hotels and offer en-suite cabins with a fridge and TV. Some even feature hot tubs, massage services, and all-inclusive bars.

One way to keep the price down is to head to your chosen destination outside of the peak season. Many operators offer reduced prices to fill up off-season excursions. Even off-peak the diving will still be great. Whatever your budget, there is a liveaboard to suit your lifestyle.

Destination

Liveaboards operate all over the world so selecting the right destination will take some consideration. Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Can you tolerate cold water or do you prefer the tropics and warmer waters?
  • What type of marine life do you want to see and is it seasonal?
  • How long will the journey take from your home to the departure point?
  • Which destinations can you afford?

Type Of Diving

Think about the type of diving on offer in the region. Do you enjoy relaxing diving or are fast-paced drift dives more your thing? How about muck diving or wrecks? Perhaps you would be happier with a mix of different dive types; a bit of reef, some wrecks, and a balance between harder and easier dives.

A wealth of information on popular dive sites is available on the internet to help you make a decision. Check the itinerary of the trip you’re considering and then research the dive sites. It can be great fun looking into all the exotic destinations so if you’re struggling to make a final decision, you could always arrange another liveaboard to a different place for the following year!

Liveaboard Itineraries

Most liveaboards include as much diving as possible but it’s always good to check the itinerary before booking. A few points to research are:

  • Duration of the safari
  • Number of dives and how many days will you spend diving
  • Travel times from departure point to dive sites
  • Any long open-water crossings that mean no diving for an afternoon
  • Are excursions included?
  • Are early morning and night dives included or is there an additional charge?

Everyone has their own idea of the most important factor when choosing a liveaboard. Just remember to do your research and check reviews of both boats and operators.

Sustainability

As consumers, we’re in a unique position to vote with our wallets, meaning we can choose to support companies that have shown dedication to sustainable practices. Find out if the provider you’re considering has a single-use plastics policy and read reviews from past divers to get a feel for their green credentials.

Choosing a Liveaboard Company

Once you’ve settled on a destination and the type of itinerary you’re after, you need to choose an operator. Online reviews are the perfect place to start. Make sure the trip you’ve chosen has plenty of excellent reviews and no mentions of poor or lacking safety procedures.

Finding a liveaboard dive trip with 100 percent perfect reviews is rare, bear in mind you need to read reviews critically. That one negative review left by a guest because he or she didn’t like the way staff seasoned the salad is less important than a negative review that brings up important safety matters.

Diving on the Yoshi liveaboard, Indonesia

Liveaboard Diving and Nitrox

If you haven’t taken your Nitrox certification yet, we urge you to consider it before your trip. Nitrox or EANx is enriched air. Instead of the standard 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen in your tanks, you can have a higher percentage of oxygen.

The primary benefit of Nitrox is that it exposes you to less nitrogen, something that’s important when you’re completing up to five dives per day.

A knock-on effect of diving Nitrox for the duration of your trip is that your allowable bottom times will be longer. If you dive air for the entire liveaboard, you’ll quickly notice that by day three or even two, your no-decompression limits are substantially shortened.

This is because your body has on-gassed a certain amount of nitrogen and your computer is setting limits based on the theoretical nitrogen levels in your body — we say theoretical because your computer doesn’t know exactly how much nitrogen is in your body, it can only estimate based on the dives you have done.

Removing some of this nitrogen and replacing it with oxygen is a safer choice for liveaboard diving. Many divers report feeling less tired after diving with Nitrox and you might find the same to be true.

If you have no time to complete a Nitrox certification before you go, find out if the liveaboard offers Nitrox courses. Most liveaboards do and since your EANx ticket is a short dry course, it won’t take too much time.

Is There Free Nitrox on all Liveaboards?

Plenty of liveaboards offer Nitrox completely free of charge while other operators offer Nitrox packages for a set price. If the liveaboard trip charges by the tank, this extra cost can quickly add up. Finding a liveaboard operator with free or affordable Nitrox packages is worth the extra effort.

Nitrox on the Manta Queen 8 Liveaboard, Thailand

Liveaboard Checklist: What You Should Bring

Many liveaboard operators provide their own checklist of what to pack for the trip. However, there would be nothing worse than climbing on board and realizing you’ve forgotten an important piece of kit.

If you have your own dive gear, obviously don’t forget your BCD, regs, mask, fins, and booties. Here are a few other essentials that need to be on your packing list.

Exposure Suit

The dives can be long and on a liveaboard, you’ll do as many as four or five dives each day, so it’s important to be comfortable. Even if the waters are a balmy temperature, diving in just a skin suit or swimmers day after day can cause your core body temperature to drop. Find out about expected water temperatures from the operator and ask for their advice on suit thickness.

Underlayers

Having to cut a dive short because of the cold is not ideal. Pack the right exposure suit for the conditions you’ll be diving in and consider bringing a chicken vest, hood, or a thermal rash vest for additional layers when needed.

During early morning or night dives, the water temperature can be lower and the air temperature has dropped. Thermals and rash vests come in a variety of thicknesses and can keep you snug in colder conditions. Taking two or three underlayers means you’ll always have a dry one to put on for each dive.

SMB and Reel

When you’re diving from a liveaboard, you need your own surface marker buoy (SMB) and a reel. Most of the time, you will send your SMB up at the safety stop but some dives, particularly those in a current, might mean you have your SMB up for the whole dive. The dive staff on board your liveaboard will let you know the procedures for each dive in their briefings.

If you’ve never used an SMB before, it’s a good idea to get some practice in before you go on the trip.

Flashlight

Exploring reefs at night gives you the chance to see a whole new set of sea creatures. Most liveaboards offer daily night dives. It’s helpful to have your own torch so you avoid any rental fees. Don’t forget that each buddy team should have at least one spare torch between them so consider packing an extra.

Batteries

All too often divers on liveaboards forget this crucial item. You’ll need enough torches for your flashlight and your camera. Make sure you bring enough batteries for the entire trip. Bear in mind that a flashlight’s batteries should be changed after a maximum of three night dives, depending on the duration of the dive and the type of batteries you’re using.

DIN/International Adaptors

Double-check which kind of tanks the liveaboard uses and if they supply adaptors. If the boat only has DIN tanks and your regs are International, you’ll need an International adaptor. If the boat has International tanks, bring a few inserts with you.

Suitable Clothing

You’re going to have a lot of chill-out time between dives. If you’re heading somewhere hot, swimsuits, a sun hat, and sunglasses are essential. For colder destinations, it may be advisable to take a coat, scarf, gloves, and a warm hat. Whether you’re planning on sunning yourself on the deck or chilling in your cabin, make sure you have comfortable and appropriate clothing.

Many of the regions visited by liveaboards feature remote islands and rock formations which can be explored. If you’re given the opportunity to head onto land during some downtime, closed-toe shoes are a must for trekking over rocky terrain.

Toiletries

Many liveaboards provide shampoo and soap or shower gel. Spending so much time in the water can leave your skin and hair extremely dry. Be sure to pack moisturizer, lip balm, and a good leave-in conditioner. And don’t forget the reef-friendly sunscreen to protect yourself from UV rays and the coral from harmful chemicals.

Seasickness Medication

Even if you consider yourself a bit of a sea dog and think seasickness won’t affect you, we suggest packing some anti-seasickness medication just in case. Being at sea in rough waters can bring on random bouts of seasickness which is not fun, especially at night.

Consider taking non-drowsy pills for the daytime and drowsy to help you sleep at night so you wake up refreshed and ready for the day of diving ahead. Be proactive with seasickness medication as opposed to waiting until you feel green around the gills.

Ear Plugs and Eye Mask

Lots of diving means you need plenty of sleep to get the most out of a liveaboard. As the boat moves to new locations during the night, the sound of its engines can lead to disturbed sleep patterns. Earplugs can be a godsend for ensuring you get a good night’s rest. Eye masks are also a great idea for getting a bit of shut-eye between dives.

Camera Equipment

If you’re a budding underwater photographer, make sure you pack everything required to capture the perfect shots. Check, double-check, and triple-check you have all the chargers, filters, and lenses you need. Taking extra batteries helps ensure you’ll have a working camera after a short surface interval. Remember to pack plenty of memory cards or a hard drive to download and store your snaps.

Always unplug any electronics and cameras when you are finished charging them.

Dive Medical

Most liveaboard operators require a recent dive medical at the time of booking, if not you should ask yourself if the operator is truly dedicated to safety. After all, if you have any health issues that could impact your safety, your crew needs to know about it.

Head to your GP and ask for a dive medical before the trip. Bring the medical form provided by the liveaboard and make sure you answer it honestly.

Dive deck on the Kona Aggressor II liveaboard, Hawaii

Why You Need a Dive Computer

Many liveaboard operators mandate that each diver has their own dive computer and for good reason. Doing repetitive multi-level dives each day means it’s crucial that you have a computer to monitor and compute nitrogen loading and no-decompression limits for each dive. Your computer will keep you within the safe dive limits throughout your trip and minimize the risk of decompression sickness (DCS).

While it is possible to manage your dives with a table such as the recreational dive planner (RDP), these tables assume a square profile and don’t account for multilevel diving anywhere near as well as a computer does.

What Not to Bring on a Liveaboard

Although you don’t want to forget important items, the one thing you don’t want to do is overpack. Cabins have limited storage space so the lighter you can pack the better. Plus, reducing the amount you take could mean avoiding additional airline baggage fees.

Here are a few items that are less important on a liveaboard trip:

  • Shoes: Most boats have a no-shoe policy so there’s no need to pack shoes for lots of different occasions.
  • Clothes: You’ll be diving most of the time so what do you really need? And as you’ll be staying in for dinner, leave the going out clothes at home. You need some clothes, of course, but not half of your wardrobe!
  • Electronics: The majority of liveaboards have plenty of entertainment options onboard so there’s no need to overdo it on the electronics. Do bring one device so you can chill out in your berth and watch a show.
  • Brand spanking new equipment you’ve never used before: Try and bring kit you know and are familiar with. Be aware that boat staff and dive guides won’t be too pleased if you’re still taking tags off your new suit while all the other divers are in the water.
Dive deck on the Kona Aggressor II liveaboard, Hawaii

Handy Liveaboard Hacks

A bit of in-the-know knowledge can make a big difference to your liveaboard experience. We spoke to dive instructors who work on liveaboards and compiled these handy liveaboard hacks.

Heavy-duty Clothespin

Nothing is more annoying than your wet wetsuit continuously falling off the drying rail or the hanger in the wind. Or expecting your wetsuit to be dry and finding it on a soggy heap on the deck. A strong clothespin can secure your wetsuit in place and maximize drying time.

Rehydration Sachets

All that diving can take its toll on your hydration levels. Stay dive fit by keeping a few packs of single-serve rehydration salts in your cabin.

Name Your Gear

On a liveaboard, many divers have the exact same brand of equipment. Avoid mix-ups by labeling all your gear with a white marker.

Bring a Robe

As you’ll be diving a lot, it’s easy for your core body temperature to drop. For that reason, you should always take your wetsuit off between dives. Avoid feeling the chill with a fluffy robe to wrap up in for surface intervals.

Spring Straps

Struggling to get your fins on and off causes delays when divers are waiting to get back on the deck or the zodiac, plus it’s just plain annoying for you the diver. Hack your equipment donning and doffing with a set of spring straps for your fins.

Easy Photo Organization

This sweet hack for underwater photographers will organize your images will minimal effort. Take a photo of the dive map before each dive, you’ll have a digital dive log to reference and you’ll know which photos are from which site.

Multiple Swimsuits

If you have several swimsuits with you, you’re less likely to sit around in wet swimmers and get chilly. Change your swimwear after each dive and dry the wet pair. This is even easier if you’re wrapped up in the robe we suggested in our previous hack.

Leave-in Conditioner

There’s no doubt about it, diving three or four times a day will destroy your long hair. Guys and gals with flowing locks should bring some leave-in conditioner on the liveaboard. After each dive smooth some through your hair to prevent tangles. If possible, choose a natural conditioner that will do less damage to the environment.

Braid Long Hair

Another hair hack. While long hair might feel great floating free underwater, it’s decidedly less fun when it gets tangled around your first stage. Braid your hair before the dive to avoid a mess later on.

Bring Your Own Coffee

Unless you’re on a really top-end liveaboard, the coffee is not going to be very good. We suggest bringing your own supply of quality instant coffee to get you moving in the mornings.

Snacks

You don’t need to pack a suitcase full of food, the liveaboard will make sure you’re well-fed. But you might want to take a few extra goodies such as a bar of chocolate for quick afternoon pick-me-ups. Bring enough to share with the dive staff and you’ll be loved on the dive deck!

Download a Few Movies or TV Shows

Download a couple of episodes and movies that you can watch offline. Don’t assume you’ll have a data connection out at sea. While some boats offer internet packages, the prices are often astronomical.

Ladders and Stairs

Use all liveaboard ladders and stairs as if they are ladders. That is, face the stairs when going up and when going down. A slip could put you out of action for days on your trip, so treat all stairs carefully.

Sun deck on the Kona Aggressor II liveaboard, Hawaii

Liveaboard Terminology

Berth — Sleeping space, can be a single-person cabin or a bed in a cabin.

Current/mermaid line — A current or mermaid line is a rope with a buoy attached that drifts from the back of the dive deck. You can use this line to hold your position on the surface while you wait to board or to pull yourself towards the dive deck.

Dry/wet areas — Designated areas where you shouldn’t go when wet and places where you can hang out still in your wetsuit.

Galley — A ship’s kitchen, usually off-limits to guests.

Heads — Marine toilets.

Leeward — Also known as lee, leeward is the opposite direction to the way the wind is currently blowing.

Port, starboard, stern, bow — The front of the boat is the bow, the stern is the back where the dive deck is. Port is to your left if you’re facing the front of the boat and starboard is on your right.

PLB — Personal Locator Beacon. Some liveaboards now supply these GPS enabled devices to divers. The PLB marks your location and makes it easy for boats to avoid a lost-diver scenario. Note that not all liveaboards use PLBs.

Salon/saloon — The liveaboard’s main indoor space. Often used for meals, entertainment, boat briefings, and relaxing.

Station — Your station is the area your dive box is and where you set up your equipment.

Tender/zodiac/rib — A small boat that is used to drop divers off and pick them up from dives that are a bit further away from the liveaboard. Zodiacs are used when the main vessel can’t moor at a certain site or pick up divers who have surfaced away from the boat.

Tag line — Tag lines run from the stern to the bow. Divers use the tag line when they need to safely get to the front of the boat from the rear and vice versa. You’ll use this line when the dive site requires you to ascent and descent down the mooring line.

The mothership — The main liveaboard boat. Dives can be from the “mothership” or from the zodiac.

Windward — The side of the boat that is facing the wind’s current direction.

We hope this guide to liveaboard diving has been helpful. Don’t forget to browse our listing of the best liveaboards around the world and start choosing your favorites. Did we miss any important liveaboard info or do you have questions about liveaboard diving? Drop us a message below!

5 Reasons to Dive with a Liveaboard

Diver showers after dive on liveaboard

Comfortable living on a Liveaboard – Credit: Gina Smith

 

Do you love the joy of diving?

But hates the hassle of equipment handling, long drives and bumpy speedboats?

There is a way you can get the best of diving, at the world’s best dive spots, without any hassle.

Very quickly into my dive career, I began to realize there has got to be a more efficient way to dive; Liveaboard Diving Holidays

It just seemed like so much effort to drive 1-2 hours, pack & unpack all the gear, load it onto the boat, set it up – do 2-3 dives and drive back.

Besides that, the limitation of a static dive shop was intuitively obvious – they were all limited to the diving they did by distance.

Here are 5 reasons why liveaboard diving just rocks and why you should do it:

Reason #1: Remote Areas

The first and most obvious advantage of liveaboards is the ability to reach remote areas. Sometimes we would end up around 700-1000 KM away from our initial starting point.

This is an amazing advantage as it allows the operator to handpick all the best dive sites. And it allows you to reach areas that are inaccessible by static dive shops.

Usually, however not always – going to remote areas allows for better dive sites and less crowded conditions. For example, certain dive sites in the Maldives, like Alimatha Night Dive are just filled with boats. Same with Maaya Thila. There are thousands of Divers.

The further south you go, the fewer divers you see, which is in itself an advantage. In the context of Maldives – the further away from Male you go, the less boat traffic you see.

Scuba Diving on a Liveaboard

Liveaboards lets you dive remote dive spots – Credit: Pete Niesen

Reason #2: Convenience

Liveaboards make it awesomely convenient, I describe this as Economies of Scale applied to ‘comfort’.

Divers entering from a liveaboard

Diving Right off the Back of the LIveaboard – Credit: Christian Noval

 

For example, let’s say you travel 1 hour on average to your dive starting point. Then you spent 30 minutes getting your gear unpacked and arranged on the boat. Then you drive for another 30 minutes to the dive site. And do the whole way back.

That’s 4 hours of unpleasant logistics for 2 hours of underwater.

Now, with a liveaboard, you travel initially more, but once you are there, your gear is just set up once and you have everything prepared on the Dive Boat. You barely spend any time getting ready in between dives and the longest ride on the dive boat to the dive site I’ve experienced was around 20 minutes. Usually, they are 5 or less.

In the end, diving becomes really comfortable when you don’t have to worry about your gear and all the setup – you just wake up, walk on to the dive boat and you are ready to dive (almost).

Dive equipment on a liveaboard

Torben Lonne – DIVEIN.com

 

Reason 3: Experience Level

Usually, divers who get into the liveaboard diving are quite experienced. It’s usually because they are more interested in diving than your average 10 dives a year holiday diver. Moreover, most liveaboards abide by a rule which dictates only taking in divers with over 50 logged dives.

 

Any diver knows how beginner divers can ruin a dive. For e.g, you could get buddied up with someone who consumes his air in 30 minutes and sacrifices half your dive time. Let’s say there are 20 dives during the trip, that’s roughly 10 hours of diving you’ll lose.

 

This natural threshold of experience results in comfortable diving for everyone, and a couple of days into the trip everything will be working smoothly.

Every boat has a certain protocol of operations and after the first day or two, everyone follows along effortlessly.

Divers underneath a diving liveaboard

Click the picture to get better Air Consumption – Credit: Soren Egeberg Photography

 

Reason 4: Cost

Surprisingly, often a liveaboard is cheaper than the other alternative, i.e: diving from resorts.

Let’s take the Maldives as an example.

The rates for a high-level boat like Orion are ~$220/per person a day. This includes 4 meals and a min. 3 dives a dive as well as accommodation.

You will be very lucky to find a hotel in the Maldives at least $300/night for a double room. Now, additionally – you are looking at the food cost, which almost always only includes breakfast and charge heavily for the other meals, nor does this include the diving itself.

Within the boundaries of optimism, the best price you are looking to spend per person for daily food consumption is around $40, when in reality it’s closer to $80-$100.

The diving will cost around $100 at least and usually for 2 dives, not 3. So if you are a couple, you are looking at spending $440/night on a liveaboard vs. $580/night in a hotel or resort.

Liveaboards rarely cost much more than the Orion Price, however with hotels the $300 (hotel), $40 (food/person) & $100 (diving/person) is basically the lowest range. Hotels easily go up to 800-900$ for a double bed.

Maldives liveaboard inside

 

Reason #5 – Meeting Interesting Divers

This last point is really important.

Unlike day trips, on a liveaboard, there is a good chance you will acquaint everyone on the trip.

The beer-drinking sessions and dinners are definitely a part of the experience of a liveaboard. Divers usually come from all walks of life and often the people you see on liveaboards are from completely different backgrounds, nationalities and professions.

With enough time, these interactions can become interesting and a way to gain some insight into the life of people in different countries and different spheres of interest. I guess this is just one of the essential needs that travel fulfills.

Scuba diving liveaboard

It’s a pleasure diving from a Liveaboard – Credit: Igor Karasi

 

What is your favorite way of Diving?

 

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about Liveaboards

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    ⛵ Where is the best place to dive with a liveaboard?

    The best places to dive from a liveaboard are spots where the best diving is found offshore and inaccessible by day boat. Consider somewhere like the Maldives, there are so many islands to explore and the top dive sites are scattered. If you only shore dive, you could miss the best sites on offer.

    The DiveIn team loves diving in these spots:

    Thailand
    Maldives
    Indonesia
    Philippines
    Fiji
    Australia
    Egypt

    To learn more about liveaboard diving, check out our full guide here.

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    🤓 Can beginners dive at a liveaboard?

    Yes and no. Complete beginners should get their open water license before going on a liveaboard dive trip. If you have your license but you’re still a new diver, you can go on a liveaboard trip.

    Some trips are better suited to beginners than others. Do some research before you book.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    🤩 Which Liveabaord is The Best in world?

    As you can imagine, there are many great Liveaboards around the world. Some boats shine above others though. The DiveIn team loves these liveaboards:

    If you’d like to see more great LIveaboards, check you our full guide here.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    ❓ What does liveaboard mean?

    The trick here is in the name, live + aboard = liveaboard. You get to live aboard the dive ship for an extended period of time, often three to seven days.

    Got any other burning questions about liveaboard diving? Check out our in-depth guide to liveaboards with everything you need to know.

Do you like Liveaboard diving?

We would love to know why this is YOUR go-to way of diving?

What makes Liveaboard diving better than regular boat diving? Tell us in a comment below!

27 Comments

  1. Martin Hallbrick

    Hi Torben and Boby

    Thank you for a great guide.
    I was wondering about your personal opinion; where is the best place in the world that you ever dived?

    I just got home from Thailand myself where a liveaboard I booked got cancelled due to weather. Of cause that’s a bit better than risking life, but still not fun at all.
    Where in the world is the best conditions for liveaboards generally?

  2. Torben Lonne

    Hi Martin,

    You’re most welcome, Hope it was useful.

    For liveaboard, I think Komodo(Indonesia) has offered be some of the best dives ever, but we were very lucky on every dive. Raja Ampat, is also a great place to go, and I guarantee that you’ll be blown away here.

    Oh, Well Thailands weather can be very bad, and not at all fun to be out there and diving wouldn’t be good anyway. There’s just one thing to do: Go back and dive there again 😉

  3. Matthew

    Hi, do you do liveaboard tours for snorkeling? My wife and i are looking to snorkel with whale sharks and was wanting to know if this is something you do and can be done in late Aug 2018?

    Regards
    Matt

  4. S. DAVIES

    Please offer suggestions for a location / Liveaboard date 17/18 sept 2018 for a senior Lady – no experience of diving, and adult daughter (novice)
    Safety is main consideration , plus good accommodation ?

  5. Torben Lonne

    Hi Sue,

    Any part of the world? Are you looking for diving/dive courses as well, or will it only be your daughter who is diving?

  6. Torben Lonne

    Hi Matt,

    We don’t run any LIveaboard operation, but I’d love to guide you to a great option for a liveaboard snorkeling experience. In which part of the world are you looking?

  7. Harry Winstanley

    I would love to dive with you but I need to love the area and the peaple that is in the area but yes love try it to go and dive.

  8. Irena pettigiani

    Hello! I am in Phuket looking for the best place to complete my dive master course from a beginner level, I am looking for a cheap price and not so crowded school with good diving spots along the andaman sea. Thanks for your help!

  9. Torben Lonne

    Hi Irena,

    As for diving Phuket does diving in most of the spots around the Andaman Sea, so you’re in for some great diving.
    There’s also the option of moving to areas like Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, Phi Phi or Khao Lak. All places have great diving and good dive schools, so it’s more about where you’d like to spend the next few months. Small relaxed island, small party island, busy town, etc. look into the places and find one that suits your personal preferences.

    As for picking a dive school
    Since you’re already there, go and talk to them. See how they teach and feel the atmosphere, and who they are. Also, get a feel of the instructors teaching the DM programs. Ask to talk to your(to be) instructs and see if you have great chemistry.
    Also, make sure they have plenty of courses in the pipeline, so you’re able to tag along these for a better understanding of how life is as a dive pro.

    Don’t ever go for cheap price, as it’ll only lead to a bad course.

  10. Mischa

    Hi … i looking for a liveabord about september og october. I was thinking
    About 9 days. I really want to se the most beautiful diving in the World .
    I had Thinking Maybe raja ampat, north sulawesi., pulau, komodo , tonga, Salomon Island or komodo.

    I looking for beautiul corals and Manu colourfull fish . I love Sharks, manta rays and especially huge whales . I dream about diving with humback whales and beautiful dives

    I am advance divers, my max deep 32 meter, i have only 18 Dives . But ishave diving in blue hole belize, in many cenotes in Mexico ( i love the cenotes ) and in cozumel .
    I have diving sorg whale sharks, Bull sharks , nurse sharks and in the centres i Saw so extrmely beautiful Cavendish with stalagmits , fossil and experience halocline .
    I have try once to dive with nitrox

    Hope i have gave you some information about me, so you maybe Can help me to find out what liveabord and diving there Will bw perfect for me .

    Im 31 , woman and i travel alone . Ishave travel many many places in the World alone . My frist snorkelling i did in galapagos Island for 10 years ago.

    I hope to find my perfect dive experince and also a liveabord where it not just is full of couples , and not only verry young or only verry old People.

    What would you reccomend ?

    Hope so Much to hear from you

    Best regards
    Mischa from Denmark

  11. Torben Lonne

    Hi Mischa,

    Ahh, that’s a hard one. As most dive liveaboards are for all divers, some trips will be booked with couples and next trip will be purely single people/friends traveling.
    In my experience, when traveling solo or with my wife, divers are some of the most open people and you’ll never really feel alone on a dive boat even if it’s full of old couples. You’ll just get a lot of great (dive) stories from people with a lot of experience in life. So my best advice is to just pick a boat you like and which fits your budget and go for it.

    All the destinations you suggest: Raja ampat, north Sulawesi(might be good from a resort as well), Pulau, Tonga, Salomon Island or Komodo.
    Are all great dive experiences, and you’ll experience world class diving.

  12. Ryder Cone

    Hi – I am newly certified but my 16 year old son loves diving. He is Rescue Diver certified and has logged close to 100 dives. We were considering doing a liveaboard in the Cayman Islands but I am worried that I will not have much to do because many of the dives are to deep for me. If I stayed on a hotel while he was on the liveaboard, would that be allowed, or is that unusual? In general are there kids on liveaboards?

    Thank you, Ryder Cone

  13. Torben Lonne

    Hi Ryder,

    Great question! Usually, it would be possible for you to join, but the two of you go on separate dive trips where he’ll go a bit deeper than you can.

    It’s quite common with kids on liveaboards, but I’ve never experienced once without their parents. That said, I’m not sure if it’s uncommon or just me never seeing it.

    If it’s really the option you’re most interested in, then try contacting a few of the boats and ask if they’d allow him to join alone.

  14. Sarah/Se Olive

    Hi there,
    I am 15 years of age and it a great dream of mine to do deep water diving. I have never done that or anything like that and I’m not 100% sure how to find a school or lessons or anything. Would you perhaps know of anyone, pref not too expensive.

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Kind regards,
    Sarah

  15. Torben Lonne

    Hi Sarah,

    Well, a Liveaboard is properly not the best place to look. Often they’ll not be a perfect choice when looking at what you’re looking for.

    A local dive center might be a much better option, here you’ll have easy access which will cut some transportation cost and you’ll get a good long dive education. Do remember that when you start diving, price is not the place to cut down. Always choose quality over price.

  16. Tina Fenner

    Hello, Looking for some inspiration. My daughter has just graduated from Uni, having completed her Marine biology and Oceanography degree – very proud of her. I have promised her one last holiday of a lifetime. She’s an experienced Diver (Divemaster) … I’m not able to dive. We both love being on boats so a liveaboard would be great. Number one on her list is turtles … an absolute must – whale sharks would be good too. She’s not had the opportunity to dive anywhere particularly ‘exotic’ Malta and Croatia have been the furthest afield . we probably can’t go until late April next year but free from then on … and I’ll have had a chance to save. Our ideal would be somewhere where we could be be for 4 or 5 dive days shore based – then a liveaboard for a week then another week or so shore based to do more diving. My ‘treat’ would be to have a reasonable place to stay so that I could treat myself to doing nothing and being waited on hand and foot!!!! We re both interested in sustainability – although we’re not evangelical about it. Any suggestions? We’re not up the luxury end of the market … but I’m too old for bunk beds and cold outside showers!!! Many thanks. Tina

  17. Dante Sinistra

    Great and interesting article, lot of valuable information and inspiration. Also Maldives are very expensive but well worth the money, my dream is to go there someday and dive in some of the most beautiful locations on the entire world.

  18. Torben Lonne

    Hi Tina,

    That’s a lovely present for your daughter. Where in the world are you traveling from?

  19. Kevin van Patten

    I am looking for a Liveaboard trip that is adult only. Do you have information on where I may find that?

    Thanks!

  20. Torben Lonne

    Hi Kevin,

    It’s not that common to bring none-diving kids on a liveaboard, but of course, it happens. Where in the world are you looking for trips to?

  21. JoLee H Ford

    I was badly injured in my head 6 years ago…….bicycle wreck where I landed on my helmet and broke my clavicle in 3 places, 8 ribs and fractured my pelvis……all through my helmet (No road rash). I am planning on going to the Galapagos on a dive boat next month and I’m now having vision problems. Am I dumb to dive?

  22. Torben Lonne

    Hi JoLee,

    No, you’re not dumb for wanting to dive, but you need to make sure that you’re able to dive.

    So, go to a Dive Physician, and get a go-ahead before you leave. First off, even though diving is great, there’s no need to risk your health for it. Second, you might risk that the crew/divemaster won’t take you diving if they don’t think you’re able to do it safely.

  23. Alex

    i spend the last summer with you guys, in Egypt , it was really pretty cool, i still have all my pics with the crew saving those moments , my gf in love with diving from your professional way as i’m planning to spend next vacation with you too, super thanks for being there
    next time we will choose you as well.

  24. Michael Greene

    This is really a great article about Liveaboard for a perfect dive vacation. Learned a lot of information from this elaborate post. Hopefully I will book your service in my next holiday.

  25. sherry m

    I’m going to Thailand with my family and was looking at these videos. There are many sharks in the videos. Those are incredible. I’m hoping to be going to Thailand soon for a Liveaboard dive vacation.

  26. colleen

    Snorkeling, not diving–any suggestions?

  27. Almeida

    It has been quite a while since my last dive. After coming across with you, I am considering to go back to diving. I really miss it. I just wish my girlfriend would just feel the same. Let’s see, maybe I will join you guys soon for some underwater adventure. Keep up with the good work.

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