Liveaboard scuba diving is an adventurous vacation where you come as close as it gets to the most amazing dive sites. This type of organized trip lets you meet new people and visit less accessible dive spots.
However, the best liveaboard dive trips require some preparation. It is not like staying at a dive resort where you can find everything you need in your direct surroundings.
So, before packing your bags and embarking on your trip, read through these tips for making your liveaboard experience more comfortable, fun and safe.
1. Keep an Open Mind
Of course, liveaboard dive boats advertise themselves with incredible pictures and long lists of marine wildlife in the area. However, photographs don’t paint a complete picture and being wildlife, there are no guaranteed sightings.
In other words, don’t set too high expectations – welcome the experience as it is instead. This is not only regarding the aquatic animals that you might see but also the living situation on a boat.
There are luxury liveaboards with lots of modern facilities and recreational amenities but it is still not the same as staying at lodgings on land. The space is limited and you should get comfortable with spending time with the other divers and crew.
2. Prepare Well Ahead of Time
There are a few logistical things to prepare. These include booking flights, accommodation outside of the boat trip and transportation to and from the meetup point if this is not included in the package.
Also, start about 2 months ahead for vaccinations, insurance and visas. Make sure you do thorough research and start early on all the legal and health requirements to prevent disappointment and stress.
Go carefully through your dive package and check what is included, what comes at an extra charge and what you need to arrange for yourself. Knowing this, you can make a list for packing and other to-do items.
3. Focus on Packing Dive Gear
The focus of a liveaboard is diving and that is exactly what you should pack for. There is no need for a suitcase filled with clothing for any occasion, several types of shoes, bags full of makeup or endless electronics.
This is not like a vacation on dry land with excursions and lots of activities besides diving. On a liveaboard, you are spending most of your time in your swimsuits and scuba suit so you don’t need much else besides your gear.
The essentials to pack besides diving gear are:
- 2 pairs of swimsuits/swimming trunks
- Flip flops
- Warm sweater
- 2 sets of comfortable tops and bottoms (preferably quick drying)
- Basic toiletries (unless included by the accommodation)
- Reef safe sunscreen
Try sticking to this minimal list and save the rest of your baggage space for scuba diving equipment. Most liveaboards do offer rentals but it is always more comfortable having your own.
Also, check your chosen airline’s regulations on bringing sports equipment. Think about size, weight and materials when packing your bags for a liveaboard scuba dive trip.
4. Test Your Dive Gear Before Departing
There is nothing worse than your equipment is not working just before getting into the water. This is why checking your equipment should start well before your departure and do repeat checks up to the time that you are getting on board.
Perform the routine maintenance 1 – 2 weeks (or even a month) before your flight to the destination country. You can do this by yourself or have your dive gear serviced at the nearest dive shop.
Then, make sure that everything is still intact and working 1 – 2 days before your flight by going through them all yourself. Hopefully this is enough time to buy a replacement, perform quick repairs or ask the liveaboard company for a rental, instead.
Once you arrive at your destination, do another round of routine maintenance and checks. This is to look for potential damage from the baggage handling.
5. Give Yourself Enough Time
Most liveaboards are in tropical countries and the most bucket list worthy dive spots are in less accessible places. Hence, the several days on a boat and probably long flights, too.
You want to feel fit for your dive so you need to give your body enough rest and time to acclimate. Book a flight that lets you arrive 1 – 2 days before the boat embarks to get over the worst of the jetlag.
It is also a smart idea to book your return flight for 2 days after your return to dry land. This gives you more than the required hours after diving before boarding an airplane plus some extra time to mentally prepare yourself for the journey back.
6. Get Social
You will be spending a lot of time in relatively close quarters so get used to being around the other guests and the crew. Liveaboard vacations are generally very social experiences, even with a private boat you still have a sizeable crew present.
Pack a book or something else for some relaxing alone time but don’t seclude yourself from the group either. Start conversations with the crew too, they are bound to have lots of interesting stories.
7. Bring Cash for Tips
It is custom to leave a tip for the crew and the best way to do this is bringing an envelope with cash in the local currency. Cash is better than card because the money reaches the crew directly (some companies don’t pay out credit card tips to their staff).
The liveaboard staff is doing their best to provide you an unforgettable experience so they deserve something extra for their efforts, especially considering the lower wages in many tropical countries. Budget in an additional 10% – 20% on top of the package price for tips and have this ready to give to the staff on your last day.
In short, careful preparation gives you a memorable liveaboard scuba diving trip.