Ultimate Guide to Liveaboards

Liveaboards are unforgettable experiences and it’s one of the main reasons I became a diver.

Liveaboards are diving holidays that allow you to breathe, sleep and repeat. I’ve researched, experienced and tested some of the best diving liveaboards in the world in this ultimate guide to liveaboard trips.

It’s important to take your time when booking, checking the terms and finding your preference – there are diving trips across the globe with Egypt Liveaboards, Bahamas Liveaboards and many other diving holidays.

Read on for everything you need to know about scuba diving liveaboards, liveaboard dive boats and how to make the most of your trip in this ultimate guide to Liveaboard Diving.

What is a Liveaboard?

A liveaboard is a scuba diving holiday that takes place on a dive boat. It allows you to spend your entire time diving or being on board a boat with fellow divers. Scuba dive all of the best spots in a region, with 2 or 3 dives a day and then sleep on the boat.

If you’re mad about scuba then you’ll love this concept, it enables you to enjoy up to 11 dive sites a week, rent scuba gear and be under the watchful eye of an experienced professional. It is a holiday based on a boat, whilst you sleep, the boat travels towards your next dive site.

The vessels usually set their itineraries as 7 days, they cater food for you and have dive decks with jacuzzis and sunbeds, depending on which boat you pick.

It can be difficult to travel a country by its magnificent dive spots and that’s because it’s costly and time-consuming. You’d have to travel from place to place and logistically book onto all the best dive shop options. This way you can guarantee all of your favourite dives, socialise with other enthusiasts and worry about nothing else. Many of the liveaboards are also perfect for your partner who may not be a diver, there are snorkelling options and sometimes the chance to kayak.

You could travel via dive safari and sight species in the red sea, the pacific ocean, indian ocean and more.

Why Do People Book Liveaboards?

Scuba divers often book liveaboards because they’re a great way to get lots of diving in and visit some of the best sites in the world that can only be accessed via liveaboard trips. Liveaboards are great to socialise with like-minded divers, view the best dive sites and enjoy a diving holiday.

Here are reasons to book a liveaboard diving trip:

Dive Around the Entire Region

Liveaboards make dive logistics easy, for instance, diving in the Bahamas can be difficult to organise if you’re trying to dive multiple times per day. But that’s why it makes sense to book a liveaboard and dive each day, this will allow you the opportunity to check out several sites including Exuma Cays & Tiger Beach.

You can visit up to 11 different dive sites in one region. Doing this through a liveaboard saves you a fortune and enriches the experience of liveaboard diving.

Access the Best Dive Sites

There are exclusive dive sites that are remote and can’t be accessed on a day trip. Liveaboard diving can gain exclusive access to sites such as Galapagos Liveaboards.

Many of the dive sites that can only be accessed by liveaboards are often some of the most sought-after due to their protections and thriving marine life. Your computer will be adding to the logged dives, with you adding more dives to your artillery.

Plenty of Diving

You can’t get more diving than a liveaboard – you get to literally sleep, dive and repeat. If you’re a dive fanatic then there’s no better way to spend your holiday than liveaboard diving.

I enjoyed over 9 dives in a week during a Thailand Liveaboard, diving and spotting beautiful species and eating fresh fruit and Thai cuisine on-board.

Professionals to Aid You

Every liveaboard boat comes with not only handy dive guides and catering team but they’re a team of professional divers with years of experience. These divers have visited the exact same dive sites time and time again, they are there to help you and for your own safety.

It’s always great to have experts with you and although you may have lots of dive experience yourself, it’s still great to have scuba diving instructors that are used to diving in these exact spots.

Dive instructors are a huge part of a liveaboard holiday, that’s why I believe you should make sure you’re well-researched on an operator, dive site and company.

Meet Other Divers

One of the most amazing things about liveaboard diving is that you meet other scuba divers, which means you will enjoy meeting a number of like-minded people. There’s something riveting about most liveaboards and much of that comes down to the company, finding fellow divers and learning the dive site with them.

You will be joining a new dive buddy and sharing your passion with other fellow divers. You will be with a dive buddy and even the most introverted tend to bond well with other like-minded scuba divers.

New Experiences

Embrace the underwater adventure as you accumulate dive hours in some of the most prestigious sites, you won’t believe some of the unforgettable and unrivalled experiences you get when booking onto a week-long liveaboard holiday.

These liveaboard diving trips are quite something and my first liveaboard experience is still engrained into my memory as I got to visit places I would have otherwise missed. I highly recommend trying a dive safari, and I feel it’s best to pick carefully prior to committing.

Luxurious Cabins & Communal Areas

As much as the main aspect of a liveaboard is about diving, it’s important to enjoy comfort in your “down-time” and that’s what these liveaboard dive boats provide. There are lots of different types of liveaboard boat trips and cabins.

 

Different liveaboards come equipped with different features including:

  • Double or single cabins
  • En-Suites
  • Jacuzzi
  • Sun Lounges
  • Entertainment Lounge
  • Dining Room
  • Wi-Fi

Rent Equipment

Although you’re free to take your own equipment it comes in handy having a liveaboard diving trip that provides some of the equipment. You can rent masks, fins or buy diving nitrox courses. Before booking the liveaboard trip check to see if they rent dive gear.

Generally, it’s a simple case of filling in a rental form, paying for the equipment and returning it after your last dive. You will be required to take your own dive computer.

How to Choose a Liveaboard Dive Boat?

There are various factors that come into play when picking a liveaboard boat. This includes the liveaboard diving destinations, marine life, experience required and more.

Here’s what you should consider when making your choice.

Diving Destination

One of the first things any scuba diver takes into consideration is the diving destination and luckily there are many beautiful places to dive in the world.

Some locations have underwater ruins, dive-throughs, washing machines or specific species such as sharks.

Certain locations are known for different fish species, sharks and coral.

Budget

It goes without saying that when picking a liveaboard trip you will want to take budget into consideration. Luckily, there are lots of different types of trips. You can pick different durations with the chance to enjoy days, a week or weeks of diving that all match your budget.

The liveaboards vary from budget to luxury options and the destination also makes a difference to the price.

Marine Life

Marine life changes depending on your location, if you’re looking for hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, reef sharks, manta rays and more then you will want to go to the likes of the Bahamas or elsewhere.

You can also find certain liveaboard dive trip areas with a marine park.

Level of Diver

Some dive sites are for advanced divers, you may need to be an experienced diver for different dive spots in Belize. There are various sites known as washing machines that have a current and can be tricky.

Check the level required for you to dive into specific areas. There are many different locations and sites that are perfect for beginner divers.

Liveaboard Package

Take a look at the entire package, this includes the liveaboard itineraries. How many dives per day are expected, where are you visiting and what liveaboard boat will you be using. Some boats have the opportunity for a number of night dives and also visit exclusive national parks.

As well as experienced divers enjoying these liveaboards, you can also look for liveaboard boats that cater to non-divers. This often includes lounging in the sun, on-board entertainment and snorkelling.

Many of the liveaboard trips also boast other add-ons with underwater photographers following you, they go completely unnoticed but often snap up natural and amazing shots that you can buy at the end of the trip.

Most Popular Liveaboard Diving Destinations

We’ve searched through the most popular dive destinations so that you don’t have to. Take a look at the best liveaboards using our picks below.

Maldives Liveaboards

Read our Maldives Liveaboard article for my ratings of all of their top boats.

Travel the Indian ocean with some of the best dive safari trips in the world. Maldives has some amazing sites that offer sightings of sharks, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, thriving coral reefs and more.

  • Sharks
  • Sea Turtles
  • Dolphins
  • Emperor Explorer
  • Horizon
  • ScubaSpa Ying
  • Sun Island
  • Broken Rocks
  • Fish Rock

Dive Rating of 5/5

This is an amazing dive holiday option and the country is home to some of the most amazing diving experience. The Maldives is a paradise-setting for not only land holidays but for a range of different diving spots. For the most part, you will need to book up with a resort, which is often costly. To get the most bang for your buck you will want to book on the liveaboards in the area.

Dive around some of the best diving sites in the world. Use our full Maldives Liveaboard Diving for everything that you need to know.

Thailand Liveaboards

Read our full Thailand Liveaboard review for everything that you need to know.

As a scuba diver, Thailand is one of the most well-known locations for scuba diving. It also comes with a list of popular liveaboard destinations in Similan islands and coast around the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand for amazing sites.

You can find whale sharks, manta rays and different sharks. Find out more about the liveaboard trip options with our full Thailand Liveaboards.

  • Sharks
  • Manta Rays
  • Whale Sharks
  • Sawasdee Fasai
  • Camic
  • Manta Queen 7
  • Koh Tao
  • Koh Phi Phi
  • Koh Lipe

Dive Rating of 4.5/5

Speaking of the Andaman Sea, you can enjoy the Andaman Liveaboard, which is known as the ultimate guide of this ocean. Find the best liveaboard diving for you and find out where all of these boats visit. There’s no shortage of liveaboards in Thailand, find all of the best diving and boats using my help. They have something for everyone, with boats for different budgets and preferences. Find jacuzzis, sun decks or go for something a little more simple.

You won’t get a more affordable liveaboard than the ones in South East Asia.

The Galapagos Islands Liveaboards

I have reviewed the best Galapagos Islands Liveaboards, revealing the top 5 boats.

The Galapagos Islands is another destination with lots of remote islands, meaning that scuba divers can only truly enjoy the diving experience by liveaboard. The Darwin Islands are famous and that’s for the diverse animal life including sea lions, turtles, sharks, dolphins and more.

You won’t get a more affordable liveaboard than the ones in South East Asia.

  • Sharks
  • Manta Rays
  • Turtles
  • Tiburon Explorer
  • Galapagos Master
  • Humboldt Explorer
  • Cousins Rock
  • Cape Marshall
  • Darwin Islands

Dive Rating of 5/5

Get multiple dives around the Pacific ocean with popular liveaboard destinations in Galapagos. As well as having a variety of sites, and species – you will also find a range of fleets. They have the Tiburon Explorer, Aggressor and the Humboldt Explorer.

The Bahamas Liveaboard Diving

Diving in the Bahamas is one for the bucket list, read our full guide and review of Bahamas Liveaboards.

Diving in Bahamas is a popular choice and with many remote places to visit, it is often recommended that divers check out the liveaboards. Not only do you save time from travelling but also get your money’s worth.v

  • Sharks
  • Manta Rays
  • Whale Sharks
  • Bahamas Master
  • Aqua Cat
  • Bahamas Aggressor
  • Cousins Rock
  • Cape Marshall
  • Darwin Islands

Dive Rating of 5/5

The Bahamas is a Caribbean destination with some of the most incredible dive spots and that’s why many scuba divers flock to the country. It is ideal for shark diving with their protected areas and thriving marine life. It’s easier to travel by dive safaris as you will then be guaranteed a place at the best dive spots and all of your travel is taken care for you.

One of the hardest aspects of diving in the Bahamas is the logistics, preparing travel to each location and different dive boats to take you out can be difficult, costly and time-consuming. That’s why the Best Bahamas Liveaboards is a good place to start for finding the best liveaboard trip options.

Find the different fleets and check out the various packages available online. I have done all the hard work for you and all you need to do is take a look at the latest reviews. Bahamas has beautiful weather and underwater ventures.

You will also find these boats great if your other half does not dive, as there is usually an option for snorkelling or enjoying private beaches. Be sure to take a look at the booking information and the itinerary of the trip.

Australia Liveaboards

Take a look at my favourite Australia Liveaboards and be sure to do your research before booking.

Australia is famous for liveaboard diving trip options with Osprey Reef and other atolls to embrace. You can even enjoy Great Barrier Reef liveaboard trips.

As you can imagine they’re full of sharks, manta rays and other amazing scuba diver sights. Find the different dive safaris and liveaboard trip choices. Make the most of the Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean during the incredible dives throughout the day.

  • Sharks
  • Manta Rays
  • Whale Sharks
  • Ocean Quest
  • Spirit of Freedom
  • Rum Runner
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Holmes Reef
  • Whitehaven Beach

Dive Rating of 5/5

For some reason, many divers forget that liveaboards are an option in Australia. Although Aus is also the home of many great dive centres, it is still worth utilising the boat trips. If you want to fit in all of the amazing and highly talked-about dive spots then you will want to make the most of the liveaboard options.

Take a look at my favourite Australia Liveaboards and be sure to do your research before booking. My advice would be to only use Liveaboard.com after hearing stories about people using smaller operators that aren’t as trusty. Always opt for the most trusted liveaboard holidays.

Egypt / Red Sea Liveaboards

Find out more with our full list of the Red Sea Liveaboards. If you want to enjoy red sea diving then a liveaboard diving holiday is the best way to do so.

Egypt is always a memorable experience and not just for the ancient pyramids and historical legends but they are also a country with beautiful diving.

  • Sharks
  • Manta Rays
  • Whale Sharks
  • Ocean Quest
  • Spirit of Freedom
  • Rum Runner
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Holmes Reef
  • Whitehaven Beach

Dive Rating of 4.5/5

The Red Sea Liveaboard diving options could contribute to a sighting of beautiful species – with many liveaboard trips boasting the potential to see whale sharks, reef sharks, sea turtles and manta rays. Egypt is a hot spot for diving and it is very accessible. The diving isn’t expensive, but one thing I recommend is being well-researched before undergoing your expedition. Make sure you are with a trusted school or with a liveaboard that’s been reviewed.

If you are hoping to enjoy alcohol on your journey then you may want to opt for the Red Sea Aggressor. As a Muslim country, there aren’t many boats that have this option in the area.

Find out more with our full list of the Red Sea Liveaboards. If you want to enjoy red sea diving then a liveaboard diving holiday is the best way to do so.

Belize Liveaboard Dive Trips

You can find more information using my Belize Liveaboard Reviews, I take a look at the best boats.

Belize is a hidden gem when it comes to scuba holidays – not only is it host to beautiful landscapes but it also offers some of the most amazing sea life. The country is situated between Guatemala and Mexico.

  • Sharks
  • Manta Rays
  • Whale Sharks
  • Ocean Quest
  • Spirit of Freedom
  • Rum Runner
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Holmes Reef
  • Whitehaven Beach

Dive Rating of 5/5

Home to blue holes, shark alleys and famous dive sites – you can be sure to get your money’s worth on the Belize liveaboard boats. You have something for everyone on these boats with different types of challenges and enjoyment. You can take a look at the sharks and other species or you can make the most of the blue holes. You’re unlikely to ever see these kinds of sights again, check out the beautiful pictures of the blue sea in Belize.

You can opt for the Belize liveaboards to make the most of it, visit different sites and before booking be sure to check the level of experience that is required, as it can change between the boats in this destination.

Although part of Central America, we also class this dive trip as a Caribbean one with the boats being located on the Caribbean Sea.

Cuba Liveaboards

Find the best Cuba liveaboards using the help of my research. I have talked to a number of friends that have dived in Cuba and enjoyed every second of it. Look out for sharks, large groupers and marine turtles.

Cuba is a well-known holiday destination but it’s often overlooked for the diving that’s available. The country is the humble abode to beautiful marine life and you can visit the protected Gardens of the Queen.

  • Sharks
  • Manta Rays
  • Whale Sharks
  • Ocean Quest
  • Spirit of Freedom
  • Rum Runner
  • Garden of Queens
  • Cayo Caco
  • Bay of Pigs

Dive Rating of 4.5/5

Access to many of the best sites requires you to visit on a liveaboard and cannot be enjoyed through regular scuba diving schools. Travel from the US can sometimes be enjoyed through education purposes for divers.

It is often overlooked and really shouldn’t be – it has a range of sites and places to visit. The boats are reasonably priced and easy to book.

Fiji Liveaboards

Find out more with our full review and guide on Fiji Liveaboards.

Fiji dive safaris are something else, the entire country is red hot with marine life, unreal diving and all-around good vibes.

Fiji is known for their beautiful beaches but you will also discover underwater beauty when scuba diving. Again, this is a country with diverse sea life and lots of species. Find out more with our full review and guide on Fiji Liveaboards.

  • Sharks
  • Manta Rays
  • Whale Sharks
  • Reef Endeavour
  • Fiji Princess
  • Nai’a
  • Yasawa Islands
  • Mamanuca

Dive Rating of 4.5/5

There are lots of luscious places to enjoy depths in Fiji, some of their known spots include Taveuni, Beqa Lagoon and Viti Levu. The deep blue in the tropics is something to behold, visit the beautiful country and enjoy their local food on board as you fuel up to dive in incredible sites.

Look out for whale sharks and many other mystical creatures as you look to embrace your liveaboard exploration.

How Much Does a Liveaboard Cost?

Liveaboard diving costs between $500 and $10,000 but this comes down to the type of liveaboard boat, the destination and the duration you wish to book for. There are options for all budgets, it’s best to shop around before booking.

If you’re looking to rent scuba gear then you will need to factor that into the costs. You will be better off using your own scuba equipment. Be sure to check out scuba gear such as scuba masks, scuba fins and dive computers. Liveaboard diving can be costly but when you calculate the time saved and money saved on travel and food, you start to understand why they’re well worth their weight in gold.

Tipping Staff

This aspect of costs is often unclear and can make different divers feel a little awkward, that’s why it is an important element to research before enjoying your adventure.

Most staff are there for their dream and aren’t necessarily paid too well, that’s why it is always a nice gesture to tip. In fact, the dive staff usually rely on tips from customers. It’s a lovely thing to do and you should not feel rude about offering a tip at the end of your trip.

Generally, tips are split between all of the boat members but this can depend. Check out their rules and how percentages are measured for tips.

What to Pack for a Liveaboard Trip- the Essentials?

It’s key to have a packing list for a liveaboard diving trip, here are the essentials that you’ll need:

  • Scuba Gear – Some liveaboards have rental gear that you can use but you will need your fins, a mask, bcd, rashguard and all other diving equipment.
  • Dive Computer – Most equipment can be rented on the boat, but a dive computer will not be available on the boat. They are the most expensive aspects of most divers’ repertoire. Bring your own and if you do, familiarise yourself with it before the trip. Don’t worry if you’re new, there will be people to help you but it is important to be versed beforehand.
  • SMB – An SMB is an essential, you should always have one with you on any dive. Most liveaboards have this on-board, but it’s worth packing your own.
  • Wetsuit – A wetsuit is part of your gear but it deserves a special mention – they keep you protected and even though you can hire them, it is best to take your own. That way you know you’re comfortable with a suit that fits. Remember, you will be carrying out lots of dives in a short space of time, comfort is imperative.
  • Rashguards – Another clothing accessory includes rashguards, they are versatile and easy to pull on and off. This makes them ideal for not only diving in general but for liveaboards too. You can stay protected in between dives or whilst at the surface of the water, avoiding the potential burns.
  • Dry Bag – A dive backpack is important for all dives, you don’t want your phone or other items getting soaked when on the boat. Diving backpacks and dry bags are great additions and are well priced. They scrunch up and are secure, ensuring all of you items can stay dry on the deck.
  • Comfies – Ensure you pack clothing for around the dives, you may want flip-flops, shorts and clothing for lounging in between dive safaris. As well as having dive clothing, don’t forget that you will want to stay comfortable in between.
  • Sickness Tablets – Motion sickness meds could come in very handy, even if you aren’t one to usually be affected with seasickness, it’s worth taking some tablets just in case.
  • Sun Screen – You will be on the boat and no doubt enjoying the sun, don’t underestimate it. Try to find reef safe cream.
  • Underwater Cameras – Every underwater adventure should have an action camera. Get your Go Pro at the ready and bring chargers, batteries and your housing.

Can Those That Do Not Dive Go On Liveaboards?

Many liveaboards also cater for non-divers with a snorkelling option and plenty of other activities. Liveaboards are mostly for a diving experience but you can also snorkel, enjoy the sun decks and if you’re lucky, embrace a jacuzzi.

This works well because some divers may want to share a diving holiday with their partner, if their partner isn’t a diver, there’s still lots to do and it’s not all liveaboard diving.

How is a Typical Day on a Liveaboard?

Liveaboards depart in the morning and travel towards the best diving spot and remote islands. Before the dive holiday begins you will have a full itinerary and you can also ask the dive guides.

Here’s a typical day of liveaboard diving:

  • You will wake up around 5 am and be in the sea for 6 am before breakfast
  • You then get a chance to eat breakfast, relax and hopefully enjoy the rays
  • A daily briefing then followed by your second dive before midday
  • Have dinner and help yourself to fruit
  • Check out natural habitats and educate yourself on your third dive
  • Some boats have the option of night dives
  • Enjoy your night with the TV in the entertainment lounge, the jacuzzi or spend time in your own cabin

Each dive safari is different, it comes down to the operator and the area, a red sea dive will be different to a dive safari in Thailand.

What to Expect

Each liveaboard and destination comes with its own adventures but generally, there’s specific routines and features that you can expect on each liveaboard boat.

Here are some of the things you can expect on your liveaboard holiday:

Accommodation

Liveaboard accommodation is a cabin, these cabins vary greatly depending on the budget, the boat and your preference. Some cabins are small single cabins where you’ll be placed alone whilst others have double or even quad cabins.

If you are going alone and you’re worried about who you’ll be placed with, don’t worry, the operators are generally great, they will place you with others of the same gender and you can always get in touch with any queries.

Here are the different types of cabins:

  • Single Cabins – These are more expensive as they allow you privacy. They come with one single bed and are usually small.
  • Double Cabins – Double cabins are great for those that go as a couple, they have a double bed and again, you can enjoy your own privacy.
  • Quad Cabins – Quad cabins and any other cabins similar are shared. They sometimes have two bunk beds or four single beds.

Other assets to consider include air conditioning and televisions. Personally, I always like to find liveaboards that come with air-con. They are often small spaces, but that I don’t mind as you barely spend time in your room. You are on the deck and underwater for the most part.

Luxury boats come with jacuzzis, plenty of sun loungers and different decks. Decks can include a spot to sunbathe, get in a hot tub or eat. The larger boats even have a communal entertainment lounge with a television.

The best way to find out more about accommodation is to simply read reviews, research the specifications and check out the pictures.

Food & Drink

Food and drink vary from boat to boat, but you will often find that the staff serve up authentic food from the local area. This adds to the holiday with you still being able to experience the local cuisine whilst out at sea.

Enjoy curries, native dishes and there are always refreshments such as fresh fruit and water available between dives.

The food is served up and you’re then allowed to help yourself. Fruit is always available and is often delicious with it being picked and ripened locally.

Alcohol on the other hand depends on the liveaboard package – some boats ask if you would like an add-on. Other liveaboards allow you to bring your own alcohol. It does vary and that’s why it is always best to check. For instance, the red sea dives often lack alcohol due to the culture in the Islamic areas but if you do have the option of the Red Sea Aggressor that serves up beers and wine.

Safety

Safety is imperative on all dives and that’s why they will not allow overdrinking on the night or to drink alcohol in between dives. The dive guides are highly-trained and experienced divers.

The staff speak English and are accessible whenever you need them. Upon boarding they will go over the safety rules and brief you on everything, they also do the same before each dive. Any questions can be asked and their priority is to keep you safe and comfortable.

In an emergency, staff will ensure you’re safe and clear on what to do in extreme circumstances, you can be assured that you’re in safe hands.

Summary

This is our best liveaboards, liveaboards guide, ultimate liveaboard guide for everybody looking to enjoy an unforgettable and mystical experience beyond the waves.

Liveaboards are a dream and any enthusiastic diver is sure to have the time of their life on them. They aren’t cheap or something that should be done on a whim. Even though booking last minute is fine, that doesn’t mean you should skip the research. I’d advise you to research the cabin, reviews of the liveaboard, the destination and what gear you require.

Once you are happy, you should absolutely book a time to remember with what will sure to be something you think about often.