Diving abroad has its obvious benefits from warm clear water to diverse colourful wildlife. When you book diving holidays you have three options; shore based, day-boat and liveaboard. With shore based you kit up on the beach and walk into the water, this is fairly convenient but you have a very limited range of dive sites that you can reach as you have to carry your equipment to and from the entry point. Day boats usually pick you up in the morning, take you out to two or three dive sites and get you back to your hotel mid-afternoon. Then you get Liveaboards which are floating hotels; you have cabins, a large dive deck, saloon, upper decks and much more depending on the boat.
When you first arrive at the dock you will be welcomed onto the liveaboard by the dive guides who will shown you to a communal area where they can do a quick safety briefing about the boat. Remember to remove your shoes as these can mark the boat and crews in Egypt for example will be Muslim and will find it rude if you wear outdoor shoes around their home. Have your cert cards to hand as you’ll have some paperwork to fill out and the usual liability and medical forms to complete. After all of the paperwork is complete you’ll be shown to your cabin which are usually a two person share arrangement with the occasional double bed. This is the time that you need to discuss with the guides if you want to use 15 litre cylinders or Nitrox and they can, if applicable, arrange that for you whilst in port, more exotic needs may need some extra time so ask your tour operator to organise unusual requests beforehand.
With your cabin if you ever get the choice of cabin choose one that is towards the bow to avoid engine noise and high up especially if you suffer from seasickness. Below deck can sometimes be a bit stuffy at it’s not a good place to be in rough seas if you get seasick. Some people, and the crew, often prefer to sleep on the top deck if there’s space but ask the guides or the crew before you move any bedding around.
Leave your dive equipment on the dive deck and take everything else to your cabin and stow it away neatly. On the dive deck you will have rows of cylinders set into benches that will be yours for the entire trip. Under the bench there will be a crate or storage box for your smaller accessories like boots, mask, weight belt etc. Around the dive deck there will be space to hang your wetsuit to dry between dives. As soon as your non-diving kit is stowed in your cabin set your BCD up on a cylinder and try to test everything because if your kit doesn’t work there’s not much they can do out at sea.
You will usually spend the first night in port to make sure everybody has what they need any you will make way early in the morning to head out to the first dive site. Life on a liveaboard is very regimented and days start early, you usually have a dive before breakfast. Your first dive will be a check dive, somewhere safe with a nice sandy bottom not too deep so you can check your equipment and your weighting so you’re happy with everything. But well before each dive you want to check that your cylinder is full as the earlier you tell them the better the fill you’ll get for the dive.
Each day usually consists of a cycle of diving and eating/relaxing. Most days you’ll wake up, go for a dive, have breakfast, go for a dive, have lunch, go for a dive, have dinner and in some places go for a night dive. Larger liveaboards will have one or two smaller RHIBs (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats) to help you get closer to the dive site as RHIBs are much more nimble and have a much shallower draft.
After the dive briefing you’ll usually be separated into 2 groups to reduce crowding on the dive deck and in the water. Your dive guides will brief you on the dive site and conditions and give you some options on how you’re going to dive and which guide to follow, if you want to follow a guide. I often enjoy diving with a guide because they often know where hidden secrets are and have sharper eyes for certain species.
After the dive you get back on the RHIB or the main boat, sit back down on your spot and you need to sign off that you’re back on board so nobody gets left behind. Your guides will brief you on the exact procedures but usually if you remove your regs from the cylinder it tells the crew that you want this cylinder filled, no need to remove your BCB. While you’re relaxing and eating the crew are filling your cylinders but it’s best to check an hour before the dive.
Lead and air are included in most packages but you usually pay for Nitrox and 15l cylinders or any equipment hire.
Bring a dSMB and a Torch as many require everyone or at-least one of each buddy team to have a dSMB. If you don’t have one then you’ll have to hire one onboard.
Breakfast is usually a choice of meats & cheeses, cereal and a range of omelettes. Lunch and Dinner are often buffet style dishes with everything from meat and fish to rich and pasta with veg and all sorts, just take what you fancy.
The first night at port they should ask you all if everything is ok and you have everything as well as dietary preferences. If you have any allergies let them know beforehand when you book the trip but if you don’t eat fish for example let them know and they’ll always have another option for you.
All boats should offer unlimited fresh water to keep you hydrated and most have soft drinks throughout the day and night. Most also have alcohol onboard but you have to pay extra, usually running a tab that you pay at the end of the week.
Most other divers are pretty approachable so you’ll quickly get a group of friends to chat to. Your cabin can be a nice place to escape to as they’re pretty quiet and often have air conditioning with powerpoints, a shower, toilet and storage cupboards. Just remember to never leave anything charging below deck unattended as there have been a couple fires due to overloading.
Try not to spread your gear all over the boat as it’s easy to misplace something important and it just gets in the way. Also try to stay as organised as possible and keep on top of battery levels on cameras and torches.
On the last dive you’re usually diving close to where you started the week and will make a simple dive on air. When you get back aboard break your kit down and wash it inside and out and leave it on top deck to dry off completely before you pack it for the trip home.
On the last couple days you’ll probably be given a couple envelopes between all the guests for a tip, one for the guides and one for the crew. You can be as generous as you like and it is greatly appreciated, especially if they’ve worked hard for the week. The last night is often in port where you can get off and explore the local area but check with the guides if you need to bring ID to get back through the port.