Liveaboard vs Bus, Boat and Resort
For most of us, booking a dive trip is an exciting yet challenging affair.
When to go?
Where to go?
How long to stay?
How many dives are included?
And most importantly for divers, should it be a land-based trip or a liveaboard adventure?
I know divers who have never considered spending a week or more on a boat, preferring to stay at a resort and doing day trips out on dive boats from the affiliated dive shop. I also know divers who prefer to only dive from live-aboard for the ease and simplicity of the diving.
What’s the difference between a resort and liveaboard?
Many things come into play when booking a dive trip, time and money are big issues. If you have only a few days to dive and maybe a limited budget, a resort trip will likely be the option. With the advent of budget airlines flying to more and more diverse areas, quality diving is just a 2-3 hour flight away.
Most liveaboards have schedules; weekend trips, 1 week, 10 days or longer trips. As such, your time commitment is greater and has less flexibility. Since liveaboards provide not only a room and diving, they have all the amenities needed to feed and provide for its’ guests, the daily cost for a liveaboard trip can be higher than inexpensive land-based options…..
The location of your dive trip you choose will often help you to choose the resort or the liveaboard. There are many dive destinations where shore-based resort diving is the better option, Mabul, Bahamas, Caribbean, Mediterranean….. also there are places where the best or only option is a liveaboard. Cocos Island, theGalapagos Islands PNG, Raja Ampat, Similan Islands….. If your dream is to see shoaling hammerheads, whale sharks, mantas along with thousands of pelagic fish, you’ll need to go to a remote island like the Cocos Islands off the coast of Costa Rica, which is only visited by a liveaboard, making your decision one sided.
On the other hand, if you require only clear, warm water, pretty reefs and fish, there are dozens ofresort and dive operations around the world to provide excellent dive services from land. Many of these can also boast great encounters with sharks and other pelagics. Manado, Layang Layang, Bali, Lombok and even the Great Barrier Reef offer this option to you.
Pros and Cons of a Liveaboard
There is no better feeling as a diver than waking up first thing in the morning and quite literally falling into the water for your first dive, and, at the end of the first dive having a lush cooked breakfast ready and waiting for you. No meeting at a dive shop, waiting for the late guests, passing all equipment over to taxis, jeeps, boats, unloading equipment, setting up…
Whilst chowing down on your meals, the boat moves and by the time your food has settled, you are already at the next dive site, voila!!
A quick snooze and ample snacks are provided, then jump in and off you go.
Due to the size and travelling capabilities of liveaboards, they are able to go the further dive sites, less crowded dive sites, can use the tenders to drop-off and pick-you-up at the prime spots, and can spend days away sometimes without seeing another boat or another living person, true serenity.
The dive crew will quite literally do anything and everything for you, change your tanks, defog your mask, even put your fins on! It seems on some trips you just dive and feel your belly grow.
The general slogan for liveaboard diving is ‘ eat, sleep, dive. repeat ‘ – too true.
In my experience of liveaboards, the dives can be exceptional, but the chat that happens between the dives, you just can’t get on a speedboat or resort. Friends you make on liveaboards are friends you have for life.
Many of the nights are spent on the bow of the boat under the stars talking about previous dive trips, dive sites, the ‘closest you have been to a manta’.
Once you have set foot on your chosen liveaboard, thats it, just sit back, relax, and enjoy your time and diving.
Not everyone is accustomed to being at sea. Sea sickness can quickly ruin a great trip and the thought of 4 more days bouncing around just isn’t an option.
Some people are accustomed to the luxury provided by the hotels and resorts, the thought of a king size bed is more of a pull than the ease of the diving.
Pros and cons of a resort
Resorts can vary from the most basic of the basics to the most lavish of 5* or even 6* resort. The variation of rooms and packages is overwhelming with, the addition of massages and therapies.
Resorts are also good when the rest of the family are non divers.
Generally, the big resorts will sort all your transfers for you and put you in touch with the dive shop, but all of this comes at a cost.
There are downsides to land-based diving. By its nature, the diving is limited by the range of the day boats or the availability of shore dives near the resort. Most trips are limited to 2 dives and return after the second dive for lunch. Resorts can house alot more people than a liveaboard and if the area is visited by locals along with other tourists, the number of divers in the area can be phenomenal. As a result, the dive sites especially the coral, tend to be affected by this volume of people in the water. Divers want to go see fish and coral, not the fins of fellow divers. The negative effects of heavily-visited reefs can be evident. Also the boat is often shared with snorkellers, so dive site selection can be restricted.
Shore-based diving generally delivers 2 or 3 dives a day. Because there is a lot of time ‘wasted’ getting to and from the day boats or shore entry areas, diving more than 3 times a day is often much more difficult.
However, for the serious diver and underwater photographer, whose primary concerns are the quality and quantity of diving to be had, liveaboards offer the best chance for diving more pristine, unusual sites and often make diving a whole lot simpler, easier and ultimately more enjoyable.
In my experience and generally speaking, most liveaboard divers have logged more dives and are more experienced world travelers, than their land-based fellow divers. As such, most are “like-minded,” friendly, enthusiastic divers and many people I now count as my good friends and dive buddies, I first met on a liveaboard.
As with most pros and cons, everything I’ve said about shore-based diving and dive boats has exceptions. There are a great many land-based dive resorts that offer ‘quality’ experiences as well as the more comfortable amenities found on land, Thistlegorm wreck in Egypt, Liberty wreck in Bali, Aliwal Shoal in South Africa all spring to mind. Likewise, there are liveaboards that will easily rival any 5 star resort for comfort, roominess and service. In fact, it seems that the trend for the liveaboard is to improve the experiences while aboard, to go the extra mile for the guest
How you choose your next dive trip depends on your skill level, budget, time and inclinations. Whatever you decide, at least you shall be diving!