It's every diver's dream. A live-aboard lifestyle, getting up from your bed, an ocean view right from your window with a breathe-taking sunrise, and take a walk onto the dive deck where there's yet another day for unlimited diving. It's the nature of these trips that makes them so attractive, remote destinations, plying the open ocean, perpetually located at the dive site rather than in the heart of civilization. You do however, need to think how you're going to plan your trip. From choosing your boat to packing your dive bag.
Pick and choose your boat: Live-aboard experiences are as varied as boats on the water. From big animal encounters to onsite marine biology lessons, picking the type of adventure you'll have onboard is as important as the destination itself. If you want to sharpen your underwater photo skills? Look for boats with onboard photo pros and underwater workshops. But, want something good and fun for the whole family? Of course, considering that you have a nonstop diving onboard why not sign up for a family oriented trip with dedicated for kid programs such scavenger hunts, fish ID excursions, and water-safety classes. Now, it guarantees that whole family will have extraordinary bonding moments.
Make requests in advance: Eat, sleep and dive. That illustrates a live-aboard trip. Remember a live-aboard trip is very different to a trip by land, live-aboards are limited in cabin space and you may well be sharing a bunk-bed with other divers and once at sea. So, if you don't want to share bed with others then make a request for a certain cabin, in addition to that, if you have special dietary needs or food preferences such as vegetarian only or food allergies (or simply just plain picky), make those requests well in advance. "Live-aboard guest must keep in mind that the vessel is serving the needs of up to 20 passengers at one time", says Larry Speaker of Peter Hughes Diving.
Pack Light: Space is at a premium on a live-aboard boat, and all passengers are required to share what space is available. It is recommended to use only soft, collapsible luggage that will take up little space after it is unpacked. Don't stress over what to wear onboard, remember your primary goal is to dive - no need to change your wardrobe many times. A dozen pairs of shoes are useless because most time on a live-aboard is spent barefoot. Just bring a good pair of waterproof and friendly footwear. You may think a tropical locations or night at sea and an air-conditioned interior of the boat may prove unexpectedly chilly, so bring fleece tops and bottoms that will help you to keep warm.
Carry extras: Medicines, sunscreen, bits and pieces for you dive gear; you'll have little or no opportunity to buy those once the boat set to sail. So, when you start packing for your live-aboard trip, pay extra attention to these small essentials:
- Extra exposure protection: When you reached up to four or five dives a day, you'll get colder than normal. Think about a thicker suit than you normally use, bring as shorty or hooded vest to wear underneath and a hood or beanie to throw on if you get chilly.
- Save-a-dive kit: Make an extra spare for most everything in your dive bag. Computer batteries, regulator mouthpieces, fin straps, O-rings- if it can break, it probably will, so be get ready for extra backup.
- Safety signaling equipment: Whistle, air-powered alert horn, signal mirror, safety sausage, cyalume sticks and/or battery-powered signal lights.
- Batteries and chargers for all!
- Electronics: Camera, dive computers, flashlights, and toys. Bring a travel-size power strip, as plug space may be limited on board.
- Toiletries: Shampoo, soap, seasickness, headache, diarrhea and congestion meds, and a sufficient supply of any necessary prescription medications.
Contingency travel: Depending on your destinations, and the number of and types of flights you'll take to get there, you may need to plan your arrival at the liveaboard's departure point for a day or so in advance.
Take a specialty course: Take this your extra opportunity to improve your dive skills with some specialty training. If divers are interested in training, they should make that request early in a planning process. Instructors are readily available, but a live-aboard is not like your local retail dive store where all training manuals, in all languages, are readily available.
Use NITROX: To get the most out of a liveaboard, a Nitrox course is highly recommended. Using Nitrox will increase your possible bottom time and many divers report feeling better after diving with Nitrox and less drowsy.
Tip well: The crews working onboard often do double or even triple duty. When they're not setting up your dive gear, filling your tanks or guiding your dives, they're cleaning the boat, even cooking your own meals and making sure that everyone stays safe. Standard tip amount on a live-aboard is to 10 to 15% of your local total charter price. Don't be stingy. Do budget tips into your total vacation expenses ahead of time.
Get insurance: Five or more dives for a week straight may redline your nitrogen levels, and many live-aboards operate far off the beaten rack. If you're very unluckly and get decompression sickness, you'll likely need immediate air evacuation to the nearest recompression chamber, and that may not be so near. Even if dive insurance is not required, you'd be foolish not to have it. The cost of evacuation and recompression can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and DAN's most expensive dive insurance plan (diversalertnetwork.org) costs a mere $70 a year- well worth it.
Research the destination: Many live-aboards will arrange land-based excursions all around your diving destination, so plan those out ahead of time. And, of course, research your diving locations ahead of time. You want to make the most of this trip, so have a good idea of what you want to do and let the crew know early on. But once you've made your desires known- be flexible.
Above all, remember to have fun! Good luck and Dive Safe!