How to choose the right liveaboard diving destination for you

The ultimate guide on choosing an expedition perfectly suited to your budget, preference and experience!

Liveaboard diving is a unique experience compared to coastal or day diving. It offers a vast list of benefits for divers like spending a period of time away from land, experiencing nature in her rawest form and getting the opportunity to dive on remote dive sites that regular vessels can't reach.

Looking into booking a trip and finding the right destination for you can be intimidating as there is a fast range of options for novice divers, thrill-seeking divers, divers on a budget and more!

Below we will look into liveaboards based on divers' needs.

Liveaboard diving destinations for beginners:

Before choosing a diving destination as a beginner, ask yourself the following: What is the ideal water temperature for me? How many days do I want to stay out at sea? Is my certification compatible with the dive conditions at the destination?

Ideally, you want to look into destinations with calm and reliable weather conditions, and dive sites that offer conditions for novice divers like sheltered areas, comfortable water temperatures and shallow reefs.

Bare in mind that liveaboard diving is not suited for complete beginner divers. The majority of operators require a minimum of 20 logged dives before joining an expedition; in the case of a dive site on the route that requires more experience or a certain speciality course, novice divers can skip the dive. Be sure to double-check the certification requirements with your liveaboard agency or operator before making the booking.

Here are some recommended destinations for beginners to look into

1. Red Sea, Egypt

Egypt is a very inclusive and affordable dive destination; its colourful, lively and shallow reefs and bays welcome novice divers. As a beginner, Egypt's northern route will be better suited for you, the dive sites are more accessible and shallower as well as lively! Apart from getting to encounter the smaller resident fish on Egypt's colourful reefs, you can also encounter some pelagics and reef sharks with some luck!

Time of year: All Year (With seasonal encounters)

Water temperature: 22 - 28 C (71.6 - 82.4 F)

Recommended boat companies: Emperor Superior, Red Sea Explorer, Omneia Spirit, Blue, Odyssey, Blue Horizon

2. Similan Islands, Thailand

Similan Islands introduce divers to the most popular dive sites in Thailand. Declared as a national park in 1982, the Similan islands offer you unforgettable diving adventures among varied landscapes which are home to over 500 species of hard and soft corals as well as an abundance of marine life! Similan Islands liveaboards offer an array of itineraries that explores various and there are dive sites accessible for novice divers.

Time of year: November - May

Water temperature: 26-29C (78.8-84.2F)

Recommended boat companies: The Phinisi, The Junk, Manta Queen 3, Pawara, Smiling Seahorse

3. Roatan and Utila, Honduras

Honduras expeditions are another amazing option for beginners!

The underwater world of Roatan and Utila offers beginner and advanced divers vibrant reefs, underwater walls and cracks and crevices in depths varying from 5 - 60 meters. Liveaboards in Honduras offers divers of all levels the opportunity to encounter pelagics, possibly whale sharks, and mantas!

Time of year: All year (Rainy season can affect visibility from Oct - Jan)

Water temperature: 27-31 C (80.6 - 87.8F)

Recommended boat companies: Roatan Aggressor

4. Central Atolls, Maldives

The Central atolls notoriously offer the best diving in the Maldives. It impressively provides a miscellany of sites within a small area and exploring the central routes often allows you to encounter mantas, whale sharks, big schools of pelagic fish and healthy reef systems.

There is a minimum of logged dives required and it ranges from 20-50 logged dives depending on which vessel you choose to go with.

Time of year: All year (peak season is Dec - April) (Monsoon: April - October)

Water temperature: 27-30C (80.6 - 86 F)

Recommended boat companies: Maldives Aggressor II, Mariana, Seafari Explorer 2, Maldives Blue Force 3, Emperor Explorer, Scubaspa Yang

Liveaboard destinations for experienced scuba divers

Every diver has a different preference, while beginners require shallower depths and sheltered areas, some advanced divers prefer these conditions. Then there is thrill seeking divers who thrive in currents, seek to explore deeper and more complex wrecks and who doesn't mind potentially colder temperatures for rare marine encounters as a reward:

1. Red Sea, Egypt:

Egypt hosts both beginner and advanced divers. However, some dive sites offer exciting drift dives, mysterious wreck dives and deeper wall dives. Exciting and more adventurous dive sites include Fury Shoals, Elphinstone Reef, Brothers Islands, and Daedalus Reef to name a few. Minimum logged dives are required by the majority of Red Sea and advanced itineraries. Make sure that you remember to bring your certification card and a logbook. Also, be prepared to do a check dive on your first day.

2. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador:

The Galapagos Islands boast over 70 dive sites for advanced divers to explore! This remote destination is only accessible by expedition-style ships and popular routes are Wolf & Darwin, Cabo Marshall and Cabo Douglas. Underwater you can expect to encounter an array of marine megafauna, shark species and pelagic fish life as well as enjoy some unique underwater typography. The majority of interesting dive sites in the Galapagos are deeper than 18 metres, thus, liveaboard operators require an advanced certification and a minimum of 50 logged dives.

There are not so many liveaboards that offer diving here, the most rated are: Galaxy Diver, Galapagos Sky, Galapagos Aggressor III, Galapagos Master

3. Palau

Diving in Palau should be on every diver's bucket list if not at the top of it! Palau offers an array of dive sites where you can expect to encounter an abundance of different marine life. Generally, this destination offers diverse colourful reefs, drop-offs, caves and wrecks. If this was not enough already, the area has an average of over 1300 fish species and more than 700 species of coral! Palau Siren and Palau Aggressor II have the highest rating according to reviews.

4. Socorro Islands, Mexico

The fact that Socorro islands are entirely uninhabited and isolated already makes visiting these islands a rare experience. Socorro's underwater world will not welcome you with bright coral gardens or colourful reef systems, however, when you get to encounter the abundance of pelagic life, sharks, and marine megafauna; it might be hard to focus on anything else in any way. You can expect to dive in water temperatures varying between 21-28C (70 - 82F). Strong watermanship skills and a minimum of an advanced certification with a minimum of 50 dives will be required for this destination. Also, be prepared for strong currents and challenging surface conditions.

Destinations for wreck diving:

Wreck diving is such a unique approach to appreciating history and its mysteries as well as stories!

Here are some destinations that offer wreck diving:

1. Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are home to 350 dive sites with historic wrecks, a vast variety of marine life and coral gardens. Below the crystal-clear waters of the Cayman Islands, you will find an array of wrecks to explore.

Some of Caymans legendary shipwreck dive sites are Cayman Brack, Little Cayman, Kittiwake, and Oro Verde.

This destination is very rare for liveaboards: Cayman Aggressor IV.

2. Truk Lagoon

Truk lagoon is exclusively a wreck diving destination, it's home to over 50 wrecks that sunk during Japanese WWII some of the best wrecks to explore at this destination are The San Francisco Maru, Fujikawa Maru and The Nippo Maru. 95% of these wrecks lay at recreational diving depths, but be sure to have your advanced certification with a deep speciality as most of these wrecks are within 30 metres.

3. Red Sea

Among Egypt's, colourful reefs, drop-offs and pelagics are several interesting wrecks to explore, especially on the northern routes. These wrecks are the famous SS Thistlegorm, SS Dunraven, Giannis D, and The Rosalie Moller (This one is not within recreational reach laying at 55m), and The Salem Express. Most of these wrecks are only accessible by Egypt liveaboards.

4. British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands lie in the Caribbean and offer some beautiful and easy diving. For wreck diving, you can explore the popular RMS Rhone wreck, which is accessible to scuba divers and snorkelers meaning you get to see the wreck from the Surface already! Here you will also find wreck alley, an area with purposely sunken wrecks where you get to explore you can also explore The Island Seal, Marie L, and two tug boats.

5. Palau

Not only does Palau offer pristine reefs, corals and seamounts but you can also find some interesting wreck diving here! Palau is home is more than 30 WWII wrecks, which all lie in accessible dive depths. The biggest are The Iro wreck, Amatzu Maru, and Chuyo Maru (Nicknamed Lionfish wreck).

Destinations to dive with big pelagics

For pelagic divers, there are a great number of destinations and routes available!

1. Socorro Islands, Mexico

Dive season: November to May

Pelagic species:

Oceanic mantas, various species of sharks including silky sharks, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, occasionally tigers sharks and white tip reef sharks. On dives, you can also encounter inquisitive dolphins and humpback whales.

2. Galapagos, Ecuador

Dive season: June - October

Pelagic life: Whale sharks, schooling hammerheads, various species of other sharks, spotted eagle rays, and stingrays.

3. Maldives

Dive season: Year-round (January - May is considered the best time for diving)

Pelagic life: Mantas, whale sharks, various shark species: Tiger sharks, threshers, grey reef sharks and eagle rays as well as pelagic fish like barracudas and trevallies.

4. Cocos, Costa Rica

Dive season: December - May (Best time for diving)

Pelagic Life: Scalloped hammerheads, silky sharks, tiger sharks, blacktip reef sharks and schooling pelagics like barracudas and various jack species.

A destination with a short season

Some destinations are open year-round, but others only offer a small window for liveaboards and divers. This could be because of the weather or the protection status of the destination. Because these destinations are open for such a short period, means that you should book your spots in advance.

1. Tubbataha, Philippines

Seasonality: March - June

Recommended: Resolute, Discovery Palawan, Stella Maris Explorer, Infiniti

2. Socorro, Mexico

Seasonality: November - May

Recommended: Southern Sport, Rocio del Mar, Valentina

3. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Seasonality: October to May

Recommended: Aurora, Solitude Adventurer, Emperor Raja Laut, Calico Jack

4. Komodo, Indonesia

Seasonality: January - March

Recommended: Jaya, Seahorse, La Galigo, Indo Siren

Unique liveaboard destinations:

While you find destinations with high demands within their rights, you find some more under-the-radar and unique destinations as well!

Amirantes, Seychelles

The underwater world of Amirantes offers you coral atolls, and remote and pristine dive sites as they only see several divers per year due to strict regulations. Underwater you can encounter stunning coral reefs and an abundance of marine life big and small.

The seasonality for Amirantes is between March and May, and from September to November.

Destination operated only by one boat Basilisk.

The Azores, Portugal

The Azores is an archipelago of 9 islands clustered in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, right off the coast of Portugal. The destination welcomes advanced and experienced divers with 50+ logged dives as dives are generally deeper than 20 metres and currents are strong and unpredictable.

The Azores are home to pelagics such as blue sharks, mako sharks, smooth hammerheads and mobula rays along with an extensive list of pelagics and stingrays. The underwater typography presents lava arches, rugged volcanic structures and deep pinnacles.

The summer season runs from June to September and you can dive around Pico Island, Faial Island and Santa Maria Islands. Companies that operate here are Narobla (Pico, Faial and Santa Maria routes) & Water and Wind (Santa Maria).

US Virgin Islands (CruiseNautic)

The US Virgin Islands presents some of the best drop-offs in the Caribbean. It also boasts a great selection of wrecks and coral reefs for divers of all levels! Underwater you can encounter reef and nurse sharks, schooling snappers, turtles, moray eels and stingrays.

A great liveaboard company that operates here is Cruise Nautic.

The seasonality for US Virgin islands liveaboards is year-round. Scuba Diving Vacations & Dive Holidays - Book direct dive travel with scuba diving operators, resorts, dive liveaboard yachts and dive travel representatives worldwide. We provide free scuba diving information for the traveling diver on vacation and holiday in and to scuba diver destinations around the world.

All Rights Reserved - /