Living on a luxurious yacht for a week and going to visit some of the best diving sites in the Red Sea, including some that are so far away that they can only be reached on a liveaboard boat, was a little slice of paradise for me. However, diving liveaboards are not for everybody. After my first liveaboard diving trip on the M/Y Sea Serpent, booked through Top Liveaboards, that visited the classic Brothers, Daedelus and Elphinstone reefs in the Red Sea, here are some points that I would bring up to anyone looking into doing a liveaboard trip:
All the single ladies!
Imagine that to Beyonce’s voice. Calling all single ladies out there…and I necessarily mean relationship status here. I mean that if you find yourself a solo female diver gazing at diving liveaboard sites and wondering about how to convince a friend to come with you (since prices are always per person based on double occupancy), through your hesitation into the wind! Ask the provider but it seems common to be a solo diver and get the regular rate as long as you’re open to having a roommate. There were lots of solo male divers on board but solo female diving-with-sharks-enthusiasts seem to be a rarer breed. I was the only solo female and consequently, I had a whole cabin to myself!
Life revolves around diving
Life on a liveaboard focuses on three things – eating, diving and sleeping. However, even eating and sleeping actually revolves around the diving schedule. Basically, it is dive, eat a meal, and then sleep and then repeat for three times a day (plus snack!). I think liveaboards will be kinda boring if you’re not a diver so think twice if you’re a non-diver who is considering on being a +1 and just coming for the cruise. With all of the diving on the trip, divers sleep a lot! I slept the most I’ve ever in a single week!
There is a lot of diving but that’s ok!
As a part 2 of the previous comment, there is a lot of diving on a liveaboard. Typically, it is 3-4 dives a day! There are three during the day and then the possibility of a night dive (though in Brothers, Daedelus and Elphinstone tour, night dives are not allowed in the marine parks). I had never done so much diving at once and it was little intimidating at first. However, it’s easy to fall into a rhythm on the boat – don’t forget about the many, many naps! By the end of the trip, instead of feeling worn out from the diving, I was wondering how I was going to live without diving three times a day! Warning, diving liveaboards comes with the risk of going into diving withdrawal afterwards.
Life on a yacht sounds idyllic as is going to remote pristine dive sites. However, also remember that seas can be rough and going to remote dive sites can mean long ocean journeys. A yacht is bigger and more stable than other small boats but it still feels the waves. If you get sea-sick, then a liveaboard may not be the most pleasant for you. If you are very determined to get to those remote dive sites, then good for you! Bring a lot of Gravol!
Carefully consider your route and ask lots of questions about it
When looking at routes, you will probably only find all the amazing things that you may see at the sites. However, carefully consider your own diving abilities and what you enjoy because routes can be very different. For example, the Deep South liveaboards in the Egyptian Red Sea go to pristine reefs with relaxing dives that feature underwater caves, beautiful coral and lots of fish. The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone (BDE) are all solitary reefs in the middle of the Red Sea, which consequently attract sea life that usually spends most of its time in the open ocean (like sharks!) but it largely consists of the same thing – steep wall dives where current, swell and wind are always something that need to be considered. The BDE route was amazing and diving over schooling hammerheads is an experience that I will never forget. However, BDE was not easy and the combination of current and deep diving is not for everybody. It required negative entries where we had to dive straight down from the zodiac to at least about 20 metres to avoid being washed around in current and swell, so if you need to equalize your ears slowly, then this would have been very challenging.
The pros and cons of rental equipment
Is the the diving liveaboard safari a part of larger travels? If you’re backpacking, then lugging around all of your own diving equipment doesn’t make sense. I found on my liveaboard that almost all of the other divers flew in to Egypt for the diving liveaboard alone. They arrived by air on the first day and had to carefully time their last dive to give themselves the necessary 24 hours before their flight. Almost everyone also had their own equipment. Consequently, I found that rental equipment (I rented everything except for my prescription mask) was very expensive (35 euros a piece) and was lower in quality than at dive shops. No one really understood my dive computer (and I asked both of the dive guides) and the strap actually broke underwater (I think previous divers didn’t wash it properly but I ended up having to pay for a new strap). My regulator had the dustcap broken and my wetsuit was a little big on me while my fins took at least 3 hours to finally get something that would work and even then, the booties were a little small and I have sores all over my foot now. Unlike a dive shop, they don’t have the rental gear on the boat so you tell them your sizes and they bring it in. However, if it doesn’t fit, then they have to drive to their storage and bring you the next size. If you think you will be doing more diving and more liveaboards afterwards, it may be more worthwhile to get your own diving equipment. You may find that renting it for one trip is half the price (and half the quality) of buying your own set. At least, the priority is getting your own mask and dive computer and then in my opinion, fins!
After my first liveaboard experience, I am addicted and will definitely think about going on another one. However, I will be investing at least in some of my own equipment depending on travel plans surrounding the diving liveaboard. I will be at least getting my own dive computer!
As a last couple notes – Red Sea liveaboards seem to be some of the most affordable in the whole world for what is offered. It was amazing diving and a great place to get my feet wet (well everything wet really) with liveaboards. Also, I booked through Matt Robinson at Top Liveaboards, a company based in the UK. After going through the various company sites across the internet, I personally choose Top Liveaboards because 1) user-friendly website, 2) registered company in the UK, TTA (Travel Trust Association) registered and gives a full guarantee that you will get your money back if for some reason the liveaboard doesn’t run as planned, 3) good prices and 4) friendly and knowledgeable staff. I communicated to Matt so often in the past year while planning for the trip and asking about the routes available. For me, it is always a little scary to book online with a company that I’ve never met. We have all heard about online scams. However, Matt made it very easy and comfortable for me. Thanks Matt! http://www.topliveaboards.com/