What To Expect On Your First Liveaboard Trip (Top tips to follow)


What to expect on your first liveaboard scuba diving trip large
Image courtesy of Liveaboard.com – the Emperor Explorer, Maldives 9.8 out of 10!

If you’ve got the scuba diving bug and you’re looking to expand your skills and experience, a liveaboard dive trip is one of the best ways to do this. On a liveaboard dive boat you’ll be doing anywhere between 2-5 dives every day. This will increase your diving experience no end. But what should you expect on your first liveaboard dive trip? Let’s take a look…

What to expect on your first liveaboard scuba diving trip? The main thing to expect from your first liveaboard trip is loads of diving, eating great food and with plenty of time for rest and relaxation. Most mornings you’ll go for a dive, even before you have breakfast. Then you can expect to dive as much as two to four more times each day, with one dive being a night dive.

Liveaboard diving for the first time and what to expect

One of the best aspects of scuba diving from a liveaboard is the number of dives you can do in a day. The diving usually includes up to four dives daily. This depends on the liveaboard and on your destination and type of diving.

A typical diving itinerary includes the following options each day:

  • The test dive: Your first dive onboard the boat will be a shallow check dive. This gives you time to familiarise yourself with your own equipment or more importantly if you’re hiring any diving equipment, to be happy with this unfamiliar equipment. The check dive is also to get your weighting right for the rest of the trip. But also, the check dive will provide the dive master an idea of each diver’s confidence and competence level.
  • The early morning dive: First dive of the day before breakfast.
  • Dive interval: Your first dive interval of the day is to have your breakfast and to allow your body to decompress the nitrogen build-up from your early morning dive. You can also use this time to snorkel, but make sure to notify the guides before you get off the boat.
  • Second dive of the day: Often times the second dive will be in the same or similar location to the first dive.
  • Second dive interval: The second dive interval will include relaxing and decompressing, plus time to eat your lunch. Plus time for snorkelling if you like to snorkel.
  • Third dive of the day: Your third dive will be after you’ve had some lunch and had a long enough dive interval from your first two dives of the day.
  • Third dive interval: During this third dive interval you’ll have more time to relax, but also to have dinner and to socialise with the other divers on board. But be aware that if you intend to partake in the night dive, don’t consume too much alcohol at dinner.
  • Fourth dive or night dive: Many liveaboards offer a night dive. But this is dependent on the place you’re diving and the dive site at the time. Night dives are usually a shallow dive and in a safe location away from currents.

You don’t have to do every dive on a liveaboard

In case you’re not a morning person, you don’t have to wake up for the first dive. But this goes for all other dives too. Just because there are several dives each day, you don’t have to do each and every dive.

There are different recommendations for the number of dives to be done per day. But this is to a large extent governed by the depth of each dive you do. Plus not all liveaboards offer more than two dives per day in any case.

I think you’ll have gathered from the diving schedule above that going on your first liveaboard will consist of a cycle of diving, followed by eating and relaxing.

Number of dives per day recommendation

When you consider the number of dives you do each day, you may want to consider the BSAC recommendation.

BSAC recommends that if you’re using BSAC Tables you should limit your daily dives to a maximum of three per day, regardless of the depth. They also suggest that if you’re diving to deeper than 30 metres (99 feet), you should take a 24-hour break after diving for four consecutive days.

But the choice is yours and so long as you dive using a dive computer, and be sensible about it, be guided by the dive master on the boat.

One way to help your body cope with the amount of diving you do on a liveaboard is to use Nitrox. Not all liveaboards carry nitrox onboard, and some provide this for free, whilst others charge for their nitrox.

Diving from a tender

Many dive boats use tenders for diving. This is often times a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) or sometimes referred to as a RHIB (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat).

The reason for this is that the tender has a shallower draft and is more nimble. This means they will be able to get you much closer to the dive site. It also means that they will be able to take you to more diving sites from one main mooring or anchoring of the liveaboard boat.

What to expect onboard your first liveaboard

Most liveaboards are split into three main sections. When you first arrive onboard, you will be shown to your cabin and then you’ll be given a guided tour of the boat.

The main areas on most liveaboards include:

  • The main deck: This will include areas for dining or relaxing and the area for kitting up before you go diving. You’ll be allocated a section where your dive cylinders will be stored. This section will be yours for the duration of the trip. Also, underneath the bench where the dive cylinders are stored there will be a crate or storage box for storing your diving accessories like your mask, fins and weight belt.
  • The cabin deck (or lower deck): Depending on the cabin you’ve book will depend on the level of luxury you have. Cabins range from single cabins for those solo divers, through to doubles for travelling partners and multi-bed cabins for those who are happy to share. Of course the types of cabin available are different for each liveaboard.
  • Upper deck: Some liveaboards will also have an upper deck, which will include areas for relaxing between dives and some upper decks also have cabins too.
  • Sun deck: Many of the liveaboards in the popular destinations like Egypt and the Red Sea, the Maldives, Australia, Indonesia and Thailand will have a sun deck for those sun worshippers. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

How to choose your first liveaboard dive boat destination

When you are looking to book your first liveaboard dive trip, make sure to take your certification level and experience into account when doing so.

If you use a reputable company like Liveaboard.com, on each liveaboard they provide details of the necessary experience needed for the trip. The two images below are for the Northern H-Lights on the Maldives Emperor Explorer.

To get to the experience detail for your chosen boat on Liveaboard.com, scroll to the section “choose your departure date“. Then select the date of your choice by clicking on the ‘Itinerary’ box – see below image.

How to find diving experience and certification level on a liveaboard
Chose your departure date for your chosen liveaboard in the above image – Image courtesy of Liveaboard.com

This next image is the page you’ll land on when you click on the ‘Itinerary‘ box explained above. In the red boxed area in the image below you’ll see details of how many dives you’ll do on the trip (in this case a total of 24 dives).

Below that you’ll see the experience requirement, which in this case is ‘No minimum dives’ and an Open Water Certification.

Simply match these details with your current experience and diver certification and you’re good to book and go.

How to choose your first liveaboard dive boat destination
Experience details of your chosen liveaboard in the red boxed area in the above image – Image courtesy of Liveaboard.com

What should I bring to a liveaboard?

There are few essentials you must bring with you on your first liveaboard.

What to bring on your first liveaboard trip includes the following:

  • Your diver certification: Without your diver certification you won’t be able to dive. This is as important as it is for packing your passport for travelling aboard. But also make sure to pack your passport before you driver to the airport!
  • Light clothing in most cases: I’m thinking that most liveaboards are in warm and tropical destinations, so pack light clothes like t-shirts, light dresses or skirts and shorts. Plus take your swimming gear.
  • Toiletries: Include any sea sickness medication in with your toiletries bag if you’re susceptible to being sick on the waves.
  • Diving equipment: Most liveaboards will rent diving equipment to you at an extra charge. But if you have your own equipment, you can take yours instead. Even if you have your own scuba gear, don’t pack your weight belt nor your dive tanks, as these are included in the price of the trip.
  • Dive computer: Although your dive computer falls into diving equipment, I though it best to highlight it separately.
  • Sun-screen: If your dive liveaboard is to a sunny location, make sure to bring your sunscreen with you.
  • Torch and DSMB: Always bring a torch, especially if you intend to do the night dives. But also a delayed surface market buoy is a recommended safety requirement too.
  • Camera: Don’t forget to bring your camera or Gopro to take lots of pictures and films of your trip.
  • A smile: Liveaboard diving is great as you meet like-minded people all keen to enjoy their diving. It’s a great chance to meet new people. So bring a smile with you and an open mind to enjoy some diving and company with a group of divers. Most scuba divers are a friendly bunch.

For a full list of what to take on your diving trip, please take a look at this article: Scuba Diver Travel Packing List (Free PDF List So You Don’t Forget Things!).

Getting to the dive sites on a liveaboard

One of the benefits of scuba diving from a liveaboard is the boat will travel to the next dive site over night.

So whilst you’re sleeping, the captain of the boat will be navigating to the next best diving spot. Which means that when you wake up in the morning, you’ll be somewhere new and exciting.

The second benefit of diving from a liveaboard dive boat is it can get to those dive sites that are ordinarily out of reach for the scuba day boats. When you dive from the shore, there’s a limit to the range of a shore-based dive boat.

Whereas, with a liveaboard, the distance covered is increased. This is partly due to the fact that the distance covered is cumulative from one dive site to the next.

But also, due to the fact that liveaboards can travel at night to the next dive site, more distance can be covered.

Food and drink on a liveaboard

The food you are served on Your chosen liveaboard will depend on where the liveaboard is located. In most cases there will be a choice between local style food and western food. Often times the food is served buffet style.

Most liveaboard dive boats will cater for vegetarians and vegans too, but check this before you book your trip.

If you have any other dietary preferences or concerns, discuss this before the boat leaves port. This includes any allergies you might have.

Most liveaboard boats should offer you unlimited fresh water to drink, as it’s important to stay well hydrated when you’re scuba diving. Some will also offer soft drinks included in the package fee.

The alcoholic drinks will normally be at an extra charge and this is paid at the end of the trip from a bar tab system. However, many liveaboards offer a glass of wine with dinner and some provide welcome cocktails too.

Other tips to note on your first liveaboard trip

Here are a few extra tips for your first liveaboard dive trip. But if you have any questions, please comment below.

A few extra tips to think about on your first liveaboard trip:

  • If there is a choice for your chosen size of cabin, go for the bow end of the boat. This way you’ll be further away from the engine noise.
  • Be ware that below deck can be a bit stuffy, so make sure to choose a liveaboard with air conditioning.
  • If you suffer from sea sickness, try to choose a cabin on a higher deck if the boat has them.
  • If you’re heavy on air and also if you are larger than average, request a 15 litre dive cylinder. But make sure to do this before the boat leaves port.
  • Put your buoyancy control device (BCD) on your dive tank and test it before the boat leaves port, as there’s not much that can be done once you’re out at sea. Most dive boats will have spare BCDs for hire, but get this sorted at the outset.
  • There will be hangers to hang your wetsuit after each dive. Make sure to rinse yours out and hang it up to dry, as this makes it more comfortable to put on before each dive.
  • Whilst most divers like a drink (or two), please be aware to not consume too much alcohol each evening. Scuba diving with a hangover isn’t any fun and can be a safety concern or an added risk factor for decompression sickness.
  • Before each dive there will be a dive brief. Make sure to attend this brief before each dive and pay attention to the dive master. You’ll be told about the dive site, what you expect to see and about diver safety.
  • Keep your gear organised, as it’s easy to lose things. This includes your dive kit as well as your other belongings.
  • Drink plenty of water!
  • Be mindful of your fellow divers. Don’t be loud after dark as there are often families on board to consider.
  • Don’t go off on your own without informing the guides. I often used the dive interval time to snorkel, but let them know so you’re not left behind.

How much do you tip a liveaboard crew?

The liveaboard crew run everything onboard to make your stay fun, enjoyable and safe. There will be crew to act as your divemaster, to cook your meals, clean your cabins and do your laundry, plus make your beds and keep everything running smoothly.

More Reading: 28 Tips on How to Conserve Air While Scuba Diving (How To Extend Your Dive Time Safely)

It is therefore customary to tip the liveaboard crew around 10% of the cost of your trip. But this does depend on the location of the trip, as every county is different.

However, it’s a nice way to show your appreciation of what the crew has done to make your trip a success. It’s a good idea therefore to take enough cash to pay this at the end of your trip.

I hope you enjoyed this article about what to expect on your first liveaboard trip

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkelling. Please use the comments section below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof go-pro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkelling or scuba diving (or specifically about what to expect on your first liveaboard), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba and scuba diving safety tips (and on snorkelling too) for you to read and learn about this fabulous sport.

Have fun and be safe!

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