6 Liveaboard Destinations That Attract Scuba Divers from Across the World
Liveaboard vacations present the opportunity for scuba divers to spend a week or so at sea, joining with other seasoned scuba divers and journeying to some of the world’s most celebrated dive destinations. They can eat, sleep, relax, and dive multiple times per day. Regarded as the ultimate scuba diving experience by many, liveaboards are an excellent option for divers who want to cram as many underwater adventures as possible into their vacation.
Once aboard, divers typically enjoy up to three dives daily, exploring different dive sites with surface intervals between each dive. Time spent exploring each dive site averages about 30 minutes or so, enabling divers to see more of marine environments and the species that inhabit them than they would by staying the night at a single location.
Liveaboard itineraries generally incorporate much more than just typical daytime dives. Many trips involve divers waking before sunrise to enjoy breakfast together, before starting the day with a dawn dive. There is usually a break for lunch, before heading into the water again. Divers usually receive catered meals, eating together at night, watching the sunset and stargazing on deck, and possibly even putting on their dive gear again, enjoying the thrill of a night dive.
Liveaboards present a fantastic opportunity for divers to explore the ocean depth, experiencing a diverse array of different marine life, from tiny invertebrates and sea turtles to sharks and enormous whales. From Cocos Island to the Galapagos, we explore a selection of the greatest liveaboard destinations on earth.
1. Cocos Island — Costa Rica
Situated 342 miles off of Costa Rica’s west coast, Cocos Island is fabled for its schooling scalloped hammerhead sharks, serving as a magnet for pelagic species. A 36-hour journey from Puntarenas, this lonely seamount is also famous for its manta rays, mobula rays, and Galapagos sharks. Cocos Island National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing natural population densities of migratory species and large predators. Liveaboards typically cruise the region for an 8 to 10-day duration.
2. Ngemelis and Peleliu Islands — Palau
Located in Oceania, far from New Guinea and the Philippines, Palau is home to some exceptional dive sites. Boasting magnificent blue holes and numerous wrecks, Palau captivates divers with its abundance of marine life, presenting the opportunity to dive with whale sharks from March to May; green turtles from May to September; and rays from December to February. The best time to visit Palau is from June to July, when the visibility is superb. Accessible via an hour-long boat ride, the islands of Ngemelis and Peleliu boast some of Palau’s most impressive dive sites.
3. Raja Ampat — Indonesia
Home to more than 13,000 islands, Indonesia is renowned for its spectacular dive sites. Ranking highly among them, Raja Ampat consists of four main islands and 1,500 islets located just off West Papua Province’s Bird’s Head Peninsula. Here, dive safaris typically last from 5 to 10 nights in duration, the colorful waters encompassing some fascinating underwater environments, like caves and mangroves. Whether your focus is tiny invertebrates or large pelagic species, Raja Ampat delivers, with ghost pipefish, walking sharks, wobbegong sharks, reef sharks, barracuda, turtles, nudibranchs, and pygmy seahorses all commonly seen. The optimal time of year to take a trip to Raja Ampat is during the dry season, which starts in October and ends in April, and this is when most liveaboards visit.
4. Jardines de la Reina — Cuba
Having earned an international reputation as one of the finest diving destinations in the Caribbean, Jardines de la Reina is located 50 miles west of Jucaro in central Cuba. The reef has been protected for decades, culminating in a lively, uncontaminated shark diving destination. During any given dive in the “Gardens of the Queen,” divers are surrounded by multiple Caribbean reef sharks. There is also the opportunity to snorkel with crocodiles. Since it takes around three hours to reach Jardine de la Reina, it is only feasible to dive here with a liveaboard.
5. Great Barrier Reef — Australia
Hailed as one of the more beginner-friendly dive destinations, the Great Barrier Reef presents opportunities for year-round diving, and is an excellent setting to observe whales, dolphins, and even the elusive dugong. Consisting of over 900 islands and 2,900 individual reefs, this gigantic living structure measures more than 2,300 kilometers long, and is visible from outer space. The Great Barrier Reef is populated by six different types of marine turtles, as well as more than 1,500 reef fish species.
6. Galapagos Islands — Ecuador
With an almost mythical reputation, the Galapagos Islands rate highly on the wish list of many ardent divers. Located just off Ecuador, the best dive sites in the Galapagos archipelago are Darwin and Wolf Islands, which are only accessible by liveaboard. Here, scuba enthusiasts can experience manta rays, hammerheads, whale sharks, Galapagos sharks, sun fish and even marine iguanas up close, these untouched waters instilling a sense of wonder in anyone fortunate enough to visit.