Divernet

WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO SPEND A WEEK on a boat when you could spend the same time based in a holiday resort No, you dont come into port every evening to visit restaurants and nightspots. You leave port and stay out at sea for the whole duration of the charter.
Its a very different sort of diving holiday. Most modern diving liveaboards have all the core facilities that hotels provide. They have comfortable cabins with proper beds and en-suite bathrooms with endless amounts of fresh water made by on-board desalination. Meals are varied, usually cooked to a high standard and prepared in modern galleys.
On a typical vessel such as those found in the Egyptian Red Sea, there is sufficient space for passengers not to be on top of each other (unless they want to be) and, of course, the accommodation is always near the dive site, even if that means a short ride in an inflatable.
Dive decks are so arranged that once your gear is set up, you leave it like that all week when youre not using it. The tank is refilled, usually with the nitrox mix you request, where it is stowed between dives. You dive, eat, sleep and chew the fat with the other passengers.
Who are these other passengers Will you get along with them Many long-standing friendships have been forged during a one-week liveaboard charter. Unlike day-boats, where the passengers go their separate ways as soon as the boat returns to land, passengers on a liveaboard dive boat spend all their time together.
People may come from very different backgrounds, but with the diving to bond them, its a chance to get to know people with whom you might never otherwise exchange words.
I remember a trip on a dive boat with a couple of men who shared a cabin and became great diving buddies. One was a High Court judge, the other an ex-Hells Angel! The judge later confirmed to me that he met people through diving that he would otherwise never have known socially.
I have shared cabins at different times with doctors and lawyers, an airline captain, an Olympic gold medallist, a prison-warder, a policeman and a truck driver.

OF COURSE, THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of a liveaboard dive-boat is that it can get to dive-sites that are out of range of boats that have to return to a home port each night.
Not a good sailor All boats, however big, are at the mercy of wind and water. Boats move, though some move less than others. For example, a large steel-hulled vessel will rock n roll a lot less than a small wooden sailing boat. But if you suffer badly from motion sickness, perhaps liveaboard boats are not for you.
How proficient a diver do you need to be It depends on where the boat operates. Some vessels offer trips in places that enjoy very benign conditions, but if its early in your diving experience a trip to somewhere with mountainous seas and huge currents might not be the ideal choice. Check with the boats operator before booking.
How fit must you to be Crews are very helpful, but if you are not strong enough to climb the ladder to a dive deck from the water, you might find the experience daunting.
On the other hand, Stanton Waterman (85) once observed to me that when you reach a certain age its best to stick with liveaboard diving. The only time you really have to carry your gear is when youre in the water!
Costs By and large, the price you are quoted by the operator is what you pay for the holiday. This usually includes flights, road transfers to and from the vessel, all meals and accommodation. Extras include alcoholic drinks on board, rental equipment, nitrox if it is charged as a supplement, marine park fees and crew tips. Ancillary diving courses such as Nitrox Diver are extra, as are boat T-shirts and a video souvenir of your trip.
This month we concentrate on accessible and budget-conscious liveaboard holidays, which means the Egyptian Red Sea, the Maldives and, with the dollar/pound situation so favourable for British divers, the Bahamas and Caribbean.


Liveaboarding for beginners
Unsure about taking that first step aboard Tour operators understand - and theyre ready to help, says Max Eaton

Liveaboard choice has never been greater for divers, with boats of all shapes, sizes and prices covering those destinations best dived from a mobile base. Choosing the right vessel can be a daunting task for those who have never trodden the decks before.
What do the experts recommend for the first-time liveaboarder We sought advice from some specialist dive-tour operators.
First-timers would do well, they agreed, to consider factors such as extent of onboard facilities, the sea-keeping qualities of their chosen vessel and likely sea conditions.
Assuming that such divers might have limited diving experience, they stressed the importance of trips of moderate length with mixed, comfortable diving.
Not surprisingly, at the head of many lists were liveaboard packages to the Red Sea, in particular the easier Northern itineraries.
These were favoured for offering a combination of shallow reef and wreck dives in gentle sea conditions.
We offer three-day mini safari trips out of Sharm, said Steve Teasdale from Aquatours. These give you a shorter stay onboard if youre worried about getting on with the other guests!
You get what you pay for facilities-wise, said Shem Tarko from Crusader Travel. The more you pay, the better and more luxurious the boat will be. You should check the itinerary and the boat size.
We offer an itinerary from Taba down to Dahab, on Coral Dreams, and this would be much quieter for a diver new to liveaboards.
Youve got to watch out for itineraries with marine park dives such as Ras Mohammed if youre a relative novice, because you need a minimum of 50 dives, put in Lucy OHagan from blue o two.

For divers who want to venture a bit further afield there are other options, such as the Maldives - but what about dealing with those famously strong currents day after day
Our boat Monsoon is ideal, said George Gray of Tony Backhurst Scuba Travel. Its itineraries start with dives within the atolls and then move out into the channels to let divers get acclimatised to the sea conditions.
The boat is built to the same high standard as the ones we operate in the Red Sea and has a steel hull, which is unusual in the Maldives, to give it a more comfortable ride.
Kate Phillips of Regaldive recommended the liveaboard Fathima. Its a slightly smaller liveaboard than some of the others in the Maldives, which might persuade anyone who finds the idea of going onto one of the large boats intimidating. It has a great itinerary around the central atolls which is not too challenging.
If you fancy the easy-going style of liveaboard life in the Caribbean, Teresa Bennett from Dive Worldwide has her own suggestion. I would recommend a boat like Sun Dancer II in Belize, she said.
It has an exciting itinerary around the barrier reef with some lovely easy diving and, importantly, has a fantastic bar! It also has a good dive deck, as well as a decompression-station-style hang-bar under the boat to help on safety stops.