A favorite memory: Midnight, relaxed post-dive-damp on deck, a comfortable tropical breeze, draped by stars so dense we can’t find our favorite constellations. Soundless, but for waves lightly slapping the hull, a very gentle, muffled generator purr from somewhere below deck, a hint of Bob Marley, and bubble-bursts that follow four blue-green glows meandering just off the port side – two buddy teams still enjoying our very late night dive. For a precious, priceless moment, it’s just me, my friends and the sea.
In the words of Sir Francis Drake, the English admiral credited with leading the second voyage around the world from 1577 to 1580, “It isn’t that life ashore is distasteful to me, but life at sea is better.” Perhaps not taking it as far as Drake, but I agree. At times at least, life at sea is better, and for me, many of those times have been on liveaboard dive boats. If there’s anything I regret about liveaboard diving, it’s not having done it as much as I’d like.
Let me be clear – I love shore-based boat diving a lot and wouldn’t suggest giving it up. But, in many respects a shore-based holiday is much like any holiday, but with diving added – and that’s good in many ways. The liveaboard experience, on the other hand, is unique to diving. You have to be one of us (a diver) to realize it is more than a long boat trip (which is often really fun, too, BTW).
Go to a liveaboard website and you’ll undoubtedly find a list of practical advantages to diving from a liveaboard. You’ll read or see videos about how you can make more dives (4-6 daily), that you don’t have lots of long rides shore-to-site, that you unpack once and don’t have to schlep your gear daily. They point out that you usually see spots shore-based ops skip because they’re too far to reach in a day, and that at some destinations, you see and do more on land as well as underwater because liveaboards go from island-to-island or port-to-port. You’re away from it all – or not – the wifi is very optional (I tend to accidentally-on-purpose forget to turn my phone on).
These benefits are great reasons to do liveaboard, but they miss the core that makes it what it is. Yes, you dive a lot, but you don’t think back to the dive count, nor to the convenience, nor to fact a site was too far-flung for a shore-op. What you remember is adventure connected to old friends and new: discovery, exotic sights above and below the surface, and ports of call with fresh flavors, smells and faces. It’s dripping wet in the galley and laughing together, hurriedly jamming lunch so you can splash with cameras again while you’ve still got sweet light. It’s riding into coves in late afternoon ahead of the main boat in the skiff with crew, sticking your faces under periodically to help the captain find the best anchorage for a night dive. It’s the this-is-so-cool expression your buddy gives you after surfacing, late at night, under more stars than you’ve ever seen in your life, with Bob Marley drifting lightly over the water.
Moments like these make liveaboard diving uniquely diving, and rare, treasured adventures that are greater than the sum of their parts. As a diver, if you’ve not yet tasted the liveaboard experience, you owe it to yourself to try it – and there are dozens from which to choose. Check out the links below – it’s easy to find several that match your ideas of good diving and fun adventure.
Someone once wrote, “The moments we share are the moments we keep forever.” We don’t know who, but probably a liveaboard diver.
Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO