Liveaboard holidays are an excellent way to dive. Eat, sleep, and dive. You wake up every morning at a new dive spot and travel effortlessly to different locations throughout the day. There also seems to be a constant and never-ending supply of food, and you are always able to find a comfy spot to relax before your next dive. What could be better? Much like boat and shore diving though, there are some recommendations to follow to ensure that your holiday is incident free.
Liveaboard © Richard Peck
Your boat orientation or briefing is for your benefit and given to keep you safe and help you have the best experience you can. Listen. If you don’t understand something, ask.
- Stairs and ladders
There are distinct differences between the two; a ladder style method of moving between decks will have a narrower depth of step and be quite difficult to use (safely get your foot on) in the fashion you would use a staircase. When using a ladder, face it, it’s much easier and far safer. It should go without saying that you need two hands. Pass items up or down while safely at your destination.
- Wet Deck
The diving deck is obviously going to get wet and as this is the area you will be wearing your gear it pays to take care and move cautiously. Even the slightest chop can cause wobbles and slips so keep a hand hold as you move. For safely, the crew will have designated how far the wet area extends and where you need to dry yourself before proceeding. This endeavors to limit the area of slipperiness.
In some locations, liveaboard operators run two boats for one group with the diving being consigned to one vessel and the living to another. This practice naturally limits wet floors on the living area vessel, but there will still be protocols for keeping certain areas on either vessel dry.
Liveaboard diving is the ultimate in lazy diving, but your body is still working hard. Your system needs to moisten all that gas you are breathing while sometimes making up to four dives a day. That takes some fluid. Add to the fact that most destinations are tropical; you could be more dehydrated that you realize. Dehydration means your circulation system is not working as it should, and this increases your susceptibility to decompression sickness.
Take a reusable bottle so that you can track how much you are drinking and pack some rehydration sachets. Go easy on the tea, coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol which are all diuretics. Get familiar with your pee; a pale yellow or straw like colour is what you are aiming for; any darker and you need to drink more.
Read our tips for staying healthy on a dive vacation.
- Standard Protocols
The rules still apply to holidays and even more so for multiple days of repetitive dives. Stay well within your limits and make safety stops. Refresh your knowledge on problem prevention while underwater, do buddy checks, run through ‘what if’ scenarios and out of air procedures particularly if you have not dived with your buddy before.
- Entry and exits
There will be a safe way to get on and off your vessel, and these will be covered in the briefings. If a rib or secondary vessel is used there will be guidelines for these too. Dive conditions may alter protocols, so it is important to listen. Likewise, there will be guidelines for how to safely surface at the end of your dive; take note.
Local regulations vary in their requirements, but some level of dive data recording is typical, most operators exceed this. Recording your dive details is also likely to double as a check in and out procedure so it is important that you adhere to it.
Adequate rest when undertaking multiple days of repetitive dives is required so that your body can deal will the pressure, literally. If you want to stay up late drinking and carousing, then I would consider whether a liveaboard holiday is a correct choice for your vacation.
Sleeping on-board can take a bit of adjustment; if you feel tired skip a dive. There is the temptation to think that you must do every dive to get your money’s worth but resting on board is far better than in a decompression chamber. Ask the crew; they know the dive sites and will tell you honestly which dive of the day they would choose to skip. Night dives on many itineraries are often afterthoughts and the locations chosen more about having a sheltered place to overnight. Again, ask the crew which are the best one or two night dives of the trip.
Read our tips for staying healthy on a dive vacation.
- Off Limits
On most vessels, you will be restricted from entering staff quarters, captain’s areas, engine room, and the galley. These restrictions are for your safety. However, if you do have a particular interest in seeing an area then the crew will generally oblige to show you under supervision if you ask; so it’s not worth risking a peek.
- Personal safety equipment and self-rescue
More and more liveaboard operators are championing the use of personal location devices, and some even go as far as mandating them. Regardless, they now cost less that most regulator sets and most likely less that your camera. How much is your life worth?
Each diver should have a whistle and have and be able to use and SMB. One between a buddy pair is not sufficient.
- First Aid and Emergency Oxygen
Your briefing and orientation will have covered the location of first aid supplies and emergency oxygen so go and have a look. Familiarize yourself with it and ask for a demonstration if you are qualified to administer oxygen. There will be a plan for emergency management onboard, the details might not have been shared in the briefing, but it should be available for you to look at upon request. Refresh your knowledge on emergency preparation.
- Emergency Exits
Your cabin could be below decks. Could you find your way out in the dark? Taking your night diving torch to bed with you is a prudent measure. Know your exits by feel if necessary; count the doorframes between you and the stairs or exit. Ensure you know where the life jackets are and how to operate life rafts etc.
Should the worst happen, you want to be sure that there is no time wasted getting the services and treatment that you need. Many liveaboards travel to remote locations and having specific dive holiday cover will make all the difference – given what you have just paid for your trip quality dive insurance is not expensive and should hardly be classed as optional, in fact, reputable operators will require proof of cover.