Tips for a Safe Scuba Liveaboard Adventure

Tips for Safe Scuba Liveaboard Adventure

Liveaboard is the most rewarding way of spending my diving holidays. Because of the way it is set up, I maximise my time in the water and get as much diving as possible in incredibly comfortable conditions. Imagine waking up every day to the sound of the ocean, gearing up for incredible dives, and exploring the underwater world like never before. However, before you embark on this journey, it is important to make sure that you are prepared and aware of some crucial tips for a safe and enjoyable scuba liveaboard adventure. This blog post will highlight some important advice to enhance your experience and help you stay safe during your diving safari.

Make sure you have scuba diving/travel insurance.

Get dedicated travel and diving insurance! It seems obvious, but you would not believe how many people leave it until the last minute or click the first thing it's got insurance written on a tag when browsing the internet, only to find out it did not cover scuba diving. Ensure your diving insurance covers liveaboard holidays, as certain companies only insure sailings up to a certain distance from the shore - e.g. ten nautical miles or similar.

Ensure your insurance covers the type of diving and depth you will dive for the week. Avoid cheap and cheerful insurance companies for £1.50 add-ons, and never assume it covers even basic diving - check the small print, as many standard travel insurance companies only cover diving to 12 meters. 

Ensure your travel insurance covers search and rescue as well - you do not want to find out afterwards that your one-hour flight in the chopper set you back £5000. Not all countries have free, state-operated coast guard or search and rescue. 

Choose your scuba or tour operator wisely.

Like with all life paths, there are some great companies, some bad ones - many of them are in the middle. If you are choosing your operator, select one that offers experience, passion and perhaps has their skin in the game owing boats rather than just sub-hiring a boat from a local operator. Look for an agent with a long-term relationship with the liveaboard company who does not change boats they offer frequently. Do not hesitate to ask questions about boat safety features and the operator's experience. Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • Is the boat you will be on certified by local boating authorities as safe for its purpose?
  • Research boat reviews and check if there have been any previous incidents with the operator or the vessel. 
  • Ask if someone from the staff has been on that particular boat recently - chat with them. 

Having worked in tour operations for many years, a good liveaboard tour operator/owner will inspect their ships regularly, ensuring high safety standards are maintained. On top of relying purely on local authorities and boat operators to do their job, we know that sometimes benchmarks differ from one country to another. 

A good sign of a reputable liveaboard is that their staff is long-term with the company. If the owner takes care of the crew, the crew will take good care of the owner and customers. Companies with high staff turnover may lack service and safety training. A bad liveaboard operation company may try to save money by frequently changing staff, paying them less and, for example, hiring less experienced skippers and dive management.

Get your equipment serviced early- the 7 Ps.

Proper Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss Poor Performance. Get your equipment serviced early - it is as simple as that - don't leave it until late as servicing departments are busy all year round, and it usually takes 7-14 working days to service your equipment. Check your dive regulators, run a positive check on your BCD and check if the batteries in your computer and transmitter have enough juice. If in doubt, change them. You want to avoid finding out something does work on your first diving day. Here are a few things we can sort out for you before your liveaboard holidays:

Choose a liveaboard itinerary for your skills.

This is extremely important in the planning phase of your holidays. Some operators rely on filling their boats, making profits on the last few spaces sold on the liveaboard. As a result, if the boat is not full, some may take beginner divers for an itinerary suitable for advanced divers. A good liveaboard company will have clear rules regarding the minimum recommended experience for certain itineraries. For example, as a beginning diver, you want to avoid booking an itinerary that takes you on a fast-paced drift dive where you fight with buoyancy and the elements. After all, you paid all this money to enjoy it thoroughly rather than stress yourself diving beyond your skills.. A good liveaboard operator/company will only let you book on an itinerary suitable for your scuba diving level. 

Safety tips while you are on a liveaboard:

After a short (or long flight), you finally get on a liveaboard. YES!!!! This is when you finally feel you are on holiday - the familiar scent of the sea, the squawk of sea birds and the gentle sounds of waves caressing boats in the harbour. The first thing you usually do after the welcome reception is to check in and do paperwork. I know people are tired after a flight, but it is always good to go through your equipment set-up again - do it shortly after you find yourself comfortable, rehydrated, and your paperwork completed. Most liveaboards spend the first night in the harbour, and there is still time to make minor fixes to your equipment if you have an o-ring or hose multifunction. Get a good night's sleep after you know your equipment is assembled and ready for the diving week ahead! Rehydrate more!

Listen carefully to the safety briefing and familiarise yourself with the emergency exits and procedures. You should know the muster drill - where to assemble in emergencies and how to leave your vessel safely in the unlikely event of a critical emergency such as a major fire. By the way, do you know where your lifejacket is?

Don't be afraid to ask questions about emergency oxygen kits for diving emergencies - it is a must for a scuba diving liveaboard to have at least one. When on a liveaboard, always watch out on stairs and ladders - good practice is to have three points of contact, so use both hands when you climb up or step down the stairs and ladders. Be extra careful on a wet deck before and after diving because if you carry heavy gear, even a tiny chop can cause imbalance and fall - make sure you hold on to railings. One of the most important rules of using a dive deck ladder when getting on the boat after a dive is to never float or stand directly behind someone climbing one. 

You can also pay attention to see how the crew on the boat works. An inexperienced and inadequately trained team will have problems with work distribution, probably arguing amongst themselves, etc. - a telltale sign that the crew haven't practised mooring and safety drills enough. In contrast, in a good team, every member knows their share of the job and duties and will require almost no communication, quietly attending to their responsibilities. 

Avoid getting in the crew's way when they run mooring, docking or anchoring procedures. This should be mentioned during the initial briefing, but you want to stay clear of the ropes, zodiac lifts, tank filling stations, dive decks etc. On a good boat cruise director or other team member can ask politely for the group to remain inside or on the top deck while they get the boat into a position. 

Be considerate of others: Liveaboard trips often offer shared living spaces, cabins, and meals. Be mindful of others' space, and keep your belongings tidy and organised in your cabin. Always respect other divers' space and be considerate of their needs. Remember, everyone is on the same adventure, and kindness can go a long way in making it more enjoyable for everyone. Liveaboard usually means a dozen or more people on the boat for a week, so be courteous. If you encounter any interpersonal problems, talk with the cruise director. 

Avoid budding up and diving with people who are sleep saboteurs staying up till the morning, drinking and after just having a double dose of caffeine, cigarette and no water, insisting on tackling the first dive at six. Remember, your buddy is your wingman and your air insurance underwater - if you have any doubts, chat with the cruise director or dive management team. 

Tips for safe liveaboard holidays

Personal safety equipment to take with you

Safety first - while the thrill of diving is exhilarating, it is important always to prioritise safety. Always follow the rules of your diving instructor and adhere to the dive plan. Listen to the briefings and gather as much information as possible to know what to expect. If you are a beginner, make sure to enrol in a diving course to learn the necessary skills, including how to check your equipment. Also, always dive with a buddy, and ensure that you both understand and follow the buddy system. In one of our previous blogs, we covered divers' emergency equipment for diving in remote locations. These are a few dive safety essentials  that we are taking on board with us on our holidays:

Tips for safe liveaboard holidays

A scuba diving liveaboard adventure is an unforgettable experience that combines adventure, thrill, and relaxation. However, it is essential to stay safe and prepared for the journey. In summary, prioritise safety, pack smart, be considerate of others, respect the environment, and most importantly, have fun! With these tips, you are sure to have a safe and enjoyable journey and create memories that will last a lifetime. So go ahead and plan your scuba diving adventure, and let the ocean captivate you. Happy diving!