Finding the best liveaboard destinations can be tricky with so many options, but as a diver, it’s difficult to imagine anything better that spending a week or two on a dedicated charter. These trips are designed specifically for divers, and almost every moment that isn’t spent eating or sleeping (mostly eating) can be spent in the water. When choosing a liveaboard vacation, there are some destinations that are particularly suited to onboard exploration — here we’ll take a brief look at four of the very best.
The linear formation of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands makes this archipelago nation a liveaboard diver’s dream. Although it is obviously impossible to cover the entire country in a single trip, many of the itineraries offered by Indonesian liveaboards are amongst the world’s most exciting. One particularly popular route takes divers on an epic journey between Bali and Flores islands, stopping off at myriad remote and virtually untouched dive sites along the way. Highlights of this itinerary include Bali’s famous USAT Liberty wreck, searching for mola molas at Nusa Penida, and of course, exploring the world-renowned dive sites of Komodo National Park. Several itineraries focus solely on Komodo, where diverse dive sites offer everything from muck dives to spectacular manta-ray encounters. Further east, other Indonesian liveaboards explore the pristine underwater sights of Raja Ampat, Alor and Pantar Strait, while liveaboards to Sulawesi and Lembeh Strait are known as some of the best in the world for macro enthusiasts.
The Red Sea is considered by many to be the original liveaboard destination, and today supports many different vessels and itineraries as a result. The wide range of choices make liveaboard prices here some of the most affordable in the world, and ensure that divers can choose a trip that reflects their specific interests. For example, the Red Sea is famous for its many wrecks, including the SS Thistlegorm, the Dunraven and Giannis D, and many Red Sea liveaboard companies recognize this fact with dedicated wreck-diving itineraries. Other itineraries focus on either the northern or the southern Red Sea dive sites. Highlights of the northern Red Sea include the Ras Mohammed Marine Park, famous as Egypt’s first marine-protected area and the Straits of Tiran, known for teeming reefs and excellent pelagic and macro sightings. In the south, highlights include Elphinstone Reef, famous for its visiting oceanic whitetips, and, for those who travel further south into the Sudanese Red Sea, the remains of Jacques Cousteau’s underwater habitat, Conshelf II.
Divers often think Mexican diving revolves around the land-based dive sites of the Yucatan Peninsula or drifts of Cozumel, but in reality, Mexico’s Pacific Coast offers some of the most adrenaline-fueled liveaboard itineraries around. These liveaboards are all about big-creature encounters, with highlights including Guadalupe Island, the Sea of Cortez and the Revillagigedo Archipelago. Some itineraries focus on one region, while others may offer a combination of two or more different destinations. For shark enthusiasts, the long trip out to Guadalupe Island is well worth the effort- after all it’s here that you’ll find the world’s best great-white cage-diving, with crystal-clear waters and huge sharks. Revillagigedo and the island of Socorro offer encounters with huge animals of a different kind, including manta rays, schooling hammerheads, and — between January and April — humpback whales. Liveaboard trips in the Sea of Cortez are typically part diving, part whale-watching, as this remarkable body of water between the Baja Peninsula and the Mexican mainland is home to a staggering number of different cetacean species.
The Galapagos Marine Reserve is one of the largest and most biologically diverse marine protected areas in the world. Covering more than 50,000 square miles of ocean, this extensive reserve is a major reason that the Galapagos archipelago is arguably the world’s best liveaboard destination. The other secret to the Galapagos’ incredible reputation is the archipelago’s location on the equator, at the convergence of several major ocean currents. Some temperate and some tropical, these currents provide a habitat for both warm and cold-water species, while also providing the nutrients needed to sustain life. The Galapagos is home to a startling number of endemic species, most famously the marine iguana, the Galapagos penguin and the Galapagos sea lion. Liveaboard itineraries here may visit some or all of the archipelago’s unique islands, and highlights include the schooling scalloped hammerheads of Darwin Island, the macro critters of Cousins Rock, and the grazing marine iguanas and darting penguins of Fernandina Island.