It can be hard to get away from the office for a long vacation. But never fear: you needn’t miss out just because you don’t have a big block of time. Here are our pics for the top five short liveaboard trips for when you need a quick scuba fix.
The Norseman, Italy
Surrounded on all sides by the Mediterranean Sea, Italy has over 450 islands and numerous dive sites to explore. It is a great European destination for ancient history, glorious Italian food, and enjoying varied diving along the coastline and around islands.
Elba in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park is one of the best Italian islands for diving. There is plentiful marine life, including conger eels, ocean sunfish (mola molas), dolphins and whales. One of Elba’s most famous sites is an underwater museum with a collection of statues that depict historical and mythological figures. The wreck of the Elviscot, off the southwest coast of Elba, is shallow at only 39 feet (12 m) depth with plenty of fish life. The Formiche della Zanca dive site has lots of red seafans. Finally, Pianosa Island is the place to go for eagle ray sightings.
With dive sites suitable for novice and experienced divers, there is something for everyone. The Norseman liveaboard, a traditional wooden sailing vessel, offers 6-night safaris throughout the Tuscan Archipelago and specialzses in finding hidden anchorages and secluded coves away from other boats. There are numerous flights to Italy from major U.S. airports.
Nautilus Explorer, Mexico
Mexico is a popular, easily-accessible vacation destination, offering beautiful beaches, Mayan and Aztec ruins, and world-class diving with big animals.
Guadalupe Island, 150 miles (241 km) off the west coast of the Baja California peninsula, is the world’s premier destination for great-white-shark cage-diving in warm, blue water. The water visibility averages 137 to 164 feet (42 to 50 m) and offers unbeatable shark viewing and photographic opportunities. July and August are the best months to see energetic male sharks while October and November are best for the big females.
Those with a little more time on their hands should consider a Socorro liveaboard safari. Socorro is known for an abundance of large pelagics, including hammerheads, silky, silvertip and whitetip sharks, plus humpback whales and dolphins. Socorro is especially well-known for numerous giant manta rays with wingspans of up to 26 feet (8 m). From January until March, divers might get to see humpback whales during their breeding season. The sharks and giant manta rays are present all year.
Socorro is best for more-advanced divers with potentially strong currents, big waves, and fairly deep dive sites. The Nautilus Explorer liveaboard offers 5-night shark-diving safaris to Guadalupe from July to November. There are 8 and 9-night safaris to the Socorro Islands from December to June each year. Guadalupe Island safaris depart from either Mexico or San Diego.
King Snefro, Egypt
The Red Sea is a mecca for scuba diving and Egypt offers affordable coral-reef diving opportunities for every type of diver, plus the opportunity to visit Egyptian highlights such as the pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Cairo.
The Ras Mohammed National Park is one of the most beautiful parts of the Red Sea. The park holds numerous colorful reefs with large schools of fish and over 200 different types of hard and soft coral. There are many relaxing dives, plus drift dives and multiple technical dives. The diving here is ideal for both novices and more-experienced divers.
The Straits of Tiran is another great area for coral-reef diving, offering fast-paced drift dives, spectacular walls and drop-offs. There are also canyons and wrecks for technical divers, going down to 328 feet (100 m). The wreck of the Lara off Gordon Reef sits at 295 feet (90 m). Tiran is more suited to experienced divers given the area’s strong currents.
No scuba trip to Egypt is complete without diving two of Egypt’s most well-known wrecks: the Thistlegorm and Dunraven. The Thistlegorm is one of the world’s most-famous wrecks and you’ll need multiple dives to truly appreciate it. The wreck is home to plenty of marine life and its cargo is still mostly intact. The Dunraven, an old wooden ship that sank in 1876, is also popular and has plenty of room for penetration dives.
The King Snefro 5 liveaboard offers 3-night safaris to explore Ras Mohammed, the Thistlegorm and Dunraven, and the King Snefro 6 liveaboard offers 3-night safaris to explore the best of Ras Mohammed and Tiran. There are plenty of flights from major U.S. airports to Egypt and diving is possible year-round.
The Great Barrier Reef is just over 1,400 miles (2,300 km) long, holding more than 900 islands and 2,900 individual reefs. Most GBR liveaboards depart from Queensland, offering the chance to combine scuba diving with topside fun on the beachy Gold Coast.
Liveaboard diving is the best way to explore remote Great Barrier Reef dive sites, which have remained in great condition and have plentiful marine life. Osprey Reef is famous for shark diving and Flynn Reef is home to one of the best coral gardens. Cod Hole is worth diving for the giant, diver-sized potato cod and huge Maori wrasse that live there. Fans of whales should visit during June and July to swim with dwarf minke whales. It’s the only place in the world where people can get in the water with these cetaceans.
The M/V Spoilsport liveaboard offers 3-night ‘fly-dive’ safaris which include a low flight over the Great Barrier Reef to Lizard Island. This liveaboard also offers 3-night fly-dive minke whale safaris, extendable to 7 nights if you like. There are numerous flights to Queensland from U.S. airports.
Cuan Law, British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are ideal for a relaxed diving holiday spent sailing the Caribbean and exploring over 100 dive sites. There are numerous coral gardens teeming with fish life. Divers can see turtles, eagle rays, stingrays, moray eels, goliath grouper and nurse sharks.
There are swim-throughs, boulders and overhangs to explore, plus some interesting wrecks. The RMS Rhone, a U.K. Royal Mail ship that sank in 1867, is a popular site with numerous parts still intact. The Chikuzen, a Korean refrigerator vessel, gained fame when it was set alight and adrift by its owners in 1981 after they were asked to move the ship to avoid a hurricane. It caused chaos at the time but is now a favorite dive site.
Both novice and experienced divers can enjoy sites in the BVI and you can dive there year-round. The Cuan Law liveaboard is one of the largest sailing trimarans in the world and offers 6-night safaris around the islands. All flights to the BVI from the United States connect through Caribbean airports.
Divers and writers at LiveAboard.com contributed this article.