Are you thinking about going on your first liveaboard diving trip or have you booked one already? Congratulations!
To make sure you have a fantastic experience, I’ve put together a few things you should know before embarking on your first safari diving adventure!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links at no extra cost to you.
Should you book a liveaboard or dive from land?
If you’re a beginner to diving and you’ve only recently completed your Open Water course, a dive safari might not be the best choice for you.
Many liveaboards require an Advanced Open Water certification and a certain number of dives, usually ranging from 25-50.
Diving in open water comes with its own challenges and often strong currents, which can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve just started scuba diving.
Reminder: Don’t forget to bring your log book on your first scuba diving safari.
Do you feel comfortable diving already? Then a liveaboard might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The main advantage of liveaboard diving is that you can reach more remote and therefore less visited dive sites that boast rich marine life which often can’t be compared to spots close to the shore.
But there’s also the amazing feeling of being on the sea day and night. You won’t have a care in the world and you’ll feel free like a bird.
In addition to that, most of the time there is a strong sense of community on board and you easily make new friends and dive buddies for life.
13 Tips for a great first liveaboard diving experience:
1. Pack light!
Space on a boat is very limited, so expect your cabin to be really small. You won’t need any shoes as soon as you hop on board, and towels are usually provided.
Bring travel-sized toiletries and travel with a backpack instead of a suitcase, or anything that can easily be folded away and not take up unnecessary space.
2. Bring motion sickness pills!
Especially if you’re prone to sea (and/or car) sickness, these are absolutely essential. Even when you’re usually not too much affected by waves, being on open water for several days is a completely different story and you never know how the weather will turn out.
Often, the organizers will provide this type of medicine, but you rather want to be safe than sorry, right?!
3. Act environmentally responsive!
Spend a little bit of extra money on reef-friendly shampoo, body wash, and sunscreen – it’s worth it. After you use the toilet, clean yourself with the douche-house next to it.
Since the wastewater is expelled into the sea, it’s important you put toilet paper into the bin and don’t flush it.
4. Don’t forget to tip!
On every liveaboard, there is quite a big crew whose only job it is to make your dive safari a great experience – dive guides, captain, chef and many more.
Their work is physically challenging and involves very long hours, so a tip is customary. You can use a rough guideline of 10% of the cost of your liveaboard.
5. Consider diving with enriched air!
Since you’ll be spending a lot of time underwater, upgrading to Enriched Air Diving (Nitrox) may be very beneficial.
It will extend your allowable bottom time and no-decompression limits over repetitive dives and generally makes you feel less tired than diving with regular air.
Often, you will have the opportunity to do the nitrox certification on board, it’s a quick and easy half-day dry course. Make sure you ask before!
6. Be prepared for weather changes!
It often gets pretty hot during the day (depending on where you’re diving of course) and the ocean’s reflections intensify UV rays, so you want to bring enough (reef-friendly!) sunscreen.
Once the sun sets though, temperatures drop and sometimes winds can pick up. Bring at least one warm sweater for chilly nights.
7. Remember no-flight times!
If you book your liveaboard and your flight separately, make sure you don’t forget to plan for a no-dive-time/surface interval of at least 18 hours.
8. Be considerate!
You’re sharing a small space with a lot of people and you all depend on each other. Treat your dive buddies with respect. Don’t be late for dive briefings (just as meals, they’re usually announced by ringing a bell).
9. Bring spare equipment!
Not only is there no dive shop where you could get replacements for any missing or broken gear, there are also usually only one or two power outlets per cabin.
You want to make sure to bring as many extra batteries you can for your cameras, dive torch, phone and any other electrical devices.
10. Wash your equipment in the end only!
There is very limited freshwater supply on a liveaboard, so don’t wash all your dive equipment after each dive, as you might have been used to doing before.
The only exception is sensitive equipment like your dive computer or your camera, there’s usually a dedicated tank for those.
11. Get up early!
It’s usually worth it not to sleep in because sunrise dives offer amazing marine sightings and photo shots.
Preferences under divers vary – some love to party, others come for maximum diving possibilities.
Since safari diving is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience because it’s on the pricier side of hobbies, I usually recommend to make the most of your dive time and don’t waste energy on drinking and hangovers.
12. Freshen up your skills!
If you haven’t dived in a while, don’t worry. There will always be a check dive for everyone.
It may be useful though to refresh or learn some new skills before your liveaboard diving trip. Practicing entries and exits for large boats and small RIBs/zodiacs could be one of those.
13. Plan in some downtime after the safari!
Living on a boat for a couple of days messes with your brain’s balance system, so it’s normal to feel like you’re still moving once you’re back on solid ground. It’s quite intense and makes some activities pretty hard.
After my first liveaboard trip, it lasted the same amount of days that I was on the liveaboard itself (4 days) and it was really difficult for me to get any work done (I work online) during this time because I felt so dizzy.
After the second one (7 days) it only took like 2 days to recover.
Where can you book liveaboard diving?
Besides looking up individual liveaboard safaris in the destination you’re wishing to dive in, you may also have a look at a site such as divebooker.com.
If you’re flexible and spontaneous, you might get a really good last-minute deal if the operator is trying to fill the last remaining spots. My first liveaboard in Egypt only cost me 300€ for four days for that reason, including full board and unlimited dives.
You can check here for liveaboard diving around the world:
Do you need dive insurance for safari diving?
Check with your operator if dive insurance is obligatory or not. Even if it isn’t, it makes sense to get one for the duration of your liveaboard.
Divebooker.com, for example, offers free DAN insurance with their trips. Travel insurance is required for liveaboards.
Again, better safe than sorry!
Diving isn’t necessarily a dangerous sport, but it does come with some risks. Additionally, travel insurance is often required on boat safaris.
What does a liveaboard boat look like?
Every boat is different, of course. This is an example of a liveaboard in the Red Sea in Egypt, my first safari diving experience:
On my Instagram a.litte.nomad you can watch my whole boat trip live – look out for “Liveaboard Sharm” in my Highlight stories!
If you’re interested in diving in Egypt, check out my scuba guide for Dahab, Sharm El-Sheikh Dive Guide and some of the things to do in Hurghada that are also dive-related! I’ve been living in Egypt for almost 3 years now, so I know the Red Sea pretty well!
Liveaboard Diving Guide For First-Timers: Pin it for later!
If you’re a scuba diver, these articles of mine might be interesting for you as well:
- Liveaboard Diving – Ultimate Guide for First-Timers
- Best Dive Computers for Beginners
- Scuba Diving Guide to Dahab, Egypt
- Scuba Diving Guide to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
- Scuba Diving Guide to El Gouna, Egypt
Coral Reef Guide - Red Sea
This is a great book if you want to know what you looked at after your dive in the Red Sea.
It's one single guide that covers all forms of marine life, including coral. Each species is illustrated with an underwater color photograph along with biological and physical descriptions.
Kraken Universal Smart Phone Underwater Housing
My go-to underwater housing that fits pretty much every smartphone and is safe to use for up to 80 meters. If you have a good quality phone camera, your photos will turn out great.
Dive+ : Free photo editing app with amazing color correction
This app is a lifesaver when it comes to editing underwater photos and videos. In just one click, it turns your blue, boring photo into a colorful image that looks like in real life.
If you get the free version, your photos will be watermarked with your username. If you pay for a subscription, there are no watermarks and you can batch edit your photos and videos - big timesaver!
Sun Bum Reef-Safe Sunscreen
It is absolutely essential to have reef-safe sunscreen because regular sunscreens have a very harmful effect on corals. With SunBum, you won't contribute to the death of our coral reefs, and it is totally worth investing some extra money.
This sunscreen is hypoallergenic & made with reef friendly, vegan ingredients that are designed to protect against UVA rays, prevent premature aging, and moisturize skin.
It is water-resistant for 80 minutes, so a quick round snorkeling won't compromise your protection.
Personalized Waterproof 3M Sticker Labels for Scuba Diving gear
If you bring your own dive equipment on trips, you've probably had the problem of mixing up your stuff with someone else's before. Especially on a liveaboard, similar-looking gear can easily be confused, and let's be honest - most scuba equipment looks the same.
No more problem with these super cool stickers that are individualized with your name and waterproof. Instead of using your real name, you could even come up with a cool diving nickname for yourself.
Also a great gift for any scuba diving friends and family!
Quick Spit Antifog Spray
Nothing is more annoying than a foggy mask during a dive. It can easily ruin your experience, we've all had this problem before. And let's be honest, most of us aren't big fans of clearing our masks. I know I'm not.
To avoid the foggy mask problem, you should apply an antifog spray before your mask touches the water. This one contains all-natural ingredients and works on glass and plastic masks.
Kraken Mesh Gear Bag
A mesh bag often comes in handy underwater to collect any trash you might find.
Mares Smart Dive Computer
I really like my Mares Smart dive computer, it's perfect for beginner and intermediate divers. I have it in white/purple, so for the girls who like to be stylish but don't want to spend a fortune on the white Suunto D4i, this is a great budget alternative.
The different color options also make it easy to differentiate your computer from others, which can be very helpful at times, especially on a liveaboard.