RIGHT FOR YOU?
Dennis & Karen Sabo
before has a subject caused such spirited conversation among
divers: a land-based versus a liveaboard dive vacation. Supporters
of each have debated this issue again and again. Arguments
for each are strong and make sense.
dive vacations offer fantastic diving to remote, exotic locals.
Land-based vacations are the perfect way to combine diving
with inland sightseeing while gaining educational insight
about the country being visited. Some say land based vacations
are the diver's best choice while others say that a liveaboard
trip is the only way to go.
review some considerations that should be addressed when planning
a dive vacation focusing on advantages and disadvantages of
land versus sea. The question which really needs to be answered
is "What's best for you?".
know thy self. As mentioned in our previous articles of the
Travelling Diver, different people have different expectations
of what a dive vacation should be. When planning your vacation,
it is important to thoroughly examine your own unique situation.
Things you need to consider are your level of dive experience,
your personal likes and dislikes, travel experience, and your
travelling companion, if applicable.
level of dive experience should be an important factor in
your vacation selection regardless of whether it is a land
based or liveaboard trip. Are you a novice with just a few
dives under your belt or are you an old salt with ten years
of dive experience looking for big fish and even bigger thrills?
Your vacation selection should properly match your qualifications.
folks will prefer a trip which comes with an "escape"
clause. This means a vacation which provides the freedom to
do what you want when you want. With any land-based operation,
whether it accommodates sixteen or 160, there will be a defined
boat diving schedule. The only way around this is if you happen
to be the only guest registered for diving during your stay.
In this case, the schedule may be flexible to accommodate
your personal preferences. Being realistic, aside from the
diving, you can arrange your trip where the remainder of the
decisions are left to you. These decisions may include: where,
when, and what you eat; choosing topside activities; opportunities
for sightseeing; and the nightlife you wish to experience.
If you like a variety of options in all of these categories,
you'll be much happier at a large resort at a somewhat commercially
developed destination. Remember, with a small group on a liveaboard
or when staying at an intimate resort in a remote location,
schedules sometimes dictate when and what you will eat along
with restricted day and evening activities. Of course this
may be exactly what you are looking for; just diving and relaxing
wilh no decisions to make. If you want to stay active, there's
always the dive cruise ship which supposedly combines the
best of both worlds. If you are considering this route, make
sure you understand exactly how often you will be given the
opportunity to dive and how the schedules and logistics are
planned. Define exactly what you want to do on your vacation,
then match your desires accordingly.
you are considering a liveaboard, you will need to evaluate
your personality, and be honest! Are you a tolerant person
who gets along easily with all types of people? There aren't
many places to hide or ways to avoid a conflicting personality
200 miles out at sea. It would be a shame to have your entire
vacation ruined by a single person who was having a great
time just being himself.
you are travelling alone and you have a special interest,
you should make some inquiries before you go. For example,
a photographer should ask about the nature of a liveaboard
trip before signing on. There can be nothing more frustrating
than planning a week of photography only to find that the
remaining nineteen on board are hunters. On the other hand,
for some individuals, a liveaboard is the perfect choice because
it enables them to join in easily with a small group who share
the same interests. A camaraderie usually develops on board
which is less likely to occur at a large resort where an individual
can get lost in the crowd. If travelling with a non-diving
companion, a land-based trip will most likely suit you best.
Those not interested in diving will enjoy the freedom of shopping,
sightseeing, and participating in the local color and flavor
of the destination. Land should also be your choice if children
will accompanying you since the confines of a boat are too
limiting for the activities of kids. In addition, consider
the welfare of the other passengers. Is it fair to confine
them with your kids?
divers may not be able to travel by sea for the simple reason
of sea sickness. Sure, there are medications and for some,
this is all that is needed. For others, no medication is strong
enough, no dive site worth that miserable feeling for an eight
day/seven night high seas adventure. Some people may be fine
to participate on a boat travelling in calm seas while other
locales may need to be avoided. It bothers me to hear that
the world's best dive sites are accessible only by boat. For
someone prone to seasickness, this news can surely burst their
BCD. The analogy that I make to this statement is that of
the instructor who tells his students to help each other with
gear. This same instructor then casually puts his gear on
over his head, without the assistance of anyone. Students
see this and think "Gee, I'm not that strong, I don't
think I'll ever be able to do that, so I guess I'll never
be the diver he is". Statements regarding the world's
best dive selections are all relative because people have
different interests. A photographer doesn't care how big and
meaty a fish is, he just wants the photo. A hunter may not
be interested in diving tropical reefs if all he can do is
aboards will provide wilderness diving at its best.
Divers!! New liveaboard offering unlimited diving plans to
set sail in the Windward Isles this Spring."
are many reasons why you may want to choose a liveaboard dive
vacation over a land based operation. One is that often times,
the boat is anchored at a particular dive site for the entire
day. It can be extremely satisfying to be able to dive a particular
site at different times during the day, and at different depths.
This allows you to observe the ever-changing marine ecosystem.
The behavior pattern and activities of fish and corals along
with their presence or disappearance can be depend ent on
the time of day. The freedom of choosing your own time to
dive is also pleasant. Land-based boats have obvious restrictions
of fuel and time while liveaboard operations provide opportunities
to dive sites that would otherwise never be explored. Areas
such as the Sea of Cortez, the Galapagos Islands, and Australia's
Coral Sea are examples.
NOT choose a liveaboard dive vacation purely on the advertisement
of "Unlimited Diving" Boats have to travel at some
point daily to find safe anchorages and to get from one site
to another. DON'T choose a liveaboard purely because the boat
has promised to travel to a particular dive site. Political
and environmental con iderations, along with diver safety
are the utmost concern to the skipper, and these factors all
will dictate where the boat goes and where you will dive.
Many land-based resorts offer two boats daily, and unlimited
shore diving. This can provide the diveaholic with just as
much diving and some times more! In either scenario, a dive
travel specialist should be able to thoroughly explain exactly
what "unlimited" means.
know thy boat. Today's modern liveaboard fleet can resemble
a floating hotel, providing luxurious accommodations, gourmet
cuisine, and excellent logistics for diving. It is probably
best to stick with an established operation unless you are
willing to take your changes. You don't want to get caught
on a converted tug, where the numberone consideration is not
water conditions, but the engine's oil puddle and the rusty
anchor that seems to be in everyone's way.
type of accommodations are provided'! Will you have your own
stateroom, or will you be sharing a room with others? If you
are travelling with a group of four people, then a quad could
be perfect. However, if your party consists of two and your
roommate' s name is Jason who has a strange infatuation for
hockey masks, you may not be a happy camper for the entire
trip. Now that you are in your cabin, you may find no toilet
or shower. You find it is down below and will be shared by
eight people. These points should be considered prior to your
selection, then you will need to decide for yourself if these
things are acceptable. Not all liveaboards have quad accommodations
or shared toilets. Some provide spacious, private stateroom
with a main saloon characteristic of a quaint and charming
sure you know the product and make sure that it matches your
likes, not dislikes. If you are an individual diver and you
wish to go on a liveaboard, perhaps you should consider taking
a friend along. You will be assured that at least one other
person on board shares your interests.
last aspect of land-based operations needs to be addressed.
Island resorts provide opportunities for cultural exchanges
that may be missed if you spend all of your time on a boat.
I always recommend to liveaboard enthusiasts ... if you can
afford the extra time and money, spend it meeting the people
and learning about their culture and way of life. You'll come
away with a much fuller experience. A couple who took their
vacation on a liveaboard in Fiji remarked on the spectacular
diving but added that one key ingredient was missing ... the
Fijian people. They had taken a land based trip there some
years earlier, and it wasn't until they compared the two trips
that they realized how much cultural exchange can add to a
what's the bottom line? You work hard, you deserve a vacation,
and you want to get the most for your money. Start by making
a list of the things you enjoy and what you would like to
do on your vacation. Then go shopping. Start by calling a
dive travel specialist, their advice is FREE. Planning a vacation
can be great fun. After your planning pays off, you'll have
memories to last a lifetime.
and Karen Sabo, both certified scuba instructors, have over
21 years of dive travel experience and are the owners of Landfall
Productions. They are also accomplished underwater photographers.
Their work has been featured in Dive Training, Dive Travel,
Discover Diving, and Scuba Times magazines, and the book Best
Dives in the Caribbean.
Reprinted with permission
Copyright Landfall Productions