Being landlocked is a real drag for those of us who are dive-certified and ready to jump into the sea at any time. If you live to scuba, check out these diving liveaboards that won’t completely break your bank.
Blackbeard’s, The Bahamas
Whether you’re new to diving or a seasoned expert, Blackbeard’s “low frills, high fun” mantra ensures an unforgettable diving trip. The only requirement is that you’re an adventurous human who is up for anything—and it doesn’t hurt if you’re looking to go off the grid for a week or so.
The ship leaves Nassau every Saturday and heads straight to the Exuma Cays, and that’s the only route. No package deals, no add-ons or extras or options; just a fun week of sea camping in the Caribbean. For the all-inclusive price of $995 per person, you’ll get six nights’ accommodation onboard, picnic-style dining, up to 19 dives and the opportunity to enjoy beach time and other fun activities in between. Dive reefs, wrecks, and blue holes with Blackbeard’s—you might even befriend a hammerhead!
I personally went on this liveaboard in January 2020, and while it was much more basic than other liveaboards I’ve been on, the diving was great, the food was delicious and sea camping was no problem for six nights.
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Golden Dolphin, Egypt
The Red Sea hosts some of the most precious remaining reef systems in the world, and spending a week aboard the Golden Dolphin is a prime way to explore them. With the Golden Dolphin fleet, you have your choice of several routes departing from the Egyptian coast.
Explore the Brother Islands, the massive St. John’s reef and the mystical Zabargad rocky island; weave your way around colorful coral gardens and down steep drop-offs while meeting schools of fish and the occasional shark.
Depending on the schedule, a week onboard a ship in the Golden Dolphin fleet costs around $1,000. When you’re not exploring under the sea, you’ll have plenty of space to relax in style and comfort.
Akomo Isseki, Indonesia
If you’d like to spend time aboard a traditional phinisi, head to Indonesia and board the Akomo Isseki. This is a nice option because not only will you be able to explore some of Indonesia’s thousands of idyllic islands, the Akomo Isseki can only accommodate a maximum of 8 guests.
The routes change with the season and are geared toward advanced divers. Depending on the route, you will generally need to have between 30 and 50 logged dives in order to participate. If you’re qualified, an eight day trip on the Akomo Isseki is perfect! You’ll meet manta rays underneath and Komodo dragons up above, all for around $1,300. With beach barbecues and stargazing in between, it’s difficult to imagine a better way to spend a week.
Marco Polo, Thailand
If you’re looking for a laid-back way to explore the magical Andaman Sea that sweeps you away from the Koh Phi Phi crowds, hop aboard the Marco Polo for six nights. Offering space for up to 14 guests and their gear, this liveaboard offers up to 17 daytime dives and 5 nighttime dives for $1,100.
These tours only operate between November and April, and they are accessible to divers with at least ten logged dives under their belt. The route runs through Similan, Surin and Richelieu Rock and features wildlife like nurse sharks, reef sharks, eels and manta rays. You’ll board and depart the boat at Ao Chalong Pier, located in the south of Phuket island.
Dives, fresh water, hotel transport, all meals, Diving Package, land excursions, towels and toiletries are included—just be sure to bring extra gratuity cash and 2700 THB (~$86) for National Park fees.
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Pro Dive Cairns, Australia
For divers who are looking for a shorter trip on the world’s most famous reef, spend a few days exploring the Coral Sea with Pro Dive Cairns. During this three day trip, you’ll have personalized access to 11 of Pro Dive Cairns’ 19 favorite dive sites, spread out over the Thetford, Milln, Flynn and Pellowe areas of the Great Barrier Reef.
One of the cool things about diving with Pro Dive Cairns is that it’s accessible to beginner divers, and even offers upgrades for additional PADI certification courses on board. For those who don’t want to disconnect even for a few days, Pro Dive Cairns offers WiFi throughout the vessel as well as spacious cabins, A/C, all scuba gear, linens and delicious meals. The price for this shorter, comfortable trip across the GBR is $890 per certified diver, plus the option to enroll in extra PADI courses.
If living on an outrigger in the middle of the Mindoro Strait sounds like the dream to you, book an adventure with Liberation. I like this liveaboard because divers have a few options; spend three to four days on Apo Reef or exploring wrecks and dugongs, or spend five or six days exploring bits of all of them. The variable $400 to $1,000 price depends on which sites you’d like to visit, and for how long.
This can’t be your first diving expedition but you don’t have to practice for too long; divers must have had at least five dives before participating in these open-water dives. Like the Marco Polo, all essentials are included but you’ll want to bring extra cash, plus 3,530 PHP (~$70) for National Park fees.
Scuba diving is often thought of as an expensive activity. But when you can book a week-long, all-inclusive liveaboard for under $1,300, it doesn’t have to break the bank.