The 10 Best Liveaboard Diving Trips In The World

29th July 2016   |   Sandro Lonardi

In a growing world of scuba divers and scuba diving sites, liveaboard diving trips are becoming increasingly popular. Whether the aim is to reach remote destinations or take in as many dive sites as possible, liveaboard holidays offer an unparalleled advantage.

These “eat, sleep, dive” vacations take divers to off-the-beaten-path destinations such as the Socorro Islands in Mexico or Indonesia’s Cendrawasih Bay. Whether this is your first dive safari experience or you’re a seasoned pro, check out these 10 liveaboard destinations. They are the best in the world.

The Best Liveaboard Destinations in The World

The best destinations for your dive safari holiday

1. Liveaboard Trips in the Caribbean

From the Bahamas to the Cayman Islands and Cuba, the Caribbean hosts a wide range of liveaboards. In this region, you’ll find the ease with which dive charters move between islands and distant destinations to be highly advantageous.

The mangrove labyrinth of Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

Jardines de la Reina in Cuba is a mangrove labyrinth situated 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Jucaro in the central part of Cuba. It takes around 3 hours by speedboat to reach this destination, and it’s only possible to dive here with a liveaboard. The uncontaminated reef is one of the best places in the Caribbean to dive with sharks, and if you’re brave enough, you can even snorkel with crocodiles.

Diving Season

The best time to go to Jardines de la Reina is between December and May because these months are outside of hurricane season, but you can dive all year round.

Liveaboards in Jardines de la Reina

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Tiger sharks in Tiger Beach, Bahamas

Tiger Beach, Bahamas

Perhaps the best location in the world for diving with tiger sharks, Tiger Beach is located about an hour by boat from the West End of Grand Bahama Island. Every day of the year, tiger sharks show up to be fed at this sandy bank. During peak season, you might see upwards of a dozen tiger sharks at one time. While the tiger may be the biggest shark of the bunch, it’s not the only visitor. You’ll also see lemon, Caribbean reef and nurse sharks during a dive at Tiger Beach.

Diving Season

The best time to go to Tiger Beach is between October and January, because the most sharks are present during these months. However, sharks are always at the site and liveaboards depart for Tiger Beach throughout the year.

Liveaboards to Tiger Beach

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Hammerhead sharks in Cocos Island, Costa Rica

2. Liveaboard Trips to Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Situated 342 miles (550 kilometers) off the west coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island acts as a magnet for pelagic species including its famed schooling scalloped hammerhead sharks. The lonely seamount takes 36 hours to reach from Puntarenas, and most liveaboards have a duration of 8 to 10 days. In addition to the hammerheads, you might also see Galapagos sharks, manta rays and mobula rays. Be sure to dive both Dirty Rock and Bajo Alcyone for the best experience on this liveaboard trip of a lifetime.

Diving Season

The best time to travel to Cocos Island is between June and December, because the most pelagic species are present during the rainy season. But you can travel to Cocos Island via liveaboard year-round.

Liveaboards to Cocos Island

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A marine iguana in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

3. Liveaboard Trips in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Almost mythical in reputation, the Galapagos Islands are on nearly every diver’s wish list. But the best dive sites in this remote archipelago are at Wolf and Darwin Islands, which can only be accessed by liveaboard. Come here to discover Galapagos sharks, hammerheads, manta rays, marine iguanas, sunfish and whale sharks, but leave with the sense of wonder untouched nature instills in those who go to great lengths to find it.

Diving Season

The best time to go to the Galapagos Islands is between June and December, because the colder water temperatures attract a variety of larger species. But you can dive in the Galapagos Islands throughout the year.

Liveaboards to the Galapagos Islands

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4. Liveaboard Trips in Indonesia

Indonesia is home to more than 13,000 islands. Diving these from a land-based operation would take longer than the average vacation. For this reason, Indonesia is one of the most popular liveaboard destinations in the world.

A frogfish from Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Raja Ampat

Home to the most biodiverse waters on the planet, Raja Ampat is made up of four major islands and 1500 smaller cays and islands off the Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua Province. Dive safaris in these colorful waters feature itineraries between 5 and 10 nights. This allows enough time for drift dives through busy reefs and macro dives among fascinating underwater environments like mangroves and caves.

Diving Season

The best time to go to Raja Ampat is between October and April, because these months make up dry season when the most liveaboard boats travel the area. But, if you can find a boat in the region, you can dive in Raja Ampat year-round.

Liveaboards in Raja Ampat

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The manta rays of Komodo, Indonesia

Komodo

Best known as the land of the Komodo Dragon, Komodo National Park is also home to some of the best drift diving in Indonesia. Among its sandy banks and colorful reefs, you’ll find plenty of manta rays as well as whitetip and grey reef sharks. Liveaboard trips of 5 to 10 nights are the best way to experience the many thrilling dive sites in the park. Make sure to stop off at Makassar Reef, one of the most unique sites in all of Indonesia!

Diving Season

The best time to go to Komodo is between April and November, because these months are considered dry season and attract the highest number of dive charters. But you can dive in Komodo throughout the year.

Liveaboards in Komodo

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The whale sharks of Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia

Cenderawasih Bay

As diving boats begin to explore areas surrounding Raja Ampat, they are discovering that Cenderawasih Bay is home to astounding marine diversity, fascinating WWII wrecks and predictable whale shark encounters. Perhaps the whale sharks are most important as divers from the world over come to Cenderawasih Bay in order to observe these giant fish feeding from the nets of fishermen. Cenderawasih Bay is located on the northern coast of West Papua Province and offers an off-the-beaten-path alternative to Raja Ampat.

Diving Season

The best time to go to Cenderawasih Bay is between June and October, because during these months the weather in Raja Ampat changes to rainy and windy. Liveaboards use Cenderawasih Bay as a safe shelter during the rainy season storms. But you can theoretically dive in Cenderawasih Bay during any month.

Liveaboards in Cenderawasih Bay

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5. Liveaboard Trips in the Maldives

A country of 26 natural atolls, the Maldives was seemingly made for liveaboard diving. In addition, the country’s stringent rules for foreign guests make liveaboards a convenient option for traveling around this tropical landscape. Pack your gear bag and jump on board. Paradise is waiting.

A manta ray in Ari Atoll, Maldives

Ari Atoll & Male Atoll

Known for its whale sharks and manta rays, the 105 islands of the Ari Atoll along with the two Male Atolls are the most popular destination for liveaboards in the Maldives. You’ll often find 7 to 10-night itineraries which combine these atolls into a luxury liveaboard experience. With the number of pelagic species and the exciting drift dives through shallow channels, diving in the Indian Ocean doesn’t get much better than the Ari and Male Atolls.

Diving Season

The best time to go to the Ari Atoll and Male Atoll is between December and March, because the seas are at their calmest during these months. But you can dive in the Ari Atoll year-round.

Liveaboards in the Ari Atoll

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A tiger shark encounter in the deep south itinerary, Maldives

Deep South

Book a liveaboard on a Deep South itinerary, and you will be astounded by the unknown. Each trip to these remote atolls results in new dive sites to map on future travels. Most of the time, the crew is as excited for the potential of discovery as the guests are. A variety of sharks including whale sharks as well as manta rays are common sightings. Liveaboard diving here is a must. Resorts are few and far between in this distant half of the Maldives.

Diving Season

The best time to dive in the Deep South of the Maldives is between December and March, because the seas are at their calmest during these months. But you can dive in the Deep South year-round.

Liveaboards in the Deep South

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6. Liveaboard Trips in Mexico

Most divers define Mexico by the diving found near Cancun or in the Sea of Cortez. What most don’t realize is that Mexico’s remote Pacific islands are meccas for pelagic lovers. From great white sharks to humpback whales, dive safaris in Mexico traverse the seas in search of the extraordinary.

On of the oceanic manta rays of the Socorro Islands, Mexico

Socorro Islands

Also known as the Revillagigedo Islands, the Socorro Islands were recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site owing to the biodiversity of species found here. At 240 miles (390 kilometers) west of Baja California Sur, these four volcanic islands attract humpback whales, manta rays and hammerhead sharks. In order to dive this underwater wonderland, you’ll need to travel 24 hours from Cabo San Lucas on an 8 to 10-night liveaboard.

Diving Season

The best time to dive in the Socorro Islands is between November and May, because the seas are at their calmest during these months, ensuring a safe and comfortable journey to the islands.

Liveaboards to the Socorro Islands

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Cage diving with the great white shark in Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Guadalupe Island

Along with South Africa, Australia and California, Guadalupe is one of the four best destinations in the world for cage diving with Great White Sharks. This small, volcanic island lies approximately 150 miles (240 kilometers) from Baja California and is annually home to about 170 individual sharks. Many dive operators visiting Guadalupe Island offer unique open-top cages. If you dare, you can float out of the top of the cage for a no-barred view of the mighty great whites.

Diving Season

The best time to go to Guadalupe Island is between August and October, because this is the only time of year liveaboards travel to Guadalupe Island.

Liveaboards to Guadalupe Island

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Wreck diving in Palau

7. Liveaboard Trips in Palau

Best described by superlatives, scuba diving in Palau is wild and beautiful with wrecks, sheer walls and blue holes. Koror is the main hub for the islands, but many of the dive sites are located 45-60 minutes away around the islands of Ngemelis and Peleliu. Because of the sheer number of wonderful dive sites, you’ll want to book a liveaboard in order to get the most diving out of your trip. Generally, diving safaris sail around Palau for 7 to 10 nights.

Diving Season

The best time to go to Palau is between November and June, because these months represent the dry season. However, Palau can be comfortably dived year-round.

Liveaboards in Palau

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Dolphins in Tubbataha Reef, Philippines

8. Liveaboard Trips in the Philippines

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Tubbataha Reef Natural Park in the Philippines is home to 600 species of fish and 300 species of coral including numerous shark, dolphin and turtle species. Situated 93 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Puerto Princesa, the only way to reach the shallow coral reefs and sheer drop-offs of Tubbataha Reef is by liveaboard. Trips typically last 6 nights, but diving boats occasionally offer longer, 13-night itineraries.

Diving Season

The best time to go to Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines is between mid-March and mid-June, because these are the only months the Natural Park is open.

Liveaboards in the Philippines

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9. Liveaboard Trips in the Red Sea

Sudan and Egypt border the Red Sea, offering a glimpse into the historically crucial body of water. Liveaboards traverse these calm waters in search of mighty sharks, shallow reefs and deep wrecks. Leave your worries behind as you board one of the many budget-friendly yachts of the Red Sea.

An oceanic whitetip shark in the Red Sea

Brothers, Daedalus & Elphinstone

Dive charters in Egypt commonly include an itinerary known as Brothers, Daedalus & Elphinstone. Slightly challenging, this journey takes divers to three of the most impressive dive areas in the Red Sea. Sheer drop-offs, plenty of fish and beautiful coral walls along with a smattering of wrecks await the adventurous diver. Typically, liveaboard journeys to this region depart from Hurghada and last 7 days.

Diving Season

The best time to go to Brothers, Daedalus & Elphinstone is between September and November and then again between April and June, because these months feature a good balance between sea temperatures and air temperatures. However, the Red Sea offers fantastic diving throughout the year.

Liveaboards to Brothers, Daedalus & Elphinstone

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A hammerhead shark in the Red Sea

St. John’s Island

25 miles (40 kilometers) from Elba National Park on the far southern shores of Egypt lies St. John’s Island with its spectacular reef system. Famous for its abundant soft and black corals, lucky divers might encounter schooling hammerhead sharks while in this part of the Red Sea. Because it is located offshore from a remote section of Egypt, you’ll need to travel by liveaboard in order to visit St. John’s Island. These trips are often combined with visits to Rocky Island and Zabargad to fill a 7-night itinerary.

Diving Season

The best time to go to St. John’s Island is between September and November and then again between April and June, because these months feature a good balance between sea temperatures and air temperatures. However, the Red Sea offers fantastic diving throughout the year.

Liveaboards to St. John’s Island

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The SS Thistlegorm wreck in the Red Sea

Northern Wrecks

Unpredictable currents, strong storms, military tactics and shallow reefs have doomed many ships to eternity at the bottom of the Red Sea. Among these, the SS Thistlegorm is the most well-known to divers for its cargo of war supplies including motorbikes and train carriages. This dive site along with countless other wrecks, both shallow and deep, fill out Egypt's popular Northern Wreck liveaboard itinerary. These dive safaris often depart from Hurghada or Sharm el Sheikh and last 7-nights.

Diving Season

The best time to go to the Northern Wrecks is between September and November and then again between April and June, because these months feature a good balance between sea temperatures and air temperatures. However, the Red Sea offers fantastic diving throughout the year.

Liveaboards to the Northern Wrecks

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10. Liveaboard Trips in Thailand

A favorite among new divers and the more experienced, Thailand is the vacation destination of your dreams. Great food, friendly locals and fascinating underwater environments welcome scuba divers to the Land of Smiles.

A close up of a whale shark in the Similan Islands, Thailand

The Similan Islands

The Similan Islands, also known as Mu Koh Similan National Park, are Thailand’s premier scuba diving destination. These nine islands are located 31 miles (50 kilometers) west of Khao Lak and are best accessed via liveaboard. Itineraries are on average 6 nights, but both shorter and longer journeys can be found. The magnificent, clear waters provide the best opportunity in the Andaman Sea for spotting manta rays and whale sharks.

Diving Season

The best time to go to the Similan Islands is between November and May, because the park shuts down for monsoon season from mid-May to October.

Liveaboards in the Similan Islands

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A turtle in the Andaman Islands

The Andaman Islands

Technically governed by India, the Andaman Islands can be reached by liveaboard from both Thailand and India. These island chains are approximately 500 miles (800 kilometers) northwest of Phuket. Until 1993, the Indian government prohibited travel to the Andamans, protecting its coral reefs and marine environments in the process. Today, environmentally conscious tourism has been allowed to develop, and scuba divers are beginning to discover the manta rays, turtles, reef sharks and macro critters that populate the Andaman Islands’ crystal clear waters.

Diving Season

The best time to go to the Andaman Islands is between November and April, because June to September represent the monsoon season. But it’s possible to dive in the Andaman Islands year-round.

Liveaboards in the Andaman Islands

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