You’ve done the research, chosen your destination and liveaboard yacht, booked the trip and packed your bags and now its time to sit back,relax and let the diving fun begin right? Well believe it or not you may have some pretty tough decisions ahead of you. Now in the general scheme of things these are not life altering choices but the daily trials of liveaboard diving are not to be scoffed at!
1 – To dive or not to dive – the ultimate question
Most liveaboards typically offer 3-4 dives per day, and whilst many divers will wish to do them all, 4 dives everyday over an extended period can be exhausting so remember there is no obligation to dive if you don’t wish to. But to the point in hand – which dives should you skip? Chances are you’ll decide not to dive just when everyone has a close encounter with a manta ray or sees that critter you’ve been hoping to photograph so seek advice from your cruise director and dive team before making your decision. They have the local knowledge and can advise you based on your skill level, site conditions and what you’re hoping to see. Its best to do this at the outset of the trip so you can plan your own schedule accordingly.
2 – How much thermal protection should I wear?
If like me you are a “warm water diver” the answer is usually simple – a skin +hooded vest. But when diving in areas such as Komodo, where the water temperature can vary vastly throughout the trip, the daily decision of whether to don shortie / full / 3mm / 5mm / extra hood / gloves / thermals comes into play. Before you go check with your boat operator what the current water temperature is and whether they have additional wetsuits onboard for rental. My advice is to layer up! Its easy to pop a shortie over a long suit to give an added level of protection, meanwhile there are numerous companies such as Fourth Element and Shark Skin which offer superb thermal under layers which are suitable for use both on their own in water and under a full wetsuit in the colder regions.
3 –How much weight do I need?
If you’ve been keeping a logbook you’ve probably kept a good note of how much weight you have used in the past with any specific kit configuration, but if you’ve long since stopped logging dives you there are several factors you’ll need to consider. Drysuit or wetsuit? Do you have new kit? Are the tanks used aluminium or steel? But its not just our change of kit and neoprene (or in my case bioprene) that we need to take into consideration. Diving in areas where the water is known to have higher salinity, such as the Red Sea and Galapagos Islands, should also be factored in. The importance of a buoyancy check at the start of the first dive will likely be stressed by your cruise director and is the best way to assess if you have enough (or indeed too much) weight for the dive. A key trick here is to repeat the buoyancy check at the end of the dive to allow for your air consumption and a lighter tank – the last thing you want is to shoot up to the surface when you should be making your safety stop. Good buoyancy leads to more enjoyable dives, for you and your buddies!
4- Wide Angle or Macro?
For those of us who love photography the choice of lens to use can be the toughest decision of all. You opt for macro on the dive where a whale shark cruises by or have your wide angle lens when the pygmy seahorses are found in the sea fan. We’ve all been there and unless you have someone willing to carry a spare camera for you, you’ll just have to stick to your plan and think “there’s always next time”. Cruise directors will often brief the dives and provide advice on what can be seen to aid you in your decision, but in case they don’t, do not feel uncomfortable to ask the dive team what to expect for each dive in advance.
5 – Night Dive or Sunset Cocktail?
For those who are not into night diving the choice is of course simple but, if like me, you enjoy seeing critters at night and a cocktail at sunset the choice of which night dives to make becomes a pretty tough one. I’ve solved this by checking with the dive team what’s likely to be seen on any given night dive, then I pick 2-3 that I definitely wish to do during the trip. So I can enjoy my sunset relaxing time and night dives without fear of ‘missing out’.
The key to a successful trip is to remember its YOUR dive holiday and you decide what suits you best within the given itinerary. Ask questions before you go and during the cruise to ensure you get the most out of the experience and if all else fails – there’s always next time!