The Pick of the Boats... The Best Liveaboards
Here are the Top 10 liveaboards in the world as voted by our readers in the 2018 DIVE Travel Awards - more than 7,000 votes were registered, a 400 per cent increase on the previous year. Indonesia's Dewi Nusantara topped the poll
DEWI NUSANTARA INDONESIA
Dewi-Nusantara is named after the goddess of the Indonesian archipelago and prides itself on 'unparalleled' service and excellence. A 58m, three-masted schooner, handcrafted with love and attention to every detail, Dewi Nusantara offers all the creature comforts the travelling diver has come to expect. She sails in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the global epicentre of marine biodiversity to diving hotspots such as Raja Ampat, Ambon, Banda Sea, The Forgotten Islands, Halmahera, Ternate, Triton Bay, Cendrawasih Bay, North Sulawesi and beyond...
The wooden-built Amira was constructed along traditional Phinisi lines in Southern Sulawesi and went into operation in 2010. The German and Swiss owners planned the 52m liveaboard with emphases on safety, space, premium diving and comfort, offering safaris throughout the Indonesian archipelago including Raja Ampat, Komodo, Banda Sea and Cendrawasih Bay. Bespoke trips can be booked and arranged if required. The Amira offers nine spacious double and twin bed cabins plus one single cabin. All the air-conditioned cabins contain en-suite bathrooms, hot water showers and a western style toilet, plus a full range of amenities.
At 36m long, carrying a maximum of just ten guests, Pelagian offers more space per person than any liveaboard of its kind. An experienced international crew of 12 – including a master chef – provides each guest with appropriate attention, whether they are a first-time cruiser and snorkeller or a seasoned dive traveller who appreciates value and excellence. A spacious salon is complemented by a refined dining area, media centre and dedicated camera workroom, while shaded decks offer additional space for privacy and relaxation. Cabins have been designed for comfort and aesthetics with spacious floor plans, luxurious shower rooms and modern décor; the master suite offers all the comforts one would expect of an upscale hotel. Pelagian cruises to sites in the Tukang Besi archipelago where no other dive operation ventures, with itineraries that are built around guests’ preferences. Each dive is a rewarding experience – from the mandarinfish at Magic Pier to the shrimp breeding grounds of Cheeky Beach at Pasar Wajo to the seamounts at Karang Kaledupa.
BILIKILI SOLOMON ISLANDS
Bilikiki Cruises has been operating in the Solomon Islands for 28 years offering trips from seven to 14 nights around the Florida and Russell Islands, Marovo Lagoon and Mary Island. Up to 20 guests can be accommodated in ten air-conditioned ensuite cabins, and all trips start and finish in Honiara, the capital of the Solomons and home of the international airport. Bilikiki operates in a way that benefits people in local communities by paying to dive on the ancestrally owned reefs and buying local produce from islanders.
SEA HUNTER COCOS ISLAND
Last year Sea Hunter topped DIVE's Travel Awards. She combines the large-platform, functionality and powerful machinery of a workboat with the comfortable and relaxed interior of a modern yacht. This ship is 35m (115ft) of flexible capacity and convenience – a dedicated dive cruiser with a global reach, specifically designed and built for long-range expeditions to remote destinations such as Cocos Island. Featuring ten guest cabins with private baths, the Sea Hunter provides luxury, convenience and adventure for up to 20 passengers. This spacious vessel is everything that a serious diver or photographer could want – individual gear storage, private camera/strobe storage shelves with 110 & 220-volt AC power, zero-speed stabilizers and even a private washer and dryer for clients' towels and bathing suits.
CARPE DIEM MALDIVES
Carpe Diem runs seven or ten nights trips exploring the Maldives' atolls. This is the original boat that the company began its operations in 2008 with ten cabins spread out over three decks, catering for a maximum of 20 guests. She is accompanied by a diving dhoni (tender) and a small speedboat. Local dive masters on board share their abundance of experience for all levels of divers. On dedicated scuba diving trips the Carpe Diem offers a standard three dives a day. Carpe Diem Cruises has received the Maldives Travel Awards for Leading Liveaboard Brand for several years.
The Arenui is a traditional Phinisi - a classic Indonesian wooden sailing vessel - launched in 2007. The vessel is crafted almost entirely from 12 different types of wood, with the brass and copper interior fittings handcrafted in Java. The Arenui takes some traditional elements of Javanese houses and recreates them on the boat, creating a truly Indonesian experience on board an old-fashioned pirate ship - but still with all the mod-cons. Along with the attention to detail to Indonesian heritage and tradition, the designers of the Arenui wanted to reflect their connection to the environment, with over 70 per cent of the vessel made from recycled and reclaimed materials. Two master suites, two deluxe twin cabins and four deluxe cabins accommodate a maximum of 16 divers, with a crew of 22 catering to all the divers' needs. The Arenui offers a choice of itineraries throughout the year, based on the best conditions to dive in the various locations around Komodo and Raja Ampat.
GALÁPAGOS SKY GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS
Galápagos Sky is a custom scuba liveaboard, designed and built for the sole purpose of scuba diving in the Galápagos Islands, where divers can spend three days at the prized northern islands of Wolf and Darwin. The captains, guides and crew are carefully selected and are some of the most knowledgeable and professional in the region.
Every meal on board is carefully prepared with Ecuadorian and international specialities using locally sourced and organic foods – sustainability and conservation are high on the list of priorities. Galápagos Sky is the only scuba liveaboard in Galápagos that is completely owner operated and is managed entirely by Ecoventura, a family-run company from Ecuador founded in 1991.
Ecoventura has partnered with the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galápagos National Park Service, establishing the Galápagos Biodiversity and Education for Sustainability Fund to bolster conservation in the Galápagos Islands, ensuring the diverse plant, animal, and marine life of the archipelago are here for generations to come.
MERMAID II INDONESIA
The Mermaid II was built and started her duty in the year 2000. She has been constantly improved and after five years of cruising experience, Mermaid Liveaboards proudly states that she is possibly the best in her class – one of the most comfortable and diver-friendly liveaboards in Indonesia. Eight deluxe cabins offer all the comforts a diver needs, with a large panoramic window overlooking the ocean. Each cabin has a private en-suite bathroom with hot water showers and sink, plus camera-charging outlets, storage space, wardrobe and life jackets. A range of itineraries to complement those of the MV Mermaid I are available.
With over 25 years experience, the Pindito is one of the pioneers of liveaboard diving in Indonesia. Lovingly built to the highest standard by owner Edi Frommenwiler, and meticulously maintained, Pindito continues to set the standard with her thoughtfully laid out floor plan and smooth sailing. In continuous operation since 1992, the Pindito's crew claims to be unmatched for its diving knowledge and experience in Indonesia. The Pindito launched with itineraries in the Banda Sea and quickly expanded her routes to include Raja Ampat, Komodo, Ambon, Alor and many places in between. In 2006 the Pindito went through a complete refit. An additional deck was built for the urgently needed camera room. She now has large camera tables and plenty of electricity plugs (110 and 220 volt) available. The bridge was moved to the top deck and the newly built sun deck became a hit with the guests, especially in the mornings and evenings. A 2017 refit saw all the cabins, the dive deck and the sun deck renovated once again.
The DIVE Travel Awards 2018 was sponsored by Scubapro, Christopher Ward and DIVE Worldwide