The Best Liveaboards in the World
Looking for your next liveaboard but can't decide where to go? Here's a run-down of the top 10 from this year's DIVE travel awards, as voted for by our readers.
1) Sea Hunter, Cocos Island
Cocos Island is located around 300 miles from the coast of Costa Rica in the eastern reaches of the Pacific Ocean, proclaimed by Jacques Cousteau in 1994 as 'the most beautiful island in the world'. Home to at least 27 endemic species, the region is also known for its large gatherings of schooling hammerheads, giant oceanic manta rays, dolphins and the occasional whale shark. The Cocos Sea Hunter was originally a commercial diving support vessel, built for the long-haul and re-outfitted as a liveaboard in 1994 with 10 cabins, catering to a maximum of 20 divers.
2) Pelagian, Wakatobi (Sulawesi)
Pelagian is the liveaboard owned and operated by Wakatobi resort in Sualwesi, Indonesia, combining the best of all Indonesian diving on reefs that are rarely visited, including the remote Tukand Besi archipelago. With only 10 guests on board per trip, Pelagian claims to hold the title of 'most space per guest' than any other liveaboard in the world and, indeed, the cabins resemble luxury hotel rooms rather than spaces on a dive boat. Unspoiled reefs, big critters and the region's famous muck-diving, in locations where there isn't another single diver for miles.
3) Bahamas Aggressor
The Aggressor Fleet has one of the broadest reaches of liveaboards around the world with 27 different destinations and 31 itineraries to select from. The Bahamas Aggressor has three different itineraries, exploring the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park – a protected area of 176 square miles with over 350 small islands and Cays – and the West End Northern Adventure, with some of the richest coral reefs in the Caribbean. New charters to Tiger Beach explore more remote and less well-travelled West End of North Bahama, with dives specifically on the look-out for the famous tiger sharks.
4) FeBrina, Papua New Guinea
M/V FeBrina has been plying the waters of Papua New Guinea since 1991 and is based at the Walindi Plantation Resort, diving the areas of Kimbe Bay and the surrounding waters along the northern coast of New Britain. Witu Islands and Fathers Reefs are covered by the regular itinerary, with some seasonal variation to take into account the best conditions for diving. Special charters are available to South Coast New Britain, home to 'a wonderland of rare and unusual critters', and the pelagics of Milne Bay. Rich and diverse diving all year round, with the possibility of seeing the famous wrecks of the Japanese Zero fighters along the way.
5) Nautilus Explorer, Mexico
Relative newcomers to the liveaboard scene, Nautilus specialise in big animal encounters and offer itineraries around the islands of Socorro and Guadalupe. Socorro. part of the Revillagigedo archipelago is famous for encounters with oceanic manta rays and up-close and very personal meetings with dolphins. Guadalupe is home to at least 228 recognised individual great white sharks, and are spotted on three out of every four cage dives conducted in the area. Other large fish such as scalloped and giant hammerheads, Galápagos, whitetip reef, silver-tip, silky, tiger and oceanic whitetips are also regularly spotted, with dusky, whale and threshers putting in the occasional appearance.
6) M/V Galápagos Master
The Galápagos islands are widely regarded as one of the best and most diverse locations in the world. Many sharks – including fully grown, pregnant female whale sharks – are spotted in waters that are also home to the giant mola-mola, the unique marine iguana and the strange sight of penguins in amongst the coral, and playful sea lions for dive buddies. Built in 2004, the steel-hulled M/V Galapagos Master has eight cabins and prides itself on being one of the most eco-friendly liveaboards in the region.
7) M/V Sea Spirit, Maldives
The first of three liveaboards from the Maldives to be voted into the Top 10, M/V Sea Spirit is part of blue o two's worldwide fleet of liveaboards, and one of the most popular in the region. The traditionally designed, 21m long vessel caters to just 12 divers for a very personal liveaboard experience.She has an extensive range of itineraries through the Maldives, from the main island of Male to the outlying atolls, often heading to the southern outreaches of the Maldives where encounters with giant pelagic species such as oceanic mantas and whale sharks are almost guaranteed.
8) M/Y blue Horizon, Red Sea
The second of blue o two's fleet to be voted into the Top 10, and their flagship fleet vessel, M/Y blue Horizon explores the best that the Red Sea has to offer, with a total of 18 itineraries that range from as far north as the Tiran Straits, through Ras Mohammed, the Brothers, Elphinstone, Daedelus, Fury Shoal and St Johns, plus of course all the best wrecks of the Red Sea, including the world famous SS Thistlegorm. The 41m-long wooden vessel takes a total of 26 guests, with different options for available cabins, and is outfitted for tech and rebreather diving.
9) Ocean Sapphire, Maldives
The Ocean Sapphire is a 35m long, three-deck wooden yacht built in 2012, specialising in luxury dive cruises between North and South Male, with a seasonal detour to the deep south in March each year. Spacious cabins allow for a maximum of 22 persons per voyage, with a six-person jacuzzi on the sun-deck for relaxing after the diving.
10) Carpe Vita, Maldives
One of three sister ships, the Carpe Vita is described as 'the slightly bigger sister' of the Carpe Diem, with the Carpe Novo completing the trio. Catering to a maximum of 20 divers, Carpe Vita offers four dives per day with a selection of ten different itineraries spanning 21 different atolls and over 300 dive sites around the Maldives. Explore the best of the Maldives' rich and diverse coral reefs, or head south to find the manta and – if you're lucky – night dive with whale sharks.