The Ten Best Scuba Diving Liveaboards of the 2021 DIVE Travel Awards
245 different vessels were voted by readers as the best scuba diving liveaboards of 2021. Here's a closer look at the Top 10, with some of the best comments made by readers during the vote
Coralia Raja Ampat, Indonesia
The Coralia, a traditional Phinisi build, is based in Raja Ampat and offers year-round trips around the islands and also to Komodo, Alor and the Banda Sea. She is 48m in length and caters to 16 guests in eight cabins. On the main and upper decks are four large master cabins, each with a double bed, wraparound picture windows and private balcony. On the lower deck are two double cabins and two twin cabins. All rooms are ensuite with air-conditioning and lots of storage.
On the main deck is a large indoor salon and dining area. There is an outdoor lounge, which also has tables set up for al-fresco dining, sun loungers and sofas for chilling out. On the top deck are several comfortable sun loungers and a massage area.
There is a spacious dive deck with personal storage space, free nitrox, two tenders for diving and an extremely large dedicated camera room with charging points. Itineraries vary from seven to 11 nights and explore the Dampier Strait, Wayag, Misool, Batanta and Kawe around Raja Ampat and other locations including Komodo National Park, Alor, the Forgotten Islands, Maumere and the Banda Islands. Up to four dives a day are available, as well as other activities such as bird-watching, hiking and snorkelling.
Very comfortable, famous food (buffet), very good dive guides, excellent cruise directors (Debbie, Jerry, Ronan)
- KW, Germany
This boat feels like my second home. No task is too big, and the doughnuts. My god, the doughnuts.
- AM, India
Literally the most amazing people and life-changing dive trip! Best in class!
- MM, USA
Great cabins, awesome routes and dive spots and the best cruise directors in the business!
- CG, Singapore
Excellent location and staff. Caring management and excellent food and spacious rooms highly luxurious and affordable boat
- SS, Australia
Beautiful vessel, utterly competent crew and same mission values as their land-based operation PAPEX
- RK, Australia
Brilliant diving thanks to dive directors knowledge. Boat facilities, diving area, food, relaxation areas. Ambience altogether.
- NP, UK
Bilikiki Solomon Islands
Bilikiki Cruises has been operating in the Solomon Islands for 28 years and has a well-deserved reputation for comfort, safety and service. Offering trips from seven to 14 nights around the Florida and Russell Islands, Marovo Lagoon and Mary Island, itineraries include five dives per day for up to 20 guests accommodated in ten air-conditioned ensuite cabins. 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.
The Solomon Islands are part of the Coral Triangle with a staggering diversity of marine species, coral and dive sites – yet they remain one of the least dived areas of the world. Consistently great visibility and year-round 28-30°C (80-86°F) water temperature plus a great variety of dive sites with huge drop-offs, coral gardens, caves, sandy critter dives, seamounts, points teeming with fish and numerous WWII wrecks.
Bilikiki is just the right size and it travels through wonderful villages and supports the locals by buying fresh foods for the boat. It's a wonderful, intimate experience, both with the locals, and the crew. Lovely people, great experience!!!
- RN, USA
Best service, comfortable boat, great food and stunning diving in remote areas. Simply the best.
- JZ, Australia
Been diving on the Bilikiki 5 x in the last 15 years and LOVE the boat, the crew! And mostly, the diversity of the Solomons Islands! My go-to place if I can get there!
- NS, USA
Very stable comfortable boat. Authentic experiences with islander crew and visits. Service goes above and beyond.
- ACS, UK
Love the style of diving the crew is great (local and managers) the floating markets and support of local communities.
- LR, USA
Bilikiki is a world-class operation. The staff is attentive, the food delicious and everything is geared to your location.
- DW, USA
Professional, friendly and go to the best sites in the Solomon Islands (e.g. Mary Island) otherwise unaccessible! The boat life is fun and staff are amazing - supportive and lovely. The food is amazing too!
- MW, Australia
Dewi Nusantara Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Dewi Nusantara placed first in the 2018 DIVE Travel Awards, and ranks highly yet again for the fourth year in succession, having placed second in 2019 and sharing third spot with Nai'a in 2020. Named after the goddess of the Indonesian archipelago, Dewi Nusantara is a 57m, three-masted schooner launched in 2008, designed to cater to a maximum of 18 guests, accommodated in eight spacious en-suite, air-conditioned staterooms, including the aft 'Master and Commander's’ cabin, which is the size of a large hotel suite. Spacious decks, lounge and dining area afford plenty of room for relaxing in between dives.
Nitrox divers and underwater photographers are well catered for, and Dewi Nusantara has an extraordinary range of itineraries throughout the Coral Triangle, including Raja Ampat, Ambon, Banda Sea, The Forgotten Islands, Halmahera, Ternate, Triton Bay, Cendrawasih Bay, North Sulawesi and beyond.
I've been on many liveaboards in my 50 years of diving. In fact, I helped refit and manage, what most consider the first 'luxury' liveaboard, in the Solomon Islands. Dewi's operation is a cut above all the vessels I've had the pleasure to dive from. The boat is always impeccably maintained. The divemasters are super knowledgeable. The food is stellar and the behind-the-scenes operation is next to none.
- BJ, USA
Fabulous staff, fab food and service ranging from food prep to room maintenance to guiding underwater.
- KA, Canada
The crew treats you so well. The accommodations are superb! You feel like family right away.
- AS, USA
Have been on this beautiful schooner six times and can't wait to return! The accommodations are great, the staff are all amazing, the food and service are incomparable and the diving and snorkelling spectacular no matter what itinerary!
- KF, USA
Hands down the most beautiful liveaboard ever made. Spectacular and large accomodations, non-stop food and epic diving presented by the most customer-focused and safety-conscious crew.
- EM, USA
The Dewi Nusantara is an outstanding boat with a dedicated staff to meet all your diving needs. Most wonderful way to dive.,
- LAA, USA
NAI'A, one of the first liveaboards to operate around the islands of Fiji, is a name that many divers will recognise, having run her first charter in 1993. The luxurious 38m steel ship has been nominated in the Top 25 for the past five years in the DIVE Travel Awards, sharing a well-deserved third place with Dewi Nusantara in 2020, thanks in large part to enthusiastic campaigning by the Fijian Tourist Authority.
Designed and built in Holland, NAI’A caters to 18 passengers in nine air-conditioned staterooms with ensuite bathrooms, with a sun deck, dive deck and spacious dining area, plus a camera room for photographers. Nitrox is available and rebreather divers can be catered to on request.
Fiji is known as the 'soft coral capital of the World', one of the best places for shark encounters, and is home to five of the world's seven turtle species. NAI'A's itineraries cover the spectacular barrier reefs of the Bligh Water and the Koro Sea, and on longer charters head further out into the ocean to explore pristine reefs that are otherwise rarely visited.
Wonderful experience, great food, exceptional crew, kava evenings, and incredible diving.
- L, UK
Beautiful diving, wonderful food, Great crew and boat. One of my favourite things was the explanation of local customs and people. Our shore excursion was amazing!
- BD, USA
We have dived worldwide and nobody come close to the Nai’a …place, crew, amenities. Perfect combination!!!
- J&S, USA
Of all my liveaboard experiences, Nai’a is by far the best! Best diving, most wonderful crew and lovely ship snd BBC accommodations!
- SF, USA
The best liveaboard dive boat and crew. Luxurious, accommodating and all-round amazing
- IC, Romania
Mermaid II Indonesia
Mermaid II was built and started sailing in the year 2000, since when she has been continuously improved and hailed by her owners as 'possibly the best in her class', one of the most comfortable and diver-friendly liveaboards in Indonesia. She was a Top 25 finisher in 2020 and has jockeyed for position with her sister ship, Mermaid I, for some time, finally beating her for the first time since the DIVE Travel Awards began.
Mermaid II has eight deluxe cabins that 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. Itineraries include Komodo, Raja Ampat, the Banda Sea, Alor and Ambon.
I've done six trips with Mermaid 2 to Komodo, Raja Ampat and once from Raja Ampat to Ambon. All amazing trips which is why I keep going back to this boat. When I return it's like going to see my family again. Truk Odyssey is a completely different experience, I've ticked it off my bucket list and am booked to go back again in 2022 after Covid ends.
- JK, Australia
Wonderful fun crew, extremely knowledgeable, always felt my safety was their first concern. The boat was clean and very well maintained and food excellent.
- JP, USA
Concierge diving with the most knowledgeable, professional, and experienced dive guides in Indonesia.
- CH, USA
Perfect organization, comfortable boat, best team, fabulous route, incredible diving experience.
- OB, USA
The best liveaboards: excellent service, routes, support and staff.
- GC, UK
Mermaid I Indonesia
The 28m, steel-hulled Mermaid I has eight cabins with air-conditioning, TV & DVD players, single, twin or double beds, a large wardrobe, plenty of storage room and an ensuite bathroom with showers. With one single cabin, she takes 15 guests.
A range of itineraries to complement those of the MV Mermaid I are available.
The Mermaid 1 has become our favourite. We have had the opportunity to dive with them several times. Their service and boat is absolutely top-notch. We have been on @30 liveaboard trips with a dozen or so operators.
- CR, USA
Absolutely luxurious liveaboard, best I’ve ever been on. Food delicious and amazing staff.
- CP, Australia
I have been on the Mermaid 1 & 2 numerous times in Komodo and Raja Ampat. The diving, safety, food and most of all staff are the best we have experienced on over 15 liveaboards… which is why we keep going back to them.
- LH, UK
Mermaid liveaboards offer a professional service both on land and onboard, the vessels themselves are really comfortable. For the Komodo trips they disembark and embark from Beno Bali, so the time we have we can use effectively to explore the nature and underwater world
- SC, Indonesia
We have dived with Mermaid for 15 years in Komodo, Mergui, Raja Ampat and the Banda Sea. They have the perfect mix of personal touch, good food (Thai and Indonesian), safety and reliability. Even when they cannot bring to a promised location or provide a guaranteed sighting, the service recovery is excellent.
Nautilus Explorer Mexico
Nautilus Explorer placed fifth in our 2017 Travel Awards, and have gone from strength-to-strength to once again place in the Top 10 this year. The Canadian-built steel-hulled Nautilus Explorer was launched in 2000 and has a total of 13 air-conditioned staterooms, including three superior and one premium suite - which features a full-size bathtub - on the upper decks.
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.
Never have I been on a safer (fire safety, electrical charging, evacuation, drills & practice, and even shark safety) and roomy liveaboard. Even to the point of COVID safety! And the diving - note I have seen many shark operations and this was by far the most efficient shark wrangling for photography hands down!
- RT, USA
Because I've been to Revillagigedo and Guadalupe on it and it's the most comfortable boat ever.
- AM, Mexico
Great service on a world-class boat with a great crew going to an amazing location; Socorro Islands.
- TH, UK
Great hosts, good prices, good times!
- JL, USA
Breathtaking service and excellent dive professionals
- BI, UK
Sea Hunter Costa Rica/Cocos Island
A regular Top 10 finisher and 2017 Travel Awards Champion, Sea Hunter, is something of a gold standard for all other dive boats, combining the large-platform, functionality and powerful machinery of a working marine research boat with the comfortable and relaxed interior of a modern yacht.
Since 1995, the 35m-long vessel has hosted international celebrities and filmmakers – together of course, with thousands of regular divers and photographers – many of whom make the long-range expedition to the remote Cocos Island, during which comfort and stability over the 36-hour journey are important. Ten guest cabins with private baths provide luxurious accommodations for up to 20 passengers, and the spacious vessel is dedicated to the most serious of photographers with individual gear storage and private camera/strobe storage shelves with 110 & 220-volt AC power.
Located in the eastern tropical Pacific 300 miles southwest of Costa Rica, Cocos Island was declared 'the most beautiful island in the world' by Jacques Cousteau. Volcanic in nature, the island is a giant seamount that attracts a huge array of pelagic visitors, including large schools of jacks and tuna, and the huge numbers of schooling hammerheads that are most synonymous with the island. Dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, marlin and sailfish are commonly encountered, as are silky sharks, silvertips and tiger sharks.
They provide excellent and safe service every time, at the best diving destination possible. The crew and boat itself are fantastic and always make sure you are comfortable and have a wonderful trip.
- TM, Jamaica
The Undersea Hunter Group is skilled, professional, safe, knowledgeable, and friendly.
- GS, USA
Seahunter and Argo set the bar for other liveaboards.
- HF, USA
The absolute best crew and dives.
- BM, USA
Love love love!
- GMR, USA
Spoilsport Queensland, Australia
Spoilsport placed 8th overall in the 2020 DIVE Travel awards, the first Australian liveaboard to have ever been nominated by our readers, and cements her place among the best liveaboards in the world with another Top 10 ranking for 2021.
Spoilsport is the 30m-long, twin-hulled flagship of Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, based in Cairns. Spoilsport has a total of 14 cabins, four premium doubles with ocean views, four standard cabins with twin beds and ocean views, and four club cabins with bunk beds, all of which have ensuite bathrooms. There are a further two budget cabins with bunk beds and shared toilet facilities. The huge dive platform has more than enough space to cater for a full guest complement, as has the lounge and dining area.
Spoilsport ranges across the northern Great Barrier Reef - including the legendary Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs - heading out into the Coral Sea to Osprey and Bougainville Reefs, depending on the itinerary. Dwarf minke whales put in regular appearances during dives at Ribbon Reef #10, and humpback whales can often be spotted alongside the boat. Sharks are everywhere. As an extra treat, special itineraries feature a low-level flight over the vast expanse of the Great Barrier Reef between Cairns and Lizard Island.
The most incredible diving experience with the minke whales - the liveaboard was well equipped, dives were supported by staff and marine biologist, fabulous food and the dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef were outstanding.
- FG, Australia
First-class operation. Recommended to US friends. They loved it.
- WO, Australia
Fabulous itinerary, crew, food, safety
- PB, Australia
The best team I know!
- GP, France
Great facilities. Excellent crew.
- BM, UK
Wunderpus Komodo, Indonesia
Wunderpus was a new entry to the 2020 DIVE Travel Awards when she placed second overall in the Top 10 liveaboards. Traditionally-built from ironwood and Indonesian teak, the 25m-long, 4.8m-wide vessel first set sail in 2014 and caters to just a small number of people with spacious, comfortable accommodation. There are just two double cabins with queen size beds, and two double-twin cabins with a queen-size bed and a single bunk, and all four cabins are equipped with AC and fan, ensuite bathrooms with hot water, 100 per cent biodegradable reef-safe shampoo and soap, and a hairdryer. She has two upper decks with comfortable sunbeds for relaxing – one shaded and one uncovered, for tanning and stargazing at night.
Wunderpus plies her trade throughout Komodo National Park in Indonesia, one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet with the possibility to encounter almost every form of marine life, from black sand macro to whale sharks and manta rays, among stunning coral reefs, often with strong currents and spectacular drifts. Combined with the small number of divers on board, the Wunderpus crew make a special effort to schedule dives away from busier reefs, making it a great option for divers who like to get away from the crowds.
Wunderpus are an amazing operator and really have one of the best approaches to diving Komodo. With a strong emphasis on conservation, they truly are one of the best operators to dive within the national park!
- JA, Malaysia
My liveaboard choice over the last eight years. Never disappoint.
- AA, Indonesia
The world's best diving from the most sumptuously luxurious liveaboard.
- JB, UK
Awesome choice of dive sites, good food great guides
- BD, Philippines
Great boat with a touch of luxury
- MH, Malaysia
The Rest of the Top 25 liveaboards:
Emperor Elite, Red Sea
Damai I, Indonesia
Calico Jack, Raja Ampat
Rocio del Mar, Mexico
Argo, Cocos Island
Okeanos Aggressor, Costa Rica
Blue Horizon, Egypt
The complete list of entries to the 2021 DIVE Travel Awards (in alphabetical order):
Aboya, Indonesia ● Adelaar, Indonesia ● Adishree, Indonesia ● ● Aelous, Red Sea ● Aldebaran, Egypt ● Alila Purnama, Indonesia ● Amalia, Indonesia ● Amba, Maldives ● Andromeda, Egypt/Sudan ● Aqua Galapagos ● AquaCat Bahamas ● Aquasport, Egypt ● Atlantis, Egypt/Sudan ● Avalon, Cuba ● Bahamas Aggressor ● Belize Aggressor ● Bella 1, Egypt ● Bella 2, Egypt ● Black Manta, Indonesia ● Black Pearl, Micronesia ● Blackbeards, Bahamas ● Blue Dragon, Komodo ● Blue Fin, Egypt ● Blue Force One, Maldives ● Blue Manta, Indonesia ● Blue Marlin, Komodo ● Blue Melody, Egypt ● Blue Planet 1, Egypt ● Blue Spirit, Maldives ● Blue Voyager, Maldives ● Blue, Egypt ● Blueshark One, Maldives ● Busy Girl, Indonesia ● Cahaya Mandiri, Raja Ampat ● Cajoma IV, Komodo ● Calepso, Tioman, Malaysia ● Captain Sparrow, Red Sea ● Caribbean Explorer 2 ● Carlton Queen, Egypt ● Carpe Diem, Maldives ● Carpe Novo, Maldives ● Carpe Vita, Maldives ● Cassiopeia, Egypt ● Cat Ppalu, Bahamas ● Cayman Aggressor ● Charlotte, Egypt ● Cheng Ho, Indonesia ● Chertan, PNG ● Clasina, UK ● Coral Queen, Egypt ● Current Junkies (Komodo, Indonesia) ● Damai II, Indonesia ● Deep Andaman Queen, Thailand ● Diamond Explorer, Egypt ● Discovery Palawan, Philippines ● Diva Andaman, Thailand ● Diva Marine, Thailand ● Dive One, Egypt ● Dolce Vita, Red Sea ● Dolphin Dream, Bahamas ● Donia, Red Sea ● Duke of York Maldives ● Dune Croisières Nord Egypte ● Eco Blue, Maldives ● El Alsson International School ● Embun Laut. Komodo ● Emperor Asmaa, Red Sea ● Emperor Atoll, Maldives ● Emperor Echo, Red Sea ● Emperor Explorer, Maldives ● Emperor Leo, Maldives ● Emperor Raja Laut ● Emperor Serenity, Maldives ● Emperor Superior, Red Sea ● Emperor Virgo, Maldives ● Emperor Voyager, Maldives ● Epica, Raja Ampat ● Eureka, Australia ● Four Seasons Explorer, Maldives ● Freedom I, Egypt ● Freedom III, Egypt ● Freedom VIII, Egypt ● Gaia Love, Indonesia ● Galapagos Master ● Galapagos Sky ● Galatea, Seychelles ● Giamani, Thailand ● Grand Sea Serpeant, Egypt ● Grandezza, Maldives ● Halleluijah, Thailand ● Hammerhead I, Red Sea ● Hammerhead II, Red Sea ● Honors Legacy, Maldives ● Horizon III, Maldives ● Humboldt Explorer, Galapagos ● Hurricane, Red Sea ● Ikan Biru, Indonesia ● Independence 2, Egypt ● Indo Aggressor ● Indo Siren ● Infiniti, Philippines ● Jakare, Indonesia ● Jardines Aggressor ● Jaya, Indonesia ● Juliet, Red Sea ● Keana, Maldives ● King Snefro, Egypt ● Komodo Dancer, Indonesia ● Kona Aggressor ● Kudanil Explorer, Indonesia ● Maldives Aggressor ● Manta Queen, Thailand ● Mariana, Maldives ● Marselia Star, Maldives ● Mata Ikan, Mersing, Malaysia ● Mimic, Komodo ● Mistral, Egypt ● Moana, Indonesia ● Mola Mola, Indonesia ● Moonimaa, Maldives ● Mutiara Laut, Indonesia ● Nautile Evo, Red Sea ● Nautilus Belle Amie, Mexico ● Nautilus Gallant Lady, Mexico ● Nautilus Undersea, Mexico ● Neomi, Indonesia ● Nouran, Red Sea ● Ocean Dream, Egypt ● Ocean Hunter, Palau ● Ocean One, Maldives ● Ocean Trek, Australia ● Ocean Window, Egypt ● Oceana Maria, Philippines ● OK Maldives, Maldives ● Oman Aggressor ● Ondina, Indonesia ● Orca Cruise Maldives ● Orion, Maldives ● Palau Aggressor ● Philippine Siren ● Polar Pioneer ● Quino El Guardian, Mexico ● Raja Ampat Aggressor ● Raja Ampat Explorer ● Rascal, Indonesia ● Red Sea Aggressor II ● Reef Prince, Australia ● Roatan Aggressor ● Rock Island Aggressor, Micronesia ● Royal Evolution, Red Sea ● Sachika Liveaboard, Maldives ● Samambaia, Indonesia ● Samara II, Indonesia ● Samata, Indonesia ● Sarah, Maldives ● Scubaspa, Maldives ● Sea Queen , Egypt ● Sea Safari 6, Indonesia ● Sea Serpent, Egypt ● Sea Spirit, Maldives ● Sea Star, Seychelles ● Seaduction, Red Sea ● Seahorse, Indonesia ● Seven7Seas, Red Sea ● Shakti, Indonesia ● Silversonic, Australia ● Sky Dancer, Galapagos ● Smiling Seahorse, Thailand ● Snefro Love, Red Sea ● Snefro Pearl, Red Sea ● Snefro Spirit, Red Sea ● Socorro Vortex, Mexico ● Sokharaja, Komodo ● Soleil 2, Maldives ● Solitude One, Micronesia ● Solmar V, Mexico ● Solomons PNG Master ● South Moon, Sharm El Sheikh ● Southern Image, Western Australia ● Spectre, California ● Spirit of Freedom, Cairns, Australia ● SS Thorfinn - Chuuk ● Sun Spy Northland Dive, New Zealand ● Sunshine, Egypt ● Swell, Alaska/British Columbia ● Taka, Solomon Islands ● Tala, Red Sea ● Tatawa, Komodo ● Tempest, Egypt ● The Junk, Thailand ● The Phinisi Cheng I São, Thailand ● The Seven Seas, Indonesia ● Theia Dune, Maldives ● Tiarè Liveaboard Indonesia ● Tibruon Explorer ● Tiger Blue, Indonesia ● Tradewinds Adventures, Raja Ampat ● True North, Australia ● Truk Master ● Truk Odyssey ● Tui Tai, Fiji ● Turks and Caicos Aggressor ● Turks and Caicos Explorer II ● Typhoon, Egypt ● Valentina, Mexico ● Valhalla, UK ● Valkyrie, UK ● Velocean, Indonesia ● VIP One, Egypt ● VIP Shrouk, Egypt ● Waow, Indonesia ● Wellenreng, Indonesia ● Whirlwind, Egypt ● White Manta, Indonesia ● Wind Dancer, Cocos Island