Dive Readers' Favourite 25 Liveaboards
208 individual vessels were nominated by DIVE's readers in our 2018 Travel Awards. Here's the Top 25 that were put forward to the vote...
Construction of the Amira began in Bira, South Sulawesi in August 2008. The builders, all from the same village, built the vessel entirely from wood according to ancient Phinisi traditions handed down through the generations. Construction of the hull was completed in September 2009 and she was transported to the port of Bira over a six- week process involving 'ancient techniques' to move her from the shore to the water. The interior and final design took place over the final year until the Amira entered service in 2010. The German and Swiss owners planned the 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 deluxe 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.
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.
Argo Cocos Island
Undersea Hunter’s newest boat is the Argo. She is the physical expression of all the knowledge the operators have gained over the years, assembled into a singular vessel. An intentional blend of workship and luxury yacht, the Argo is designed to pamper up to 18 passengers in nine spacious staterooms. A 40m (130ft) vessel with full global reach, the Argo is the ultimate diving platform. Extended, multi-task cruises are her speciality – and of course, she is mothership to the Undersea Hunter Group's remarkable DeepSee submarine.
Onboard accessories consist of all standard diving gear including scuba, nitrox, rebreather facilities and zero-speed stabilizers. Powerful, 7.5m (24ft) skiffs serve as tender boats, which perform submersible tracking duties, shepherding of divers to remote sites, ship-to-shore transfers and any other conceivable recreational or support-related activities. The skiffs are powered by fumeless four-cycle, 115 HP twin-outboard motors for rapid transfer to any dive site within an extended and safe radius of the mothership. They are further equipped with VHF radios, depth sounders and portable GPS. A T-Roof and rigid bow cover is also mounted on the skiffs for maximum comfort.
Sea Hunter Cocos Island
Many have crowned Sea Hunter as the paramount liveaboard – the gold standard for all other dive boats. She won last year's Top Liveaboard in the DIVE 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. The Sea Hunter’s roominess and user-friendliness have introduced adventure divers, as well as professional photographers and cinematographers, to an entirely new level of liveaboard facility.
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, great food and an attentive crew. 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.
Remote and beautiful, 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 means divers can enjoy an amazing array of colourful tropical fish, mantas, sharks, schooling jacks, barracudas and great macro life. There is 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. There's so much to see that sometimes the hardest dive decision of the day is which lens to use!
blue Fin Red Sea
Updated in 2018, blue Fin is a traditional style liveaboard vessel that has some unique twists that keep her standing out from the crowd. Three huge king suites dominate the bow on the lower and middle decks, spreading the whole width of the vessel. All king suites on board this Red Sea liveaboard have large double beds, en-suite facilities, air conditioning, mini refrigerators and personal entertainment systems with a large plasma screen. All other cabins are twins and are located on the lower deck, also with the full range of facilities available. TVs in the communal areas are equipped with an Apple TV and a hard drive containing movies and TV series. blue Fin carries out a range of itineraries in both the North and South of the Egyptian Red Sea, catering for both novice and experienced divers.
blue Horizon Red Sea
blue Horizon is blue o two's flagship fleet vessel and the benchmark for all of the other vessels that followed. With a contemporary and stylish feel, blue Horizon takes Red Sea liveaboard luxury to a new level. With a large dining area, totally separate sky lounge with state of the art entertainment system, shaded deck area and sun deck, there is always space to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Red Sea. TVs in the communal areas are also equipped with an Apple TV and a hard drive containing movies and TV series.
King suite upgrades are available and all cabins benefit from air conditioning, en-suite facilities, mini refrigerators and personal entertainment systems. blue Horizon is equipped with a nitrox membrane, booster pump, technical blending panel and is rebreather friendly, making it a perfect platform for technical divers.
blue Voyager Maldives
blue Voyager can take 26 divers, providing one of the best Maldivian diving experiences. blue Voyager is a 37m, steel hulled vessel that boasts three roomy double cabins and ten twin cabins. The boat features an indoor dining area, a bar and sky lounge, along with a jacuzzi. A shaded outdoor lounge area can be found on the mid-deck, plus four different sun decks: a viewing deck located at the front of both the mid and upper decks, an open-air top deck and an ocean deck at the stern of the boat, all providing comfortable seating and loungers.
The ocean deck is a unique feature allowing guests to relax in the open air while close to the water. On many evenings floodlights will illuminate the water just off the ocean deck to attract plankton which brings in manta rays and whale sharks. There have been many close sightings of feeding mantas and whale sharks; divers should be sure to have their cameras ready and prepare to be splashed...
Carpe Diem Maldives
Carpe Diem Cruises offers an incredible, nature-packed adventure cruise over seven or ten nights exploring the Maldives' atolls on board the Carpe Diem. This is the original boat that the company began its operations in 2008. A familiar feeling to the vessel welcomes repeat guests and invites new ocean explorers to enjoy the ten cabins spread out over three decks, catering for a maximum of 20 guests.
Ideal for scuba diving, surfing, fishing or private charter trips, the Carpe Diem 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. When it’s time to slide into a slower pace, the boat’s sundeck is the perfect spot to soak up the sun surrounded by the turquoise shades of the Maldivian waters. The friendly service of our crew and delicious cuisine are just two reasons guests return time and again for another Carpe Diem adventure cruise, ensuring a luxurious stay to fulfil their Maldivian dreams. Carpe Diem Cruises has received the Maldives Travel Awards for Leading Liveaboard Brand for several years.
Carpe Vita Maldives
Carpe Vita is a luxurious boat aboard which divers can explore the depths of northern, central and southern Maldivian atolls. Since 2011, Carpe Vita offers up to four dives per day over seven and ten day scheduled dive safaris. Catering to solo divers, couples, families or groups of friends, the experienced native Maldivian divemasters know the best sites for each time of year. The fully escorted dives include some of the best chances to see manta rays and whale sharks, early morning dives in search of hammerheads and night dives at feeding stations for nurse sharks.
With slightly more space than Carpe Diem, a maximum of 20 guests enjoy ten cabins spread out over three decks. Each cabin is convertible to twin beds, making it a perfect holiday choice for dive groups. Carpe Vita caters for scuba diving, wave surfing, fishing and tailor-made trips for both individuals as well as groups. When not enjoying the ocean water, the sundeck is the perfect place to work on a suntan and hop into the onboard jacuzzi.
Carpe Novo Maldives
A luxury bucket-list vessel for a relaxing diving, surfing or cruising holiday in the Maldives is the Carpe Novo. This latest and largest of boats within the Carpe Diem Maldives fleet, Carpe Novo took to the waters in March 2016, inviting ocean adventurers to enjoy 11 cabins spread out over three decks and catering for a maximum of 21 guests.
As is the tradition in the Maldives, Carpe Novo is accompanied by a diving dhoni (tender) and a small speedboat. On board is a purpose-built camera equipment drying room, and on dedicated scuba diving trips, the Carpe Novo offers a standard three dives per day. When divers are not underwater, the boat’s sundeck with its jacuzzi is the perfect spot to work on a suntan, and admire the view over the Maldivian waters.
Damai I Indonesia
Damai I was built in Tanjung Bira, South Sulawesi in 2009 by Pak Hadji Baso, renowned as one of the most prestigious builders in the area. The collaboration of traditional skills with years of experience in the Indonesian liveaboard diving industry has created a remarkable vessel.
Damai I was designed to offer a personal service dedicated to small groups. With an overall length of 40m (130ft) and a beam of over 8m (26ft), the vessel has seven staterooms with a choice of single cabins, twins, doubles or two spacious master cabins. With sizes ranging from 18 sqm for the single cabin to +40 sqm for the master cabin, all are furnished with either queen or king sized beds, en-suite toilets and showers.
The vessel has three large deck areas for relaxing in both the sun or shade and for enjoying relaxing massage and spa treatments. Specifically designed for divers and underwater photographers, the vessel offers large dive stations with individual rinse tanks and a camera room with separate camera stations and an integrated 110v and 220v charging station for each photographer. The vessel was the first in Indonesia to offer a dive guide-to-guest ratio of 4:1, ensuring the best service underwater as well as onboard. Diving Damai has recently added two custom-designed high-speed tender boats.
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 a home away from home, a vessel for diving but with all the creature comforts the travelling diver has come to expect.
Dewi-Nusantara sails in the heart of the Coral Triangle, the global epicentre of marine biodiversity. Discover the many destinations to explore including Raja Ampat, Ambon, Banda Sea, The Forgotten Islands, Halmahera, Ternate, Triton Bay, Cendrawasih Bay, North Sulawesi and beyond...
FeBrina, together with skipper/owner Alan Raabe, has been working in Papua New Guinea waters since 1991 when she arrived at her home port, Walindi Plantation Resort. FeBrina is a traditional style, boutique liveaboard dive vessel – comfortable, stable and catering for both recreational divers and underwater photographers. FeBrina’s Papua New Guinean crew are all long-time members of the FeBrina team, dedicated to ensuring guests are happy, comfortable and experiencing the region's diving at its best. They bring an authentic love of the ocean to their roles on board and have incredible eyes for unique wildlife underwater. Itineraries vary throughout the year but most include the three most popular dive areas: Kimbe Bay, Fathers Reefs and Witu Islands. Guests enjoy up to five dives per day as part of a well rounded diving experience featuring lush coral gardens, dramatic and beautiful underwater topography, an abundance of critters, masses of schooling fish, black sand bays full of life, and stunning views topside.
Galápagos Sky Galáplagos 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.
Hurricane Red Sea
Hurricane launched in 2004 and was designed specifically with Southern Red Sea diving in mind. Her steel hull cuts through the water with speed and provides a stable dive platform from which to explore even the most remote sites in both comfort and style. The Southern Red Sea offers an incredibly diverse selection of sites and marine life, hence its appeal to divers of all interests worldwide. Close encounters with dugongs, hammerhead sharks, dolphins and many more pelagic species are not uncommon.
This year Hurricane underwent an extended drydock period to upgrade and refit the cabins and communal areas to reflecting the opulent feel of the vessel's teak decks. At 36m in length, she can easily accommodate 22 divers within eleven twin en-suite cabins. Each cabin provides a comfortable chill out zone when divers are not socializing in the saloon, dining area or bar. Fully tech-diving friendly, Hurricane is designed to meet the needs of every type of diver.
Whirlwind Red Sea
Built by Tornado Marine Fleet in Rasheed close to Alexandria, Whirlwind sailed her maiden voyage to Sharm el Sheikh in May 2006, taking her place among the elite of Red Sea liveaboards. Focussing on the northern Red Sea, Whirlwind is a perfect platform for diving the spectacular reefs and the historical wrecks in the area such as Ras Mohammed and the SS Thistlegorm. The northern Red Sea offers truly world-class diving, hence its popularity worldwide.
At 36m in length with an 8m beam, Whirlwind easily accommodates 20 guests in her ten luxurious twin en-suite cabins, which were designed specifically for comfort. Whirlwind, as with the whole of the Tornado Marine Fleet's vessels, was designed by divers for divers. Whirlwind caters for every need of both technical and recreational diving, hence her popularity with both. A haskel pump and large, well-thought-out kitting-up area easily accommodate additional tanks and photography equipment.
La Galigo Indonesia
La Galigo was initially conceived by Englishman Tom Simpson while working as a dive instructor in Komodo, where he fell in love with the country and the people of Indonesia. Collaborating with his good friend Nick Barr, a well-respected environmental advisor and divemaster, they planned to make what were expensive trips more affordable to the public.
La Galigo offers diving in some of the world’s most breathtaking areas throughout the Indonesian archipelago such as Komodo and Raja Ampat, at affordable prices. Occasionally you will find the owners tagging along for a trip, happy to sleep under the stars at night on their beloved boat.
They pride themselves on their professional staff, and you will find an array of interesting characters throughout the 17 crew that live and work onboard. La Galigo is more than a liveaboard, it’s about ticking another box off your bucket list, having a great time while doing it, and becoming part of what the crew call the ‘La Galigo family’.
Mermaid I Indonesia
Mermaid Liveaboards offers world class diving throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Rated as the top dive destination in the world, the cruises covers the marine life rich waters of Bali to Komodo, the Ring of Fire from Maumere to Ambon in search of hammerheads, the magnificent area of Raja Ampat in Papua, and other biodiversity specials such as Halmahera, the macro paradise of Lembeh and the rich and scenic Banda Sea.
Construction of the Mermaid I began in Bangkok in 1991, completed after two years by an experienced and highly professional team. The immense effort paid off and the luxurious, IMO certified Mermaid I offers all the amenities a diver could dream of. All eight cabins are fully air-conditioned and equipped with TV & DVD player, single, twin or double bed, a large wardrobe, plenty of storage room and an en-suite bathroom with hot water shower, toilet and sink. Fresh bath towels are provided daily, and beach towels, bathrobes, hair-dryers, towels, soap and shampoo are all included for comfort.
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.
When the liveaboard NAI’A ran its first charter in 1993, Americans and Europeans still considered Fiji to be the back of beyond. Few had seen the world-class diving accessible only by a sturdy ship able to reach the pristine reefs among the archipelago’s 360 islands. NAI’A, a 38m steel ship built in Holland by the world’s best shipbuilders, was perfectly suited to explore Fiji, with luxury accommodation for 18 passengers, a crew of 14 and virtually unlimited range under sail and motor.
Fijians are the friendliest people on earth. A diver who visits Fiji's shores is treated as an honoured guest and friend, not just another tourist. And Fiji's reefs and rainforests are lush but tame: no malaria, box jellyfish, crocodiles, or deadly spiders and snakes. Since Nai'a began voyaging to the country’s furthest and richest regions, guests from all over the world have enjoyed spectacular soft coral, diverse reef fish, bizarre critters, schooling pelagics and genuine Fijian hospitality - all in a single scuba diving holiday.
Pelagian’s guests enjoy an intimate atmosphere with the personalised service and exclusive amenities of a world-class motoryacht. 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. For the best of both worlds, guests often combine a Pelagian cruise with a stay at Wakatobi Resort.
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.
Philippine Siren Philippines
Philippine Siren plies the water of the Philippines all year round – in Tubbataha from mid-February to mid-June and the rest of the year in the Visayas, Moalboal, and Malapascua. Custom-built by divers for divers and launched in 2013, she ticks all the boxes regarding the amenities that any diver could possibly need or want for. The 40m Phinisi style yacht offers ample room for up to 16 guests in eight, well laid-out cabins with en-suite bathrooms and a choice of changeable twin and double beds.
A large dive deck with allocated personal set-up areas, plenty of storage space for dive gear and a dedicated camera area make gearing up for the four scheduled daily dives very convenient and easy. Philippine Siren’s main asset is undoubtedly her crew, who will bend over backwards to ensure divers have the best diving holiday of all time. They work as a well-oiled team and are always willing to go that extra mile.
Relax on one of the sunbeds on the upper deck or on the comfortable sofas in the air-conditioned indoor lounge. Mouthwatering meals are served buffet style in the covered outdoor dining area, while snacks and drinks are readily available during the day. Massage and laundry services are also available. The Siren package includes free equipment rental, nitrox fills, and local beer.
Indo Siren Indonesia
Enjoy the world’s highest marine biodiversity in Raja Ampat and Komodo in style on board the traditional Phinisi sailing yacht Indo Siren. Custom-built by divers for divers just like her sister boats Philippine Siren and Palau Siren, Indo Siren is equipped with all amenities for a memorable, carefree, all-inclusive dive liveaboard holiday. Indo Siren welcomes up to 16 guests who can comfortably sojourn in eight very spacious en-suite cabins with personal entertainment systems and individual air-con units.
The professional, yet fun-loving crew pride themselves on spoiling divers with their 'unparalleled service with a smile'. There is ample space on the dive deck for individual set-up areas and dive gear storage. There is a separate rinse tanks for cameras and a dedicated camera table with plenty of charging points indoors.
Relax on one of the cushioned loungers on the sundeck or put your feet up on the comfortable sofas in the air-conditioned indoor lounge. Mouthwatering meals are served buffet style in the covered outdoor dining area, while snacks and drinks are readily available during the day. Massage and laundry service are available. The Siren package includes free equipment rental, nitrox fills, and local beer.