The Myth of Scuba Liveaboards
There are many myths around Scuba diving, you have to be an excellent swimmer, its a man’s sport and liveaboards are only for the advanced diver are some of them. While each of those might have been true at one time, they are far from true now. It does not take long for a new diver to discover that the first two are not true. However, the myth that liveaboards are just for the advance diver still lingers on. Granted, there are some liveaboards that travel to dive destinations that are for experienced divers only, but the majority of the liveaboards are suitable for open water divers. In fact, many even do open water training.
Cairns Australia’s Scuba Diving Hall of Fame member, Mike Ball is considered the father of the modern liveaboards. He took the industry from one of converted fishing boats with rudimentary living conditions to one that had purpose build dive boats with comfortable surroundings. Others followed his lead and now we have a scuba diving liveaboard industry that covers a range of comfort levels and with destinations that offer dives for different skill levels. The Cairns liveaboard industry is still making invocations in the industry and offers divers of all skill levels an outstanding liveaboard experience. Cairns is the second leading destination for new diver certification and most of the liveaboards have open water certification programs.
Cairns is an bucket list destination for many divers for it location on the Great Barrier Reef. The outer reefs are about 90 minutes away for the faster dive boats. Daily dive boats can bring out to the reefs to provide a day of outstanding diving. The liveaboards provide opportunities that the daily boats can not. Let start by taking a look at some of the more “traditional” liveaboards such as the Spirit of Freedom and Mike Ball’s Spoilsport providing one week dive vacations. Both of these boats are home ported in Cairns and travel to the outer reefs, north to the Ribbon Reefs near Lizard Island and out into the Coral Sea to Osprey Reef. The Osprey Reef is more than 10 hours past the edge of the Great Barrier Reef out in the open sea. The Osprey is know for pristine reefs, great shark dives and perfect visibility. It is a destination for skilled divers, not for a open water student nor the novice diver. However, the portion of the trip between Cairns and Lizard Island provides outstanding dive sites that are suitable for diver training as well as being interesting for experienced divers. Both of these liveaboards can be split into a three day or four day segment. The three day is between Lizard Island and Cairns. Lizard Island is a national park with a small airstrip (sorry I been there and can not get myself to call it an airport), a scientific research station and a small luxury resort. Divers taking only a segment can join or leave the liveaboard for a flight to/from Cairns. The no fly rule does not apply as the plane is not pressurized and flies below 1,000 feet.
Another innovation in the Cairns area is what I call the any day liveaboard. There are a few liveaboards that stay out at the outer reefs for extended periods of time. Divers join the liveaboards by taking shuttle boats from Cairns out to the liveaboard. Most of these are daily boats owned by the same company. In this manner, a diver can join on any day and stay as many days as they want. These vessels are more like yachts that what you might envision as a liveaboard, they are great for bringing along a non diving companion. Generally they will offer four or five dives a day including the possibility of a sunrise and twilight/ night dives. These dives are one thing that separates a liveaboard from a daily boat.
Another possibility in the Cairns area are liveaboards that are on a two night schedule. These are ideal for completing a open water course or an advance open water course. The theory and confined water portions of the training are done on land before boarding the boat. The open water dives are done out on the outer reefs. Divers will have the opportunity to do a night dive as a certified diver as well as some fun dives.
For more information on the liveaboards of the Great Barrier Reef visit the Dive Zone Website.