Small liveaboard safaris are popular thanks to their personalised service, small dive groups and flexibility. They’re a great way to get to know your fellow travellers and enjoy a slower pace of life. Here are our top small liveaboards for escaping the dive crowds.
Shore Thing, Western Australia
Clear waters and abundant marine life make Ningaloo Reef a great location for Western Australia liveaboard diving. Dive sites are uncrowded and marine life includes humpback whales, whale sharks, manta rays and reef sharks. You can even spot dugongs there.
The Shore Thing catamaran offers flexible 3 to 9-night diving cruises for 10 guests through Ningaloo Reef. Being a catamaran, she’s extremely comfortable and stable. After a day diving, you can relax in the hammocks and take in the stunning views.
When to go: Whale sharks season is from mid-March to July, whilst humpback whales visit mid-June until late September.
Tidak ApaPa, Indonesia
With over 2000 fish species, numerous sharks, manta rays and a wealth of tiny critters, Indonesia is a scuba diving mecca.
The budget-friendly KLM Tidak ApaPa cruises Raja Ampat, the Banda Islands and Komodo National Park. With a ratio of 4 divers to 1 guide (and 8 guests maximum) the service is definitely attentive. Onboard comforts such as giant beanbags on deck are popular for watching sunset.
When to go: The best time to visit depends on the dive area you choose. Thankfully the Tidak ApaPa offers dive cruises all year and chooses the best route depending on the season.
Oceanes Dream, Madagascar
Madagascar scuba diving offers plenty of marine life whilst exploring one of the world’s more remote destinations. Join the Oceanes Dream and you’ll cruise the Radama and Mitsio Archipelagos. You can encounter barracuda, jacks, reef sharks and hammerheads at Radama. The Mitsio Archipelago has large schools of fish, manta rays and whale sharks. Be sure to keep your eyes open for passing humpback whales and dolphins as you walk the idyllic beaches.
The Oceanes Dream caters for just 8 guests in 4 double cabins. Each cabin has its own en-suite bathroom and double bed, offering a little luxury whilst exploring the best dive sites.
When to go: May to December is popular, with October to November offering the chance to see whale sharks around Nosy Be. Humpback whales arrive to calve between July and October.
Aqua Tiki II, French Polynesia
French Polynesia is diving paradise. Imagine pristine atoll diving, drift dives and walls of sharks in the depths. With so many sharks, manta rays, humpback whales and ripping current dives, French Polynesia liveaboard diving is unbeatable.
If you’re looking for a real adventure, join an Aqua Tiki II catamaran safari. Trips range from 8-night to extended 17-night safaris. You’ll cruise numerous islands and experience world-class diving with just 8 other guests onboard.
When to go: Scuba diving is possible all year. Humpback whales can be seen from July to November. Hammerheads and eagle rays arrive in large numbers from December to March.
The Norseman, Italy
Italy offers a different kind of liveaboard adventure, where you’ll experience hidden coves and dive sites with no other boats around. Elba Island is popular with its numerous dive sites and the Elviscott offers a great shallow wreck dive. Elba’s underwater museum, with a collection of statues depicting historical and mythological figures, is not to be missed.
When to go: Scuba diving is possible all year, with the warmer summer months offering the most critters.