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Phuket Liveaboards - Top Tips

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Liveaboard_Team_Photo_04Jan14With Phuket being the natural base from which to reach some exceptional dive sites, you can easily count 40 liveaboard boats without even trying, all offering dive trips to the Similan and Surin National Marine Parks. Generally, they all visit the same dive sites, so as a consumer, how do you differentiate between all the options to make sure you find the right trip for you? Ocean Geo, our dive operation based in Nai Harn, in the south of Phuket, have personally tried and tested a few options, and have derived some key points to help you ask the right questions when booking a trip.

- Decide on the focus of your trip. Is it to eat, sleep, dive, then do it all again, for as many days as possible? Are you short of time but really want to tick the Similans off your bucket list? Or would you like a balance of diving, as well as enjoy some time lounging on the sun deck or exploring the islands? Whatever the answer, there are boats which can meet your needs, but it helps if your priorities are clear up front. Some boats are pitched at purist divers who only care about what goes on underwater, others are focussed on the package as a whole.

- Flexibility of schedule. If your schedule and budget allows, go for a longer than average liveaboard (e.g. 5 days / 4 nights) since this enables the boat to adjust it's schedule to avoid both poor weather (though not usually an issue in high season) and other dive boats, offering you the best possible diving experience. In addition, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock are further north so cannot be reached on a shorter trip without a very rigid schedule which can have an impact on what should be a relaxing cruise in paradise.

- Diver groups. What are the ratios of dive crew to guests? Will divers of similar experience be grouped together to enable maximum dive times? Will divers with cameras be buddied-up where possible? The answers to these questions can make a huge difference to your enjoyment and satisfaction of your dive trip, so be sure to check this out.

- The crew. What languages are spoken on board? Are the crew only available during set hours? Are the Tour Leader and dive staff sufficiently experienced? Regarding this last question, a liveaboard is a great place for newly qualified professional divers to gain excellent experience. This is of course fine, we're all allowed to learn, as long as newer staff are supported by the more experienced staff, and paying guests are not affected.

- On board training courses. A liveaboard is a perfect opportunity to continue your scuba diving training, so find out if PADI dive courses are available on board, and if so, which ones. A course should cost you less than on Phuket since you're already on the boat (so boat costs are eliminated), and most importantly, you'll receive excellent training, with multiple dives during which you refine and consolidate your skills. Plus with several instructors on board 24-7, you'll have the chance to ask as many questions as you like! If you're not already and Advanced Open Water Diver, we strongly recommend you consider the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course since you'll enjoy the Similan, Surin and Myanmar dive sites much more if you're not limited to a maximum depth of 18m. The Enriched Air Diver (Nitrox) course is also seriously worth considering, enabling longer bottom times and shorter surface intervals, but also reducing the amount of nitrogen which your body absorbs - particularly beneficial for liveaboard diving, i.e. several days of repetitive dives.

- On board extras and payment. Ask about any extra costs which might not be hugely apparent in the marketing literature, e.g. National Park fees, 15 litre tanks, nitrox packages, drinks etc. If you think you might purchase extras on board, make sure you have enough local currency with you to cover the cost, otherwise you might find you're paying by credit card, which will incur an additional 3 or 4% fee.

- False promises. Beware of the companies making bold statements about there being a high probability, or even guaranteed whale shark or manta ray sightings. The ocean is not an aquarium... However much we'd love to receive regular visits from these graceful creatures, sightings are rare and unpredictable. Ask any company to corroborate their claims before you hand over your cash, this avoids unrealistic expectatations and potential disappointment.

If you consider these points before you book, we hope it will help lead to an enjoyable and memorable liveaboard trip - you won't want to return to land!

Contact Ocean Geo for liveaboard recommendations from Phuket, we'll be happy to arrange your trip for you :)

© Ocean Geo Divers Co., Ltd.
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Guest Friday, 07 February 2014


Ocean Geo Diving & Tours

31/43 Moo 1 (Road 4233)
Tambon Rawai,
Amphoe Muang
Phuket, 83130

Tel/Fax: +66(0) 76 613 253
Mobile: +66(0) 8 0321 8204 (English)
Mobile: +66(0) 8 2517 2699 (Thai)

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