I spend a life time teaching diving in Maldives and often was asked what was better: a liveaboard or a resort. The answer is not so straight forward and in this article I hope to give a bit some more insight in this, making it easier for the beginning diver to make the correct decision and spend his or her money wisely. First I would like to discuss a bit resort diving holidays and then focus on liveaboard trips. Taking them both in account follows some common sense advise backed up by seeing thousands of divers over the years.
When tourism started in Maldives there were no liveaboards. The country initially developed as a tropical resort destination for . . . divers. Over the years the resorts slowly added more facilities and by now most islands offer the same comfort as you have at home. Diving is still very good and the typical holiday diver can easily visit an island really several times before he or she would be bored. The variation in most areas is much more than sufficient to keep most divers happy, for at least a few hundred dives.
If diving is important but not the only thing you want, resorts have the advantage of offering much more entertainment, hard to beat by boats with their limited space. Extensive spa centers, sport facilities like tennis or squash and often several restaurants to try. All this comes of course at a price and typically a resort holiday (including diving) turns out to be (much) more expensive than a liveaboard. Some believe that enthusiastic and experience divers only choose for liveaboards, but years of working in dive center resorts made me meet many of them that surprisingly never took a liveaboard trip. Most for the right reasons as they used the mentioned resort facilities but also quite some that probably were just afraid of chancing something that is already good . . .
Well, it is true that the liveaboards typically offer spectacular dives, as they are able to move more and so just skim of the best of the dives in each area. Often this involves visiting places with more current but I believe that the level of difficulty is exaggerated and may just scare people often unnecessary. Most people with an advance certification or a few holidays of diving with some current experience will typically do just fine. I have personally seen a woman of around 60 that only did her Open Water course and . . . signed up for a safari. She did great, though I must give a lot of credit to the instructors of that boat that gave her that extra attention she needed. Diving is relaxation and enjoying but, until you get the hang of it, also rather exhausting.
Most safari boats offer 3 dives a day in an attempt to be as much as possible underwater and even experienced divers hit the bed often early. On the other hand pretty much everything is organised around the dives and definitely diving 3 times a day in a resort is much, much more exhausting. The total price for accommodation and diving? Well the liveaboard is normally winning from resort diving holidays. Though, again, perhaps not really fair to compare these two as they are clearly different holidays.
So how to act when you just started to dive. Well despite the example mentioned above here, I believe doing a dive safari (if not particularly catering beginners) just after your diving course is not your best choice. As with all activities, growth and exploration are only successful if they come in “small bites”. Taking a too big bite might cause you to loose fun, interest or trust and even giving up on the best hobby in the world: diving! The 60 year old women was lucky for sure, but she also missed out on some of the fun. It is perfectly possible to enjoy many sharks while clinging on a rock in full current, but chances are that without some basic experience that will just not be enjoyed. It is hard to mention a fixed number of dives you should make before joining a dive safari as we are all different.
As a guideline perhaps at least a few dozen dives, a slight talent and some self awareness of abilities would be a good starting point. If you handle your dives without counting continuously on your instructor or guide, can handle a bit of current, are normally calm underwater, have a good sense of buoyancy and feel that your divemood is the main thing to satisfy during your holiday . . . a liveaboard will not disappoint.
The last thing I would like to mention is that most of the boats are nowadays very comfortable and that we have seen many couples and groups that had also non divers very very happy. Liveaboards like Scubaspa for instance that have a complete deck dedicated to a beautiful spa centre, a roof that feels like an amphitheatre and a front deck where theoretically you could play badminton have nothing anymore in common with the first safari boats in Maldives. Or take the Ocean Divine that gives you opportunity to dive as well as free diving and or yoga lessons on a level not seen elsewhere in Maldives. But even the most simple boats you see on Divemood can represent a great Maldivian holiday as you are close to the sea, the view is continuously chancing and BBQ, island trips and snorkelling are just amazing.
Clearly some boats (read: dive teams) are more suitable for beginners than others and it is our goal to get you on the one most suitable for you. At the end, who cares about the liveaboard experience, it is the liveaboard enjoyment we are aiming for. Don’t you agree?
If you are not sure or need some further advice, feel free to drop us an email.
Hope this helps
Be safe, but ... dive!