Get Answers to the Top 25 Dive Travel Questions

1. How do I pick a dive destination?
2. How do I know what is the best time of year for a destination?
3. How Do I Select a Resort?
4. Should I rent gear or take my own?
5. How do I pack to keep my luggage under 50 lbs with dive gear?
6. How do I stay healthy and fit for diving before and on the road?
7. Should I book a package or pa as I go for diving/meals etc?
8. How do I find transit hotels if I am traveling long distances?
9. How do I know how good the diving really is?
10. How Do I match My Experience with the Destination?
11. If I have a problem in a foreign country – who do I contact – how do I get that information?
12. Do I want to travel independently or with a small group?
13. What is a Live Aboard dive boat?
14. Should I dive land based or live aboard?
15. Can I dive on a Cruise Ship?
16. I am not a certified diver but I would like to try scuba diving. What are my options on vacation?
17. Should I get certified before or on my vacation?
18. I have lost my certification card (c-card) or have forgotten it on my vacation. It shouldn’t be a problem to dive right? I can just show them a few skills.
19. Is my certification accepted worldwide? What about the various certification agencies?
20. I haven’t dived in awhile and feel rusty and nervous about my dive vacation. What should I do?
21. My GEAR hasn’t dived in awhile and feels rusty and nervous about the dive vacation. What should I do?
22. Nitrox. What is it? Do I need it? Where can I get it?
23. How do I take Care of my Gear After My Vacation?
24. How do I pack my camera gear for my dive trip?
25. How Do I Know What Exposure Suit I Need for my Destination?
*** Bonus Question!


1. How do I pick a dive destination?

There are many ways to pick a dive destination but my first reaction to this question is to tell you to simply brainstorm. Make a list of ALL the place you want to dive. Then you always have a master list and you can keep adding to it and crossing off.

Then the second thing I do is look at timing. Write down the BEST time of year to dive each location for whatever reason you will be diving. If, for example you want to go to Galapagos (and you should!) look at seasonality for various animals like whale sharks and hammerheads and even land animals like migratory birds. Timing is EVERYTHING in dive travel. Match the time of year you can take your vacation with a destination that has the best diving that time of year from your master list.

Your available time + Best time to dive a location = Great dive trip!!!

DO NOT say, oh, but I really want to go to Tahiti and the only time I can go is in December (height of rain and storm season in the Society Islands) and then try to justify it. Chances are you will be disappointed. When you only have a couple of vacations a year and a finite bank account, why take a risk?

If you are new to diving, start talking! Do not rely on dive magazines. Most dive magazines are pay for play meaning most articles are simply paid advertising. You will rarely read an article that tells it like it REALLY is but traveling divers WILL tell you.

The same is true for many resorts (sorry, but really it is true). Most resorts will tell you the diving is good all year around because they have to fill the resort all year around! Beware of seasonal specials when resorts give you a discount to come during the bad diving season. I would rather pay more to be there at the best time of year than get a deal.

Here are other important things to think about when picking a dive destination. For a more detailed look check out our blog article covering:

  • Match destination to experience level
  • available time vs. distance to destination
  • activities for a non diving spouse/partner
  • do you want to just dive or see the country
  • is the best diving for you land based or yacht based?

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2. How do I know what is the best time of year for a destination?

It will take some research for sure, but it is worth your time. First, I ask anyone who has ever been there that I know and remember you are asking for the best time for underwater, not for a beach day. My favorite time to dive Galapagos for whale sharks is in October but it is not always the nicest weather topside. I have also dived it in May, great weather, great hammerheads, no whale sharks. So ask your questions specifically. If the best diving does not happen during the best topside weather window you will need to make a choice which is more important or go on a shoulder season to try to hit them both.

Then I google for general climate conditions as well as tourism board sites who are less biased. You can also find websites that give seasonal conditions for many places in the world that are not tied into selling you a destination at a particular time of year. Undercurrents has a seasonal dive planner, http://www.undercurrent.org/UCnow/planner.shtml. I LOVE this page on the seasonal animal activity in Galapagos, check this one out, http://www.ecuadortravelsite.org/galapagos_wildlife_activity.html. Then I do look at resort websites to see if their recommendations match the other information I’ve gathered. After doing all of this, you can get a pretty good idea of when is the best time to go. With the ocean of course, there are never guarantees but why not stack the deck in your favor?


3. How Do I Select a Resort?

First, ask yourself, do I want a vacation with diving or a dive vacation?

One of my favorite resorts in the world is Vatulele in Fiji. You have a private 1500 sq.ft. villa with a fridge stocked full of Veuve Cliquot. If you need anything on your private beach you simply put a flag in the sand and a staff member comes running. It is magnificent. The resort is 5 star; the diving is not even worth mentioning. If you want to spend a romantic week in Fiji and just blow a few bubbles, perfect. But if you want a dive vacation you’ll need to pass over this one. If your idea of a perfect vacation is Vatulele with a couple of opportunities to get wet, you can check out high end resorts through websites such as Relais & Chateaux , Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Forbes Best Beach Resort Report.

But if want a DIVE vacation, first find out where the best diving is. Then find out where there are dive operations to get you to the diving. From there, look at the selection of resorts.

Even within dive resorts there is a unique distinction. There are resorts that have diving and then there are dive resorts. I often find that a dive resort tends to cater to divers at a more affordable level, tend to be more casual, more buffet style if you will, such as Captain Don’s Habitat in Bonaire. In this situation, be careful if you have a non diving spouse. You don’t want to have ALL the guests be divers and have the resort look like a graveyard during the day because everyone is out diving. Your spouse WILL NOT BE HAPPY and will feel abandoned.

However, resorts with diving often cater to non divers as well and have more extensive activity offerings, more of a sit down dinner style, generally more luxury. An example of this is Wananavu Resort in Fiji. The resort is beautiful. They have three brand new honeymoon villas, plated meals and a number of offered activities throughout the day. But they also have a dive operator that runs a great program to many of the best dive sites in all of Fiji.

Like picking a destination, it’s better to pick a resort through word of mouth of someone who has actually been there. Global Dive Expeditions ONLY promotes resorts we have PERSONALLY inspected.

Here are other important things to think about when picking a resort. For a more detailed look check out our blog article covering:

  • budget
  • land based vs yacht based resort
  • beach/no beach
  • do you need air conditioning?
  • opportunities for snorkeling from the beach/swimming pool
  • remote or near towns or other activities

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4. Should I rent gear or take my own?

This question becomes more and more relevant each day as the airlines keep hitting us in the wallet with fees. There are a couple of things to consider about renting…

Are you just going to one place? If you are going to multiple destinations or will be traveling around a country for a couple of weeks you might think about renting your gear so you don’t have to drag it around.

Are you flying on small domestic airlines? If you are headed to Palau, you’ll fly in on a large jet with plenty of space but if you are flying to an out island of a small country, you will find luggage restrictions that inhibit the amount of gear you take. One trip to Little Cayman, it took us two weeks to get our luggage home….there simply was no space on the plane! Check carefully!

Is the equipment reliable? Remember, many remote destinations do not have easy access to gear parts (think about how many neck and valve o-rings you see leaking on tanks in many resorts). If you are concerned but have space limitations take your most important gear like your regulator and computer and mask and rent the BCD and fins which are the most bulky anyways.

How much other luggage do you have? If you must travel with four pairs of shoes, your camping gear, twelve matching outfits, your running gear etc….. it might not be worth it to pay for extra baggage on the airlines and haul it around with you. It just depends on what is most important to you. Personally, we pack the dive gear and then with whatever weight is leftover, shove a few shorts and t-shirts in the bag.

If you decide to take your own gear a couple of things to consider…

When was it last serviced? Inevitably, gear breaks just after it’s been serviced. We have seen this time after time after time. If you have your gear serviced before you go, TEST IT. Go to a local dive shop with a pool or find a pool somewhere, get in and use the gear. Otherwise, you will pay to have it serviced, pay for extra luggage and then be mad when it breaks and then have to pay again to rent gear on location!

Test it anyways. If your gear has been sitting in the closet for a year, even if you don’t have it serviced, test it. Better safe than sorry. Check battery levels on your computer!!!

Comfort level? If you are comfortable with your own gear, then take it by all means. Even after 7500 dives I feel the most comfortable in my own gear. Especially if you are an occasional diver, you’ll want the comfort and fit of your own stuff.

Now here’s a cool option! Global Dive Expeditions has a unique gear rental program. You call, we haul. We rent the latest top of the line AquaLung, Suunto and SeaQuest gear and we bring it with us for you to use on our guided expeditions. No worries about local gear, no wasting your weight allowance, no rinsing, packing servicing…. NOTHING! We are the ONLY dive expedition company that has this program. Many of our guests who have their own gear, leave it at home and rent from us. They know what they are getting and are comfortable in our gear trip after trip, year after year.

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5. How do I pack to keep my luggage under 50 lbs with dive gear?

There are numerous ways to do this. First, make a list of all the things you may need on a dive trip. Keep this resident on your computer so you always have a master and don’t forget anything. Look at it realistically and if you need to take two bags, just add it in to the cost of your vacation. Don’t skimp so much to save the $25 bag cost that you don’t have what you want on your vacation.

Airline Loyalty. If you are elite status on an airline, you generally have additional bag allowances. Check with your preferred airline and try to keep all of your flying on one airline as much as possible to get and maintain status.

Weigh your Bag. Have you ever weighed your luggage empty? My rolling full size bag weighs 10lbs!!!! That’s five pairs of shoes! or one size extra large ProQD BCD. We pack our dive gear in army duffel bags. Yep, no wheels but they weigh two pounds. Find what works best for you.

What can you easily rent? I rarely travel with a dive light anymore. I can rent one for a few dollars and it doesn’t take up space and weight in my bag. Batteries are HEAVY, plus they are big source of trash on many small islands so if you do take batteries you’ll want to pack them out as well.

Buy a Travel BCD. If you are doing warm water tropical diving, consider purchasing a light weight travel BCD. My BCD weighs about 1 1/2 lbs and rolls up very compact. You can now also buy backpackless BCDs that weigh next to nothing.

Carry on your regulator. If you are not traveling with lots of carry on baggage, pack your regulator into a carry one. This can save up to five pounds if it has an octopus and computer attached. Plus you’ll know it is safely in your bag with you and won’™t get lost.

Take Less Crap. Yes, pearls of wisdom here! Layout all your stuff on your bed and take a look at it. Do you REALLY need it all????? Well, ok, I DO need eight bathing suits BUT I don’t need six pairs of shorts for a one week trip. Sharkman and I pack things we can share as well like t-shirts, deodorant and only one laptop.

Prioritize. Do you need four paperback books or do you think you could do some book swapping while there. Is your camera gear more important than three outfits for jogging? Take one outfit and wash it out…. Prioritize your gear.

Finally, the less you travel with the happier you’ll be in the end (except for the eight bathing suits!)

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6. How do I stay healthy and fit for diving before and on the road?

As proven by the shape of divers worldwide you don’t have to be a marathon runner to dive BUT I have to say I am VERY concerned about the general fitness level of many divers. Being overweight and out of shape contributes to diving accidents and fatalities worldwide every year. Diving is often done in very remote locations without access to medical facilities. Showing up for a dive vacation looking like a heart attack waiting to happen may just get you that. And it is unfair to other divers who may have to rescue you or cut short their vacation because you can’t stay away from the refrigerator.

Even an extra ten or fifteen pounds makes a big difference. You are often in a hot climate, sweating in your wetsuit, you will need more weight to descend and you have more poundage to drag around under the water.

Routine. To have better fitness for life, not just for diving, get into a routine of exercise doing something! Never let more than two days go by without some form of exercise. There is nothing special to diving fitness, it is just basic all around life fitness. Keep your routine even though you are traveling.

Hydration. This is probably the greatest health risk to divers. When you dive in a hot tropical climate you dehydrate. When you party like a rock star on your vacation, you dehydrate. When you breathe compressed air you dehydrate. Drink PLENTY of water.

Try not to change your eating habits, except drink more water. If you don’t eat the chili omelet at home for breakfast, don’t eat it on vacation. The more you can stay to your normal diet, the happier your body will be. At home, I drink a protein shake for breakfast. It is an important part of my weight allowance when I pack. I bring my shakes with me. Recently, we were on a dive trip with a man who was sick every morning on the first dive of the day. Turns out he was drinking acidic orange juice on an empty stomach and then diving. As soon as he stopped this, he was fine.

Drink bottled water. Water is one of those things that can really make a difference in your body. If you have any health issues while traveling first be sure you are drinking bottled water. I always have issues with RO (reverse osmosis) water on live aboard dive boats and I know this so I drink bottled water or bring plenty of Immodium!

Hygiene. Different parts of the world have different bugs and a strict hygiene program will help keep your health on the road. Travel with Purell or some form of anti-bacterial and use it liberally on your hands. It is a life saver on the road!

Medical Kit. Travel with a basic medical kit including a full antibiotic course, something for upset stomach and an anti-diarrheal. Divers usually carry pseudofed for stuffy sinuses and sunscreen as well.

Supplements. We believe that nutritional supplementation is key to healthy living we always travel with them. On our recent six week trip through Nepal and Tibet, a strict adherence to hygiene and daily supplementation was key to our being the only ones in our group of 13 travelers to not be ill. We use and recommend USANA Health Sciences. Email us if you would like more information on discounted pricing.

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7. Should I book a package or pay as I go for diving/meals etc?

Many of these answers are, it depends and it is important to take a look at how you plan to travel. If you are going to a destination dive resort and know you will dive a minimum of two to three dives per day, then by all means book a package. Many dive resorts are remote and there are not other options. Often the dive resort will throw in an extra dive or a night dive or a spa treatment. Be sure to understand exactly what is in your package.

If, however, you plan to hop around a country, try a few different places or do many activities outside the resort, it may not be worth it. You may stay at a place for one or two nights, decide you don’t want to stay and move on. Or you may get there and the visibility is poor and you decide to go ziplining instead of diving. In this case, pay as you go might serve you better. Yes, you may not a discount but you won’t feel stuck to the property or the diving because you paid for it.

It is very important to note that most packages do not allow refunds if you don’t take all the dives in the package or eat all the meals. If you decide to sleep in and not dive, that’s your choice and the resort should not have to refund you for it. Often I do not take a resorts meal plan because I bring my own breakfast and don’t end up eating as much as I pay for. Only you can make that decision.

One very nice thing about a package is that you don’t wake up in the morning and say, Now, do I want to pay $80 to dive today or not? or Do I want to have desert? It’s an extra $12. Money does not become the decision maker in your vacation and you enjoy it more.

*Final note. If you have a spouse who often flakes out on dives, you may want to purchase one dive package and do the other a la carte!


8. How do I find transit hotels if I am traveling long distances?

First, some decisions to be made.

  1. Do you want to or can you fly straight through and not worry about transit hotels?
  2. Do I want to break up my trip and enjoy a layover day in transit?
  3. Do I want to get my luggage out of the system and then have to re-check and possibly re-pay for it?
  4. How much cost will a transit hotel add to my trip?

These are questions that are answered in depth in our blog series on transit hotels but assuming you have decided to use a transit hotel how do you find one?

Resort Recommendation. First, if you don’t care about the hotel and it’s just a place to sleep, I would ask for a recommendation from the resort you booked your trip through. Often, because they have numerous guests traveling on similar itineraries you can find a hotel that way. Generally, they recommend something convenient, low cost and generic.

Airport Hotels. If you are flying through major cities, there is often an airport hotel if you just want a quick place to sleep. Hotels in airports are generally not cheap but they are convenient. Singapore, for example, has an in airport hotel. It is literally a room with no windows, two twin beds, a tv and a bathroom. BUT you can wander the airport to your heart’s content. It’s fun, they have bars and music and fitness centers and even a swimming pool and free wifi! And you never leave security so you don’t have to worry about your luggage. Singapore also has a Crowne Royal just outside the airport. It’s a beautiful hotel with antique furniture BUT you have to claim your bags and then re-check in.

Kayak.com We love Kayak. It is an aggregation site for flights, car rental and hotels. We often use them to find a transit hotel. You can find out exactly how far it is to the airport, if there is a shuttle etc.

Marriott or Boutique? If you are a frequent hotel stayer and are okay with the big brands, use your miles to stay at Marriotts, Hyatts, Hiltons etc…. near airports, easy enough to find on line. Us, we like to find the unusual. For example, a recent trip to Costa Rica to dive at Cocos Island. We arrived in CR but had to overnight in San Jose before boarding our live aboard. The live aboard company recommended the Hampton Inn, a generic box hotel convenient to the airport and across the street from Dennys. Great, if I wanted that I would stay home.

Through talking with friends and researching on line (Often we just google boutique resort), we found a FANTASTIC boutique resort just twenty minutes from the airport yet worlds away. Yes, we paid about $80 more but it turned our transit day into a wonderful part of our vacation. For more on making your travel days fun, check out our blog _______________.


9. How do I know how good the diving really is?

Our personal experience on this topic is that you don’t. The only way to really know is to talk with other divers, the more the better. There is no incentive for a resort to tell you the diving sucks, right?

Resort Websites. This may make us some enemies but the straight scoop is that every resort wants their website to look good, to entice you to spend your dollars at their resort. Some are straight up and give you realistic pictures, others don’t. Yes, I have seen websites for Caribbean resorts with photos of Pacific fish!!! Yes, I heard of one resort that poured sand over their concrete deck to take photos of their beach. You can only tell so much from a website. I have also stood next to a seller of dive travel at a trade show who was expounding to a potential client on the joys of diving in Utila and then he turned to me and said, Yeah, right the diving really sucks there. I was astounded.

Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor has now become corrupt itself. I think it started off with great intentions but hotels began to post their own reviews to make their hotels look better. How do you know who’s telling the truth anymore?

Undercurrents and Traveling Divers Chapbook. Getting your hands on independent reviews where people have no incentive one way or another to lie is really the best way. However, you must know the experience level of the writer. The Traveling Divers Chapbook reviews, give the experience level of the writer so that’s helpful. BUT you still must take it with a grain of salt. If the diver has 500 dives but has never been diving outside of California, they will have a different opinion as someone who has 500 dives but they have been in 15 different SE Asia locations.

Travel with Someone Who Knows. We do not sell every destination or every resort. We ONLY travel to places we have thoroughly personally inspected and we travel there in the best season. We believe in truth in travel. We freely disclose that resorts often give us complimentary travel but it does NOT impact our decision to use or not use a given destination or to recommend it. You can trust us to give you the straight scoop.


10. How Do I match My Experience with the Destination?

Generally, difficulty in diving surrounds a few basic topics including depth, water temperature, currents, critters, visibility and surface conditions. If you learned to dive in warm, clear, calm water then obviously variability in these other conditions will make diving more difficult. If you learned to dive in cold, choppy, low visibility water (God Bless You!) you will have an easier time making transitions. Here are some things to consider.

Depth. In many locations you can dive at whatever depth you want allowing for all levels of divers. However, if you are going to see the hammerheads in Rangiroa they are at 150ft or if you are wreck diving in Truk there may be limits to how shallow you can dive and still see what you want to see.

Water Temperature. The colder the water, the more there is to think about. You’ll need heavier suits (wet or dry?) and use more air for example. It is more work to dive in cold water.

Currents. Currents can be a function of tides, narrow passages or moon phases among other. Therefore, some destinations have currents that come and go and some dive locations are known for strong currents most or all of the time. This is why sometimes currents are listed as mild to strong and change often. This can be one of THE most stressful types of diving if you have not learned about how to handle yourself in current. It can also be one of the most fun! If you are a new diver, get lots of experience in mild current first before tackling the kawabunga rides!

Critters. If you have six dives under your belt we don’t recommend jumping into the water with 200 sharks if you are afraid of them. Understand the critters you are getting into the ocean with before you do.

Tiki Scale. Each of our itineraries is accompanied by our Tiki Scale which gives you a great idea of what experience level you will need to dive in that location.

Learn more from our blogs about matching your experience with the destination including:

  • Visibility
  • Surface conditions
  • Amount of supervision you will have


11. If I have a problem in a foreign country – who do I contact – how do I get that information?

We have never had to use them, but we would rely on the US State Department. http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1212.html. You can contact them in the US at 1-888-407-4747 or from overseas at 202-501-4444.

If I travel alone or if we travel to a country with some unrest, we will register with the State Department. https://travelregistration.state.gov. Also, in case of a natural disaster it’s good for the US to know you are there…somewhere. The exact role of the US State Department in a crisis abroad is explained in detail here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_4304.html

For issues with passports or problems in country, we also have gone to the US Embassy or Consulate.

Be sure to have some form of travel insurance that provides evacuation services. Services such as DAN (Divers Alert Network or PADI Travel Assist) are very helpful in these situations.


12. Do I want to travel independently or with a small group?

Benefits of traveling independently.

  • Romantic getaway. Traveling solo gives you all the time you want!
  • Flexibility to come and go, change your plans or do something completely different. If you get to the resort and you don’t like it, you can just go do your thing. It’s easier to just pack up and go.
  • If you are a very social person, you may make friends easier because if you want company you’ll need to get out there and meet people.

Benefits of group travel.

I travel independently and with small groups and tend to find great benefits in small group travel.

  • Often group travel is less expensive since group rates are usually available. As well, being in a group there are often many added financial benefits like included cocktail parties, group gifts or a free night dive or something.
  • Avoiding single supplements. If you usually travel by yourself you are used to paying single supplements for hotels. In a group situation you might be able to find another single to bunk up with.
  • Activities. Often there are minimums for various activities or tours. Traveling with a group you don’t have to worry about these.
  • Great social opportunities. We have travelers who met on our trips who now get together many times a year and have become great friends. Many times, our guests will know 90 or even 100% of the others in the group so it becomes a same time next year thing.
  • Private dive boats. Having a group you can have your own private dive boat and spend the week sharing great times. You get running jokes going, meet for happy hours, and just have fun together.
  • Having different people on the boat each day often means no camaraderie on the boat so there just isn’t a vibe like in a group setting.
  • There’s always someone to borrow something from! If you need Sudafed or mask defog or even a pair of flip flops cause you blew one out, you’ve got a friend in the group.
  • We share the joy of every dive together. We know each other’s in water habits and can watch out for each other.
  • You become a family and when you get home, you look over all the photos of everyone and remember what fun you had as a group.
  • If you are truly a single you can find a great sense of belonging in a group environment.

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13. What is a Live Aboard dive boat?

If you are new to the diving scene, it would be good to have a definition of what a live aboard dive boat is and if you are a dive veteran you may find that the term has now expanded. Read on!

The old definition of a live aboard dive boat is a boat with the PRIMARY purpose of scuba diving 3-5 times a day often in a remote location. There is generally no form of other entertainment on board and you pretty much eat, sleep and dive. The boats schedule is based on the ability to offer as many dives as possible during the course of a day and often with dives most nights. All activities revolve around the dive schedule.

Boats range from bunk style accommodations with shared bathroom facilities to boats with private cabins and en suites with queen or king beds and plated meal service. Generally live aboard dive boats range in capacity from 10-22 divers. They are set up with diving in mind, leaving a large deck for dive equipment and camera workspace. They have a salon for relaxing and a sun deck to warm in between dives. They usually sail on a 7 or 10 day itinerary.

Now, the old live aboard is not necessarily the new live aboard. In the past few years, we have seen the advent of the boutique live aboard, something more akin to a private yacht with fine furniture and ecoutrements more geared to an upscale client base. We are seeing boats with as little as 8 divers that include full spa, huge cabins with balconies, flexible travel schedules and extra staff to accommodate activities for non divers. There are now live aboard dive boats that I would feel comfortable taking non divers and know that they will have just as great a time as the divers!

Do not confuse these live aboards with cruise ship diving. We will address that in another question.

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14. Should I dive land based or live aboard?

THIS is the age old diving question isn’t it? I think I would probably answer this question with more questions…

  • Do you have a non diving partner/spouse? If so and they want to do ANYTHING besides read a book and listen to you talk about diving, stick to land based adventure (with the exception of a few new live aboard yachts coming on line).
  • Do you want more varied diving and the opportunity to get to more remote locations?
  • This is what live aboards were designed to do. They were built to get divers to remote locations far away from land and have the ability to remain there for days on end as your floating hotel and dive platform. However, these days, some live aboards don’t venture far from home due to fuel costs so check the itineraries. But when you can get to these remote destinations, you’re probably in for a treat!
  • Do you want to put your toes in the sand at the end of the day? Let me give you an example. Palau. The live aboard dive boats go out to the dive areas and sit and rarely move. Yes, you get in the water at 7:00am and can get in five dives and go back to the ship. If that’s what you want to do, fantastic! I like to do that too. But in Palau, I also love the one hour morning boat ride zooming through the rock islands, leaving at 8:00am. Then we have two fabulous dives with lunch and are back to the magnificent Palau Pacific Resort by 1:30 in the afternoon. Now I can enjoy the spa, go to town, have an island tour, snorkel or relax with a mai tai with my toes in the sand. I can experience some culture along with the diving. It’s just a personal choice.
  • Do you get Seasick? If you don’t do well on boats, don’t punish yourself! On live aboards you can have night passages in rough weather or rocking all day long if there is no cover from the weather. Also, there is no night time engine noise or any boat noises if you stay on land.
  • Privacy? The only privacy you have on a live aboard is in your cabin and depending on the boat you choose that could be a beautiful stateroom or a bunk with a curtain pulled across it. I usually don’t recommend a live aboard for your honeymoon if you get my drift!
  • Are there places without both options? Yes, there are dive destinations where a live aboard is the only way to go and vice versa. For example:
    • Caribbean: Most Caribbean destinations you don’t need to do by live aboard. If you want to cruise the Exuma islands or see multiple atolls in Belize or go to the Silver Banks there are boat options but no need in places like Cozumel, Bonaire, Saba, St. Lucia etc.
    • Live Aboard Only. Places you can only get to by live aboard include Cocos Island, Galapagos (Wolf and Darwin), Malpelo, Guadalupe Island, Soccoro, Coral Sea, Rowlie Shoals, Antarctica, to name a few.
    • Either/Or. Destinations like Papua New Guinea, Indonesia (various islands), Palau and the Maldives are places where you can enjoy great diving either way.
  • Can I do both? Of course!!!!! I love this option. How about booking a week on a live aboard to get to the remote areas and log some serious bottom time, then come ashore to a fabulous 5 star resort and pamper yourself at the spa for a few days. Sounds like a PERFECT vacation to me!

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15. Can I dive on a Cruise Ship?

I generally would not recommend a cruise ship for a dive vacation unless it’s a surf and turf trip meaning you want to do many things on your vacation and diving is a small part, something you’ll do a couple of times. It is sometimes a great option with a non diving spouse because while you are diving there are a gazillion things for your spouse to do.

But to answer the question, Can I dive on a cruise ship? I answer yes….and no. Cruise ships vary quite a bit. Most of the large cruise ships do not offer on board scuba diving. They offer it as a shore excursion. What this means is that they have contracted with a local dive shop to take you out and charge a premium for their service. The dive shop knows that it’s taking cruise ship passengers and that you are in and out in less than 12 hours so generally (and remember I have to generalize here) they take you to the closest, easiest spots with limited bottom time and then run you back to the ship. So if you just want to get wet and don’t mind paying the premium for what is usually just an ok experience, go for it.

I recommend in that situation, booking ahead of time on your own by contacting a recommended local operator. BE SURE to leave yourself plenty of time for the cruise ship to dock, clear customs and immigration and get you off the ship. Don’t plan to get off within one hour of docking. However, do remember, the ship will NOT wait for you if you book your diving on your own and for some reason the dive boat is late. If you dive with their shore excursion of course, the ship will wait. Also, there is the possibility that the ship may miss the port of call for some reason and you may be expected to still pay the dive operator who reserved the space for you.

There are a few small cruise ships which do offer an on board dive program. WindStar used to offer diving on all of their ships in all locations but currently only offer diving on the Costa Rica itinerary. The Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti does offer diving directly from the ship on most every day of their itinerary as does the Star Clipper ships. This is a very nice option for a diving/non diving couple.

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16. I am not a certified diver but I would like to try scuba diving. What are my options on vacation?

If you are not yet a diver but would like the opportunity to try diving while on vacation it’s a GREAT opportunity to see if you like it! Here are a couple of things to think about.

  • You need to be healthy to dive so you want to be sure you do not have a cold or any congestion since you won’t be able to equalize or adjust the pressure in your ears and sinuses as you go down. There are medical contraindications to diving such as asthma, epilepsy, certain types of diabetes, pregnancy and yes, even pressure from your spouse. DO NOT try diving unless YOU want to do it. You will be required to fill out a medical form prior to trying diving. I recommend you see a doctor familiar with diving and have them sign a letter for you stating you are healthy for diving and bring it along on vacation. DO NOT lie on your medical form, you can hurt yourself and your instructor.
  • Find a reputable dive operation. Ask to see a license. Better yet, get a recommendation before you go. I have heard too many stories of people who had uncomfortable experiences on a beginning dive and will never do it again which is very sad.
  • The way a beginning or resort class works is that you have about a 45 minute classroom session followed by a pool session to learn some basic skills like breathing underwater, clearing water from your mask and removing and replacing the regulator. The pool work can also be done in the ocean in pool like conditions. Then you are authorized to dive with an instructor to a maximum depth of 40 feet in a small group (each dive agency has it’s own requirements). You want to look for an instructor from a reputable dive agency such as NAUI, PADI, SSI, BSAC or CMAS. If it is your first dive be sure to follow these steps. Do not let someone push you beyond these limits until you are a completely trained and certified diver.
  • If you are someone who tends to need a lot of time to get used to a new sport or are uncomfortable in the water, the resort or DSD (discover scuba diving) course may be too fast for you. Then I recommend you do some training at home before your vacation to be sure you are as relaxed as possible.
  • Beware of the biggest danger of scuba diving. It’s a totally addicting sport!!!!!!! Wheeeeee!

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17. Should I get certified before or on my vacation?

This is a great question which is asked very often. I recommend that you do at least part of your certification before you go. What that means is that you would be doing something called a referral. Getting certified to dive requires three parts; book work, pool training and open water training in a lake, quarry or ocean. You can do two out of three at home before you go on vacation. This saves you having to spend your holiday buried in your book and studying for the exam. Also, most of the major dive training agencies have elearning you can do online. So you do the book and pool work at home and then you go on your holiday and do four open water dives demonstrating your skills to the resort instructor. If you plan this for the first two days of your trip (you can only do a maximum of 2 training dives per day) then you can dive as a certified diver the rest of your vacation. This is a great option if you live in a place where your option for open water training is a rock quarry in December in the north!

A couple of things to note doing a referral. You need to complete the open water training within 12 months of completing your exam and pool training. Unless you come on a dive trip with us at Global Dive, expect to pay additional for your open water training. Also, you MUST have all of your signed paperwork in hand and have passed the final exam to qualify. I also recommend setting all of this up with the resort ahead of time. Not every resort or location will be able to complete your training so be sure before you go. Finally, you can cross train with certain agencies, meaning if you begin your training with PADI you can do your open water with NAUI though you may be asked to do a few different requirements. Your final open water instructor will become your certifiying instructor and you will be a part of the agency they represent.

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18. I have lost my certification card (c-card) or have forgotten it on my vacation. It shouldn’t be a problem to dive right? I can just show them a few skills.

Not even! DO NOT expect to dive without a c-card, period. So, here is what I recommend. Put your c-card in your passport or your wallet and just leave it there forever. You don’t forget your credit card when you travel, why would you forget your c-card? I never take mine out of my wallet. I also recommend making a copy of your card (just like you should do with your passport) and keep it in your mask case.

Do NOT try to bully the divemaster into taking you diving anyways. They are COMPLETELY liable for you and could be sued or lose their license forever. It is not fair to put that on them when you are the one who made the bonehead move. Please respect this.

Sometimes if the resort has internet service it is possible through some agencies to look up your certification. Some resorts charge for this service if you have forgotten your card and not all agencies have it available. Do not rely on it.

If you have lost your card, get a replacement. Call your certification agency, pay the fee and have one sent to you. Allow multiple weeks for this to happen.

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19. Is my certification accepted worldwide? What about the various certification agencies?

Certification cards from major agencies such as NAUI, PADI, SSI, BSAC and CMAS are recognized and accepted worldwide. The different agencies have varying standards but the major organizations all have thorough protocol for teaching you the basics of scuba diving. The biggest variable is the instructor. There are good and bad instructors and dive masters in all agencies.


20. I haven’t dived in awhile and feel rusty and nervous about my dive vacation. What should I do?

The majority of traveling divers dive once or twice a year and for many it’s two or even three years in between dive trips. So it’s normal to be nervous or out of practice. I recommend, if it’s been longer than a year that you take a refresher or tune up course. Check with your local dive shop for what they offer. Or, perhaps they do not offer a formal course but for a fee they will get in the pool with you and go through basic skills and give you a chance to swim around and become comfortable again. This is an extremely valuable use of a Saturday or an evening. You will be so much more relaxed when you get to the dive boat and can easily put together your gear and have the confidence you need to do your first dive.

If you or one of your diving friends has a pool, how about a pool party? Get everyone together at the beginning of the dive season and play in the pool with your gear! Get in buddy teams and practice your basic skills. You’ll be very glad you did!

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21. My GEAR hasn’t dived in awhile and feels rusty and nervous about the dive vacation. What should I do?

Manufacturers of dive equipment recommend your gear be serviced every year. I believe this is still a good idea. If it’s been sitting in the closet, the hoses have been bent the same way, the silicone maybe has deteriorated, maybe the moths got in it, whatever. It’s a good idea to have it looked over, have the intermediate pressure checked and be sure that your LIFE SUPPORT equipment is in working order. Then check your snorkel gear. Look at the mask and fin straps for cracks. Ah, how maddening to have a fin strap break at the dive site with no spare in sight! (yep, good reason for having a save-a-dive kit).

Now, here is the MOST important part. I know that service techs do their best on your gear BUT……I have seen MUCHO equipment break just after servicing because something wasn’t tightened down or put back in right or something. So, I recommend that you test it in a pool before you go on your trip. There is nothing more frustrating than making the space and weight available for your dive gear, then having it break down on vacation and you end up having to rent gear from an iffy rental gear locker in a remote location.


22. Nitrox. What is it? Do I need it? Where can I get it?

Nitrox (or EANx) has become a part of mainstream recreational diving. It is essentially Enriched Air which means that oxygen is added to your air to give you longer bottom times at intermediate depths and reduce surface intervals. This is very confusing to many people. It was not intended for deep depths at oxygen becomes toxic at higher partial pressures.

Depending on your mix (standards are 32% or 36% O2 as opposed to 21% for regular air) Nitrox is ideal for the 50-110 ft range which is the range in which most recreational diving is done. Many people also feel that the added oxygen in their tank makes them feel less tired after a dive.

You need to be certified to dive with Nitrox. Many resorts offer training in Nitrox though it is usually less expensive to do it at home in your local dive shop. Global Dive will do your certification on an adventure free of charge, you just pay for your materials and fills. Not every resort is able to provide Nitrox due to difficulties of getting pure oxygen at many remote locations so ask ahead of time. Also, expect to pay up to $10/dive extra for your Nitrox fills. Some live aboards offer Nitrox included in the price of the trip or free if you are a repeat guest on board. Always ask.

A VERY important thing to be sure of is that the resort has a working Nitrox analyzer. You need to analyze YOUR OWN fill before a dive and sign off on a log. If they do not have a working analyzer DO NOT dive with Nitrox. You can always purchase and carry your own analyzer.

More info on Nitrox. What is it? Do I need it? Where can I get it?


23. How do I take Care of my Gear After My Vacation?

It’s always important to rinse your gear at the end of the your dive trip and try to get it completely dry before packing for the flight home. Two main reasons for this. The first is that wet or damp dive gear is heavy. Even your t-shirts weigh more after accumulating moisture in a tropical environment. If you are close to your weight limit for your bags, this could be just the thing to put it over the top. I try to leave it dry in the sun and then put it inside my room under the air conditioner (if there is one) or fan for the last night. Remember also, tropical showers are most typical in the early morning. You don’t want your getting wet just before departure for the airport. The other reason is that wet dive gear packing in a bag for a couple of days can smell and it could take some time to get the smell out.

So now you’re home. What do you do? Because there is always salt in the air at a tropical or ocean location, I re-clean my gear. I fill up the bathtub and toss it all in. I work all the buttons on my gear and remove the inflator from the BCD so the inside gets a good rinse as well. I let it all soak for a good day or so. Don’t forget the dust cap on your first stage!!!! Then let it dry completely before storing in a cool place out of the direct sunlight. Use sink the stink if you need to on your wetsuit and BCD but I generally stay away from anything except water for my regulator and camera housing.

If anything has broken on your gear during a trip, replace or repair it immediately. It’s too easy to forget until you’re pulling it out to pack again six months later and suddenly you have to get it fixed at the last minute.

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24. How do I pack my camera gear for my dive trip?

Many people have many ways to pack camera gear. Personally, we prefer to have ours in hand all the way through to our destination whenever possible. We use standard roll aboard bags. No one (except TSA) knows what’s inside the bags. There are no labels screaming expensive gear steal me’. We use padding inside the bags and know where every piece fits snugly in its place. Then they fit overhead on the place safe and secure and locked.

Camera gear has a gazillion pieces. So in order to not forget anything I have a two step process.

  • Put the entire camera together. EVERYTHING, every little tiny knob, arm, synch cord, screw, strobe, everything like you are about to jump in the water. Then take it apart and pack it. Now nothing should be forgotten.
  • Mentally go through an entire day with your camera. First, I need to charge the batteries (do I have the charger and cord, adaptor and converter?). Then I put the digital card inside (do I have extra and enough storage space). Go through it all, down to the downloading (Do you have a place to download to? Laptop? card reader? Whatever?

One final note. I charge all my batteries before leaving home (and stripe tapes if I’m shooting video) so everything is ready to go when I get to my destination it’s good to go.


25. How Do I Know What Exposure Suit I Need for my Destination?

As a self proclaimed cold water whimp, having the correct exposure suit is VERY important. First, obviously you will need to know the water temperature at your location. This can be found in Global Dive Adventure’s destination guides or generally on the resort’s website. If not, I simply google the information and after a few tries I can come up with you. You can always utilize forums to ask these questions and then compile your answers to get an indication.

An important thing to note is if there are thermoclines at the destination. For instance, at Cocos Island surface water temperatures can be a cozy 78 but at 90 feet where you want to spend your time with the hammerheads it can drop a full 10 degrees and you’ll want to dress for the coldest possible temperature you’ll reach. So be sure to ask your dive or tour operator.

Everyones idea of cold is different. For me, I wear nothing less than 6.5mm in any temperature water up to about 88 and if it’s below about 78 I want a 7 mm with a 5mm hooded vest or a dry suit. I am quite unusual, however.

A general good rule of thumb for women is 3mm until below 80 then 5mm until about mid 70’s, then go to 7mm until about low 60’s then I’d go dry. Men may find they can go to lower temperatures until they need to change suit thickness and heavier divers may find the same.

Now this also will depend on the number of consecutive dive days. The more days you dive the more chilled you get. I call it, thermal fatigue. After a few days, your body seems to lose the ability to gain back all of it’s heat. So often after a couple of days of diving, I add a hood to my ensemble. A huge amount of heat is lost through your head so this is a good way to stay warm.


AND A BONUS QUESTION!

26. Should I have travel and/or dive insurance?

Travel insurance to me, depends on the destination or how much you paid for the trip. If I am headed to Florida for a long weekend diving I probably wouldn’t bother with travel insurance. But if I have a trip planned halfway around the world at a premium price I certainly would spend the extra few hundred dollars to safeguard my vacation. It is VERY important that you understand exactly what is and is not covered in your insurance. We had a diver go in for an emergency operation the day before he was to come on a $4500 per person dive trip with his wife. He was completely covered by his travel insurance. But know before you buy.

Dive Insurance. ABSOLUTELY. I am ALWAYS covered by dive insurance. DAN (Divers Alert Network) has great insurance. It acts as secondary insurance but will assist you with evacuation, chamber treatment and medical bills due to an accident on your dive trip. These procedures can be EXTREMELY costly and evacuation from a remote area can be a nightmare operation. If you purchase DAN insurance I recommend the premium policy. It is only a few dollars more but gives much better coverage. I broke my hand on dive trip but because I only had standard insurance and the accident did not happen as a direct result of the dive it was not covered. Even so, DAN was a great help to me when I called from a remote location. I am a big fan of DAN!

We’ve really only touched the surface of questions regarding dive travel. If you have one that wasn’t touched on here, email me at mantagirl@scubatraveltalk.com and we’ll get your questions and answers posted here.

To your dive adventures!