When planning travel to an exotic location for diving or whale swimming there are plenty of options. Participants can stay in the hotel of their choice, dine in a variety of restaurants, and go out in day boats. Or, they can choose to live on the boat that takes them diving.
There are many styles of liveaboard boats ranging from boutique to budget. The majority of boats take between 18 – 20 people, but there are a few taking groups of 8 or less. At first glance liveaboards may seem more expensive than land based adventures but by the time you add up all the expenses like boat fees, hotel rooms, restaurants, taxis, taxes, e.t.c., the cost of going on a liveaboard is comparable.
If traveling with my wife and children and all I wanted to do was mix in a few dives with our family activities I would select a land based resort with a pool or beach. However if on a dive trip dedicated to photography I would more often than not prefer to be on a liveaboard.
Their are two primary reasons. The first is simple. More time on the water. The second is that liveaboards for the most part go to remote places that land based operators cant. As a result these locations tend to be more productive in terms of quality of reef and marine life encounters.
Lets take Fiji as an example. Known as the soft coral capital of the world, the best dive sites are at reefs far away from established resorts and the only possible way to enjoy them is from a liveaboard. So, I would go on the Naia’ which takes up to 18 divers to areas that day boat operators dont. I have been on three trips and have to say all the sites are fantastic. I also appreciate the fact the staff rotates groups through different dive sites so people dont feel crowded or rushed. No wonder this boat has a great reputation and is booked years in advance.
There are exceptions to my preference for liveabaords, and one of them is the Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi Indonesia. This is one of the worlds best macro or “muck” diving destinations, and all the best sites are within a 5-10 minute boat ride. So, rather than a liveaboard I prefer the convenience of a land based option. The Lembeh Resort for example features a great setting, large guest rooms, a wonderful restaurant, and diving in small groups of 3-4 people.
When planning a trip to photograph big animals in the wild I would look for a boat that caters to small groups. Swimming with wild animals out in the blue is much different than scuba diving on coral reefs and the fewer people on the boat the more photography opportunities there will be.
Having a good boat is really important when doing blue water adventures. For that matter so is having a good captain. A lot of people can drive boats not many understand the art of approaching and working with wild animals or placing swimmers near large whales and sharks.
It took six seasons of going to Tonga to find the right combination of boat and captain. This year I hosted two photography adventures for Dave and Tris Sheen of Whale Discoveries. From the first day, I knew that these two had everything I was looking for in a charter company. Dave and Tris had over 25 years experience. What was more impressive was their passion and desire to provide quality swims for the guests but not at the expense of the whales.
The couple is purchasing a large sailing catamaran with 4 guest cabins and has asked me to host a few photography dedicated trips in 2012 and 2013. Click here for more information.