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Top Liveaboards for New Divers

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Learning to dive is an exciting time and almost every diver remembers their first breath underwater and the first dive site they explored. There are many great destinations for new divers to experience once qualified, including liveaboard safaris perfect for gaining confidence and skills amongst world-class dive sites.

Here are our top 10 liveaboard destinations for new divers:

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef, stretching for 2300 kilometres along the coast of Queensland, is perfect for new divers. There are numerous Australian liveaboards to choose from and many don’t require a minimum number of dives to participate. Diving is possible all year, with the summer months (December/January) offering the best visibility and a water temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. With water visibility averaging over 40 metres in the Coral Sea and diverse marine life at numerous sites, this area of Australia offers an ideal introduction to liveaboard diving.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas is known for easy and consistent dive conditions, making it perfect for new divers.  It is a shark hotspot where diving with inquisitive Tiger Sharks in crystal clear water is the norm. Divers can join a Tiger Beach Liveaboard off Grand Bahama and enjoy dive sites ranging from 6m to 30m depth, with little or no current. Some companies will request an Open Water certification with a minimum of 30 dives. There are also dive companies that offer Tiger Shark diving with less dive experience required. October to January are the best months to visit for peak Tiger Shark season.

Red Sea

The Red Sea is known for colourful dive sites with soft and hard corals, great visibility, and an abundance of fish life and shipwrecks. There are numerous day boats from Sharm el Sheikh that visit well-known Ras Mohammed Marine Reserve and the Straits of Tiran, plus accessible shore dives. The best way to explore off-shore sites and avoid the crowds is on an Egypt liveaboard departing from Sharm el Sheikh or Hurghada. Diving is possible all year and there is an abundance of dive sites and liveaboard itineraries to choose from. Check dives are common on Egypt liveaboards, helping staff to ensure they plan the right dives for all experience levels.

Thailand

Thailand is a favourite for new divers and the combination of diverse dive sites, affordable liveaboard diving, and stunning landscapes, attracts divers each year. Dive sites include reef diving, walls, wrecks, pinnacles, caverns and more. There is abundant marine life to enjoy including Manta Rays and Whale Sharks, plus diving is possible year-round. Both short and long liveaboard itineraries are available, making it a great destination for gaining an Open Water certification and hopping aboard.

Seychelles

The Seychelles is a great destination for divers to experience sailing aboard a modern yacht or traditional schooner, whilst enjoying reef diving amongst this archipelago of 115 islands. Dive site depths of the Inner Islands are 8 to 30 meters, with easy conditions, making it ideal for new divers. The marine life is diverse, with octopus, moray eels, nudibranchs and sharks commonly seen. Diving is possible year-round and a Mahé liveaboard in October or November offers the chance to swim with visiting Whale Sharks.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, a small island off the coast of India, has liveaboard dive safaris in the Northwest Kalpitaya that offer incredible diving for both new and experienced divers. The coral reef at Northwest Kalpitaya has blacktip reef sharks and the chance to see Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, Sperm Whales, and diverse reef fish species. The liveaboards are luxurious, check dives are conducted to ensure new divers are placed within groups of similar abilities, and the water visibility is up to 40 meters. Liveaboards set sail during November to February.

Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is made up of an archipelago of 922 islands and has pristine reefs with over 500 species of coral, plus numerous wrecks from World War II to explore. There are over 600 aircraft and 200 varieties of other wreck to explore in the waters off the Florida Islands and some of the wrecks can be enjoyed by snorkelers and recreational divers alike. Both short and long liveaboard safaris are available, from 2 to 15 days’ length, and there is no minimum logged dives requirement on many of the liveaboards.

Cuba

The Cuban government only permits a certain number of people to dive there each year, resulting in healthy and unspoilt marine reserves such as the Jardines de la Reina or ‘Gardens of the Queen’ and Canarreos Archipelago. Diving in Cuba is suitable for new divers, has easy dive conditions, and is known for excellent night diving. The diversity of life is staggering; with over 700 species of fish, including 100 shark species, and mangroves with resident manatees. The best season to visit is December to April.

Belize

Divers visiting Belize can enjoy the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the Northern hemisphere, and the famous Blue Hole. The dives include shallow coral reefs, wall dives, drift dives, and deep dives in the Blue Hole. There are plenty of sites suitable for new divers and marine life including groupers, jacks, Eagle Rays and turtles. Whale Sharks can be seen at Placencia from April to June.

Turks and Caicos

This archipelago of 40 coral islands is rich in marine life, with Caribbean Reef Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Hawksbill Turtles, Bottlenose Dolphins and Eagle Rays being commonly seen. It is also possible to see Humpback Whales during January to March. Liveaboard diving is available all year and the Turks and Caicos have calm seas and consistent water temperatures year-round. It is a great destination for new divers and non-divers are also welcome aboard.


Discover more liveaboard diving holiday solutions around the world at Liveaboard.com.

Kathryn Curzon writes for Liveaboard.com - the easiest place online to book liveaboard diving holidays around the world. Liveaboard.com makes it easy to compare liveaboard destinations, amenities, dive types and prices for the perfect scuba safari to fit all your diving needs.

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Alonissos: The complete diving destination (Part 1)

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In June we were incredibly fortunate to be invited to dive in Alonissos, a small Greek Island in the Sporades island chain located in the North Aegean Sea.  While I have long been a big fan of the Greek Islands as a great holiday destination, I had not had the opportunity to do any diving on previous visits and Mike and I were extremely excited to see what Alonissos had to offer both above and below the surface!

The Sporades are easily accessible via the airport in Skiathos (the first island in the chain), which is served by Jet2 flights from all major UK airports from May through October.  Numerous ferries and charter boats make island hopping from Skiathos Town a breeze.  After an hour boat ride, the picturesque port of Patitiri was a wonderful introduction to Alonissos, where we were met by our gracious hosts Kostas of Albedo Travel and Dias of Alonissos Triton Dive Center.  Mike and I were delighted to be staying at the Paradise Hotel, aptly named for its stunning views over the sea and great location for walking to the waterfront.

Alonissos is beautifully situated in the National Marine Park of Alonissos and the Northern Sporades, the largest marine protected area in Europe.  The surrounding seas offer fabulous marine life, including incredibly rare species such as the Mediterranean monk seal.  They boast deep walls covered in gorgonians and sponges, stunning topography with caverns, swimthroughs and pinnacles, and the first accessible ancient shipwreck from 500BC!

In locations where historical sites have been reported, the waters are largely restricted, but with collaboration between government, underwater archeologists and dive centres, incredible underwater museums are being created for a truly unique diving experience.  Alonissos is home to the first of these, the Ancient Shipwreck of Peristera Accessible Underwater Archeological Site.  The chance to dive into history (along with reports of healthy reef life and amazing underwater topography) meant Mike and I were keen to get in the water.

Our introduction to the diving around Alonissos was at the Agios Georgios Pinnacles, in the channel between Alonissos and Skopelos.  This fantastic site was named “The Chimney,’ and proved to have a huge amount to see.  We got to a decent depth here (over 25m), and marvelled at a colourful reef wall with a wonderful swim through whose rocky walls were absolutely covered with life.  As well as brilliant topography there was no shortage of macro life here.  We saw numerous nudibranchs, five different species in total.  The second dive at Mourtias reef nearby was a shallower dive along a nice wall with lots of crevices. Several moray eels and grouper called this site home.  We enjoyed looking in the crevices for lobster and smaller benthic life, such as cup corals and tunicates.

Our itinerary allowed us two dives a day with afternoons left to explore the island with our hire car and evenings to enjoy the famous Greek hospitality.  This proved to be a lovely mix of in-water and land based diversions.  

The next days diving to the Gorgonian Gardens and Triton’s Cave was to be even better!  These two stunning sites are nothing short of fabulous.  The Gorgonian Gardens was a deep wall near to the Agios Georgios islands.  The ever-present currents in this deep channel meant that the sea life was amazing … the namesake Gorgonian sea fans dotted the wall at a depth of 30 to 50 meters, getting ever larger the deeper we went.  Above 30m was by no means less beautiful, with sponges, corals, scorpionfish, moray eels and some rare and colourful nudibranchs.

The second shallower dive of the day was to Triton’s Cave or the Cavern of Skopelos, on the east side of that island. The spectacular rock formations had wild striations both above and below the water making a truly epic topography.  The cavern entrance was at 14m, and big enough for a buddy pair, winding up to 6m and passing two beautiful windows out into the blue.  Emerging from the cavern, the light at the shallower depths and the incredible rock formations made for a fantastic gentle swimming safety stop and we all surfaced by the boat with massive grins. 

Check out our next blog :Alonissos: The complete diving destination (Part 2)” to hear about our amazing dive on the 2500 year old Peristera Wreck!

Thanks to:

Alonissos Triton Dive Center https://bestdivingingreece.com/

Albedo Travel https://alonissosholidays.com/activities/

Paradise Hotel https://paradise-hotel.gr/

Alonissos Municipality https://alonissos.gr/en/

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Mamma Mia! Diving Skopelos (Part 2)

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Our second days dive itinerary was to the famous Christoforos wreck! This is arguably the best dive in Skopelos and though only open to divers with deep diving experience, this 83m long wreck is well worth the visit.  

The Christoforos sits in 43 meters of water with the deck at 32 to 35 meters.  A 30m dive can give an impressive view of the wreck, though such a large wreck needs a few dives to truly do it justice.  Given its ideal location just a 2 minute boat ride from the dive centre dock it is an excellent first dive of the day.  The sheltered site is also diveable in all but the absolute worst weather so although deep, the water is usually clear with little to no current making it a very pleasant dive.  The site is superb for technical diving and a great training site for the Tec 40 and 45 programs, offered by Skopelos Dive Center.  

The Christoforos wreck was originally a collier ship built in 1950 at Grangemouth shipyard under the name “Thomas Hardie”.  In 1976 she joined the Greek merchant fleet as “Christoforos”.  On the 2nd of October 1983 the Christoforos was carrying 2600 tonnes of cement from Volos to Piraeus Port. During the voyage the weather turned, resulting in the ship developing a 7 degree list, whereby she changed course for safe anchorage at Panormos, Skopelos.  The ship reached Panormos at 16:00 with a list of 17 degrees and water ingress to No. 1 hull.  Though attempts were made to right the vessel, the crew were ordered to abandon ship at 22:00.  The captain, lieutenant and the quartermaster remained to try and save the ship, but had to abandon the attempt themselves and the Christoforos finally sank at 05:30 on 3rd October 1983.  She now sits upright in 43 meters of water less than 200m from shore in Panormos.

Diving has only been allowed here since 2018, so the wreck is very well preserved and a real treat to dive.  Permission to dive here was granted by the authorities after lots of incredibly hard work by the Skopelos Dive Center staff.  Having a fantastic wreck in such an amazing location and in excellent condition is a real privilege.

Of all the sites in Skopelos this was the site Mike and I were most keen to experience.  Having kitted up and zipped across the bay to the mooring, we left the surface and followed the descent line until the wreck emerged spectacularly from the blue at 15m.  She is a big and beautiful wreck, sitting as though calmly continuing her journey along the seabed.  With most of her original features still intact there were points of interest everywhere, including the anchors, winches, ships telegraphs, the wheel and RDF antenna.  

We found that aquatic life had colonised the ship, with schools of fish, electric blue nudibranchs, a large moray eel and the resident scorpionfish lurking inside the bridge.  The Christoforos was truly a stunning wreck and despite maximising our time at depth we eventually had to say our goodbyes and begin the slow and steady return to the surface. 

After a superb morning dive we had the afternoon to do a little sightseeing of the island, with a trip to the church of Agios Ioannis Kastri made famous by the blockbuster movie “Mamma Mia!”. Mike and I spent a happy afternoon pootling around in our little hire car before meeting up with Lina from Skopelos Dive Center.  An underwater archeologist as well as a dive professional, Lina had offered to show us a rather special attraction, the Christoforos shipwreck Digital Spot public information and awareness centre.

A fantastic initiative made possible from the collaboration of the government and hard work of the staff at Skopelos Dive Center is the “Digital Spot” in Agnontas port.  This information center has a number of displays on the history of the Christoforos wreck, the process by which the wreck was allowed to be opened to the public for diving tourism, other sites of historical interest in the area, a video of the wreck and the best bit, a virtual reality dry dive experience!  The beauty of the VR system is that non diving members of the family can see what you have seen on the wreck, or you can see areas that you may not have explored during the dive due to time or depth limitations.  It was a truly immersive experience and a great addition to the dive itself.

After a wonderful day we celebrated our last evening on the island with an exquisite meal in Skopelos Town with fabulous views over the town and bay, washed down with the excellent local wine.  The lamb with lemon and potatoes was a meal which I could happily eat every day for the rest of my life! 

Skopelos is an island that truly has it all.  The diving is excellent, the landscape is beautiful with plenty of non diving activities, the locals friendly and the food and drink superb.  Given how accessible it is as a holiday destination it has avoided becoming overcrowded and even in peak season offers a fun yet relaxing atmosphere.  We highly recommend giving Skopelos a visit.  We will certainly be back again!

Thanks to:

Municipality of Skopelos (https://skopelos.com/

Skopelos Dive Center  (https://sporadesdiving.gr/)

Ionia Hotel (https://www.ioniahotel.gr/en)

Dolphin of Skopelos (https://dolphinofskopelos.com/)

Ta Kymata restaurant (@takymata)

The Muses restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/TheMussesMousses/)

Aktaiov resturant (https://skopelos.com/listings/aktaion-taverna/)

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