Before each dive, the dive guides will tell you everything you need to know about the dive site, currents, the underwater life and how to make the dive. They also indicate any dangers and tell you how and where you can get out of the water. It is mandatory for everyone who dives to attend the briefing and the moment of the briefing is often announced with the ship’s bell. If you don’t join the next dive, tell your guide before the briefing so they don’t wait for you. To prevent any unnecessary waiting, it is nice if everyone comes immediately as soon as the bell is rung. This way you don’t leave anyone waiting.
Before the briefing starts you should check your tank. That means you check the pressure and the gas mixture (if you dive with Nitrox or another special gas mixture) and fill in the Nitrox log. The reason this is done before the briefing is that the crew has some extra time to solve any problem if necessary, while not delaying the dive.
The briefing tells you how best to make the dive, but sometimes the current changes during your dive and it is difficult, uncomfortable or even dangerous to stick to the plan. In that case you can of course always change the plan and go in the other direction. However, be aware that the crew monitoring the dive from above and expects you to surface somewhere. If you change the dive plan during the dive and you go completely in a different direction, make yourself well visible by launching a buoy (SMB). This way the crew knows where you are, you avoid unnecessary waiting at the end of your dive and you know for sure that they can find you.
As a rule, dives of one hour are made, with the night dive often limited to 45 minutes. If you want to dive longer, ask in the briefing. The maximum diving depth for a recreational trip is 40 meters, or 30 meters in some cases because deeper is not allowed by law. Respect that maximum depth and do not exceed it, because it can ensure that your insurance does not cover you in the event of an accident or that you receive a strong warning from the guides. After all, they may not simply allow exceeding because they would then become personally liable and could lose their job, not to mention the consequences in the event of an accident.
Do you have to dive to the maximum depth? No, of course not, you and your buddy can of course just dive shallower. Also keep in mind to what depth you are certified and whether your insurance will cover you. Stay within all those limits and please you should do nothing at all except enjoy. Don’t do weird antics or go deeper than you like.
Like it or not, certified for solo diving or not, the general rule is everyone dives with a buddy. You do a buddy check together before you dive and you stay close to each other during the dive. The latter is a flexible concept, but the general rule is a maximum of 4 meters. This way you can help each other in case of an emergency, share the fantastic experience of diving, and so on. Of course there is a guide, but he or she simply does not have 8 arms or eyes. The guide’s priority is to lead the group and keep it as a whole safe and comfortable during a dive. So take care of each other and share your dive with your buddy in a responsibly. Remember that your buddy is not your life partner and you can always switch.
Every trip on a liveaboard starts with a check dive. That is, relatively simple diving conditions in which you make the first dive, check your weights and equipment and possibly practice releasing an SMB. Don’t worry, the guides and crew will help you. Not only with putting on your diving equipment, but also with entering the water and making your dive. Do you have back or knee problems? Indicate this immediately and the crew will help you with your equipment or getting out of the water. Don’t worry, they have a solution for most circumstances.
They know the waters and know the way, so even if you’re a star at navigating, following a guide has its perks. In addition, you are not allowed to dive everywhere alone with your buddy. On some trips it is mandatory to dive with a guide due to strong currents or navigation difficulties. If you prefer to dive without a guide, ask in advance so that you are not faced with surprises. If you dive with the guide and you pass him or her, it means that you no longer follow the guide.
Suppose the guide or another diver points to something on the reef or is looking at something and you want to see that too. Then give everyone the chance to do that because if we go for that at the same time it will only get crowded and that will damage the reef and irritate everyone. Take your time, view and/or photograph it, but then make room for the next one, so everyone can enjoy.
The fact that we divers influence the underwater life can only be prevented if we do not dive there. And that is of course not an option for us underwater enthusiasts. What we can do is protect nature and ourselves as best we can. While diving, that means not touching anything that is alive. So if it has eyes and a mouth, nice colors and doesn’t look like a gray rock, don’t touch it. Even sand is full of life and just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. So avoid sitting or standing, arrange a good trim and be aware of how tall you are. Use your fins with a horizontal stroke when you are close to a bottom, in a wreck or cave.
Feeding animals or taking shells is also something we should not do. The feeding is obvious, although shark feeding sessions are organized in some parts of the world under the guise of education, it is preferable not to do it. Our presence and behavior changes marine life. So lets minimize that impact as much as possible by taking only memories and photos and leaving bubbles behind.
Each area has its own way of diving, especially from which boat you dive. Each liveaboard has support boats that make the dive possible and can pick you up if necessary. You can think of a zodiac, a dhoni or a skiff. You will all be told on board how to safely get into those boats, enter the water or get out of the water. The crew and guides will help you as much as possible, although you can imagine that some disabled divers may have a lot of trouble with it. If you are somehow challenged, please check with your travel organization before booking the trip.
The SMB or buoy is widely used in liveaboard diving and everyone should have one. Of course they understand that you dive with your regular buddy and that your buddy always inflates the balloon and you don’t need one. But what if you lose sight of your buddy? Or a current is pushing you in a different direction? Even if you don’t expect it or you normally never do, all these things happen and you need an SMB. But for what? Very simply at the end of your dive, release the buoy at the beginning or end of your safety stop. The crew sees the buoy and the zodiac, skiff or dhoni will pick you up. So it’s a way to call a taxi. Another important moment is if there are many boats while you are diving and you are shallow in an area where these boats may be able to sail. In that case, the buoy is the best way to show everyone that you are just below the surface of the water. Are you not experienced with releasing a buoy? Then ask the guide on board to explain it to you and practice it during the check dive.
Unless you have booked a technical dive trip, decompression diving, diving deeper than 40 meter is not allowed. This has to do with the permit, insurance, liability and possible resources. If you really want to go deeper and longer, you will have to book a technical dive trip.
So that means that the liveaboard normally organizes dives in the context of recreational diving, that you dive within the no-stop times, stay within 40 meters and make safety stops. Many people like to get the most out of all their dives and prefer to go as deep and as long as possible. But the question is why would you do that? You’re only tempting fate, and if you think that as long as you’re diving inside your computer’s no-stop times you’re safe, you’re not the first to be seriously mistaken. We have all learned that diving involves certain risks and when you do as many dives as you would on a liveaboard trip, the likelihood of those risks increases. So make your safety stop, stay well within the no-stop times and only go deep if you can see something special there and you are trained and certified to do so. Are you tired, then just skip a dive. If you have ear problems or problems with equalizing, take it easy, it can only break once and there is no dive worth it.
The dive computer and making safety stops are not a choice, but an obligation. Everyone should have a working computer and everyone makes the stops.
Whether it’s the reef, an anchor line, the bottom or a wreck, make sure you always have a visual reference. If you have lost it, search for a maximum of one minute and then abort your dive. Because even if you don’t realize it, there is almost always a current at sea and that current can distract you so far from the dive site that the crew can hardly find you. So don’t do anything crazy, abort your dive and ask them to drop you back at the reef so you can continue enjoying your dive in safety.
Once you come back from the dive and your tank is back in place, loosen the first stage so they can fill the tank right in front of you. Tidy up your belongings and hang up your suit with the zipper closed. Taking care of your diving equipment is your responsibility at all times. So if something breaks or you lose something, that is not only a shame, but that is also for your account. As a rule, you do not rinse your equipment after every dive, but only at the end of the trip. This prevents unnecessary water consumption.