Liveaboard Boats Frequently Asked Questions
I'm not really sure where to find things on your website, you have a lot of information. Where do I start?
We have a short explanation here, with various ways to contact us and ask questions. When in doubt, please read carefully and look at all the menus. You can Skype us, call us, email us, or chat with us and we're happy to guide you through it.
We have children who are over 10 and certified divers. Are they OK to dive on a liveaboard boat?
Yes, no problem. If they are between 10 and 12 years of age, they can go to a maximum of 12m. If they are between 12-15 they can go to maximum of 21m. That is a standard set by PADI and the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC). Normally the supervising adult is required to dive with their children unless special arrangements are made in advance. Divemasters can usually be hired to look after them.
What if my friend or spouse is a non-diver? Will they enjoy the trip?
If he/ she is comfortable on boats, then yes. There is lots of good snorkeling to be had, and the above water scenery is very pretty. Most days there will be opportunities to go ashore on the islands. Most boats offer only a small discount for non-divers, however. This is because the boats sell a bed; the diving doesn't cost that much to do, it’s boat operations which are expensive. Mergui is a great destination for a non diver as there are more beaches and islands up in that area and by the nature of the destination, these trips usually offer more beach time than we can provide in Thailand.
There are so many destinations around your area. How do we get started finding the right trip?
Tell us a little bit about your experience level, and what type of diving you enjoy. Also let us know what type of boat comfort level you prefer. You can do a schedules search on virtually every page. This page is a good place to start, just enter your proposed dates in the search bar at the top. Also, we have full dive site descriptions of all the dive sites in Thailand on our site, over 25,000 words from books that John Williams wrote.
I am a very experience diver, what do you think is the best trip to do?
This is a little difficult to answer in a few lines. The best thing to do is to email us and tell us a little bit about your experience level, and what type of diving you enjoy, and where you have been diving before. After we get to know a little bit about you we can usually suggest the best type of diving for you. If you are a photographer as well, then only certain boats cater to you well, so it's best to ask about that. Once we get a conversation going with you we can usually come up with something that will meet your expectations. Both of us are avid divers and we appreciate that it's often hard to find a trip which suits a very experienced person. We certainly have trips you'll love. Generally, more experienced divers know that the best way to see the best stuff is to get in the water in as many places and as often as possible, so longer itineraries are more popular.
We have specific dates that we can dive. How do I search for specific dates on your website?
Simply use the search bar at the top of every page on our website. You should get results. If not, broaden the search with new dates or more destinations. From the results page, it's easy to add several different trips into a shopping cart or basket, fill out a simple form and send that to us. It's best to give us a few choices because depending on how far in advance you're looking, some trips may be fully booked.
I'm interested in diving on a liveaboard, but not sure if I have been diving enough. What are the minimum criteria?
All liveaboard boats in Thailand offer dive guide services as part of the package. This is included in the price and usually the ratio is four or six-to-one guide. Some people prefer diving with a guide simply because with a guide you'll see more underwater but if you're feeling as if you don't have enough experience, then the guide is also there for your safety. As long as you are entry level certified, the crew will take care of you. Some of the dive sites in Burma—depending on tide conditions—may not be suitable if you have very little experience or have not dived in a few years, but please ask and with a few pointed questions from our side, we can usually figure out if the trip is OK for you or not. Most liveaboards offer up to four dives per day, so even if you sit a few dives out, you will still have a good trip and get to see amazing stuff. No one ever said you must do every dive; if you don’t feel up to it, sit a dive out. All the boat crews do their best to make you feel comfortable, offer suggestions, and give you extra help if you need it.
I'm a non-diver so far. Is it possible to get certified on a liveaboard boat in the Similan Islands?
We do not encourage students to dive in national park areas due to environmental considerations. Yes, theoretically its possible, but it’s better if you get certified before the trip; this takes two to three days. Most of the beginners course is theory and pool anyway, so there is really no advantage to do the course from a liveaboard boat unless that boat was dedicated to that activity. If the boat had a swimming pool that would help immensely. In the islands, there are very few shallow areas suitable for dive training. The Open Water course only takes three or four-days, and this can be shortened if you study before you leave home. Most boats do offer PADI or SSI advanced or specialty training. Nitrox is a very good course to take on a liveaboard trip, and is immensely practical.
I'm a single female traveling alone. Can you pair me up with someone or is it possible to get a cabin by myself?
There are more and more single female divers every year. While we do our best to hook you up with another female diver, it's not always possible. Unfortunately, on liveaboard boats, the beds themselves are sold rather than the whole cabin, so if you do not want to share, then you'll end up paying a single supplement surcharge (the same is true for men if you do not want a roommate). Since single supplements are usually just the price of another non diver added to your bill, it's generally not very attractive to pay it. The best thing to do is to contact us as far in advance as possible so we can help you find a suitable roommate. Or, to find a friend to bring along with you. Currently, only the Mermaid 1 has a single cabin here in Thailand.
What services do you offer? Are you an operator?
We are liveaboard and diving travel agency which is based here in Phuket and your one-stop website for information on diving in Thailand and Burma. Bent and John have been living in Phuket and deeply involved in the diving industry here since the 1980s, so we know a little bit about the area. We work very closely with the boats we represent, and we make it easy for you to find a trip that fits your needs without wasting lots of time having to surf the web for days or weeks. Although we do not own or operate the boats directly, we do have a very close relationship with the boat owners and we represent only the boats which meet our demanding requirements for safety and service. We were liveaboard and day trip boat owners here for almost 10 years. We helped find many of the dive sites which are commonly visited here in Thailand, Burma and the Andaman Islands over the years. When you're talking to us you're talking to the voice of experience. John has been a PADI Instructor since 1983 and Bent since 1988 (and a course director since 1994). John has authored, co-authored or contributed to four books on diving in Thailand.
Our powerful schedules search on every page allows you to find the trip you want, for the price you want, and for the dates you want quickly and easily. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have about your trip to Thailand in great detail, including helping with hotels or other non-diving related activities you may be interested in while here. Send us an email and see just how helpful we can be.
We are thinking of chartering a boat rather than doing a join-in liveaboard. Do you do that, and do I get a better deal?
Yes, if you are a group of people this is an excellent idea, as you will then only dive with friends and can choose your own itinerary (based on our guidance and experience with itineraries). We do these types of charters all of the time. Prices can be better than individual prices but vary from boat to boat. Some boats offer free spots, others offer group discounts. Let us know the size of your group, how many days you want to go diving, if you are couples or individuals, and how comfortable you want to be and we'll send you some suggestions. Our new boat charter section contains more information about this kind of thing.
I will be visiting Thailand between June and September. What can I expect as far as diving goes?
That is our low season, and it is difficult to find any liveaboard trips during this time. We offer short two-day overnight trips to Phi Phi Islands, but not to the Similan islands. The national park is officially closed during that time. Have a look here for an in-depth discussion of the weather pattern during that time of year. Generally, for the best diving and the widest variety of possibilities, it's best to come between October and May. Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand offers diving at that time of year. The diving isn't as good as what the Andaman Sea offers, but it's pretty fun, and we're happy to make suggestions for operators for you there. It's also a good time to take diving courses or dive in Indonesia or other areas.
Why are the boats priced so differently?
Prices vary because of trip length, equipment on the boat, crew experience, size, and of course comfort level. It’s the old adage, "you get what you pay for". Prices are based on what it costs to run, and are set by the individual owner. When fuel prices are higher, boat operations go up a lot. Most liveaboard operators are individual owners and not big corporations, and certainly are not wealthy, so the prices are usually based on what costs are.
Why aren't liveaboard trips a lot cheaper in Thailand than other countries?
Good boats are as expensive in Thailand as they are in other countries. Over all, boat and crew quality is very good here. Most boats do not take more than 12-16 customers, we tend to have a very high crew-to-guest ratio, and our dive sites are spread out over big areas. (It's almost 600km to Richelieu Rock and back; more than double that for a trip into Burma). Since fuel prices are fairly high here, boats are expensive to operate and foreign crew are paid the same here as they are anywhere else in the world. Finally, our liveaboard season is only half the year from October until May (unless the boat is operating in Indonesia or some other area as well). So the boats have to support themselves for a whole year, with income from just six months.
Is it necessary to book liveaboards a long time in advance?
Generally, yes, if you are picky at all. It depends on the boat and the time of year and how much advertising that boat does. If she is marketed heavily, sometimes you need to book a year or more in advance. Peak season for Thailand and Burma is December through April, and many of the boats get booked up far in advance. Sometimes there are trips, generally shorter ones, which can be booked a few weeks (or even a few days) in advance. However, for the longer trips on better boats, it pays to book early.
Do you require pre-payment?
Yes, we do. We require 30% as a deposit with the balance due 45-60 days before. The reason for this is that we do not overbook liveaboard trips. If the boat takes 12 persons, for instance, we only book 12 persons, never 15. Hotels and airlines can get away with overbooking as if they are overbooked, they'll put you someplace else or on another flight. However, it’s almost impossible to find another liveaboard with a similar schedule for a similar price leaving at the same time. For that reason, we have to be sure you will get here, and the only way we can guarantee that is by pre-payment. There are travel insurance policies which you can buy to protect you if you must cancel for health or work-related reasons.
Do you take payment by credit card?
Yes, we sure do, we accept Visa and MasterCard through our company's merchant account. We do it through a secure online system via our website. When you book, we send you all of the necessary information for you to conduct a safe and secure transaction online. We never charge you for credit card purchases unless we tell you ahead of time. We do not keep your credit card number on file; it’s all done through our bank's merchant account system. Click here to find out more about how to book a dive trip.
I have more questions, how may I contact you?
Please visit this page for many different ways to contact us or use the IM options on the right there.