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The Best Small Liveaboards for Escaping the Crowds

The Best Small Liveboards for Escaping the Crowds

Whilst large liveaboards are great for getting to know more people, there is something very special about small liveaboards. Offering a more personalised service and diving without others around, they’re a great choice for a liveaboard diving holiday away from it all. Here are our top small liveaboards for escaping the crowds.


La Unua


Where is it: Komodo, Indonesia


What makes it special: This traditional wooden Indonesian phinisi is one of the smallest liveaboards we know, catering to just 6 guests. Each cabin has en-suite facilities, and you can choose from a double bed cabin, bunk beds, or the luxurious suite cabin. Time needn’t be an issue, with year-round 4 to 6-day long safaris available.


What can you see: As one of the most species-rich locations in the world, a better question would be what can’t you see when diving Komodo ? Batu Balong offers pristine coral gardens, Napoleon wrasse, sharks and hundreds of reef fish.


Manta Alley’s rocks are covered in bright orange corals and hosts numerous manta rays. With over 1000 fish species to find, you’ll be busy looking in every direction. Be sure to keep your eyes on the blue for eagle rays, dolphin and Mola mola.


The best time to visit: Visit from April to November for flat seas and the best weather. Mantas are seen all year but peak in numbers from December to February, whilst Mola mola are best spotted during August.


Mola Mola in Komodo National Park

Mola Mola Indo

La Unua is a traditional wooden phinisi offering year-round liveaboard diving in Komodo National Park.

La Unua Indo ©La Unua liveaboard


Tidak ApaPa


Where is it: Indonesia


What makes it special: The variety of safaris on offer and budget-friendly prices make the Tidak ApaPa an appealing choice for Indonesian liveaboard diving. You can choose from cruising Raja Ampat (including the Dampier Strait and Misool), the Banda Islands, Alor, Ambon, or Komodo National Park.


With a ratio of 4 divers to 1 guide and a maximum of 8 guests, the service is highly personalised. The Cruise Director is also a marine biologist and underwater photographer.



What can you see: You can enjoy the rich marine life of Komodo or spot critters, wobbegongs and epaulette sharks at Raja Ampat. Either way you’ll likely see manta rays and numerous vibrant corals.


A safari to the Banda Islands will take you well off the beaten path. These untouched remote islands sit between four tectonic plates and have plenty of fish life. If muck diving is your thing, be sure to visit Ambon.


The best time to visit: November to April brings huge numbers of manta rays to Raja Ampat. The best time to reach the Banda Islands is March to April and September to December, when rainfall is low. Ambon is best dived during dry season from October to May.


Green sea turtle in Indonesia - credit Tidak ApaPa liveaboard

Green sea turtles ©Tidak ApaPa liveboard

Tidak ApaPa liveaboard - Diving safari in Indonesia

Tidak ApaPa ©Tidak ApaPa liveboard


Oceanes Dream


Where is it: Madagascar


What makes it special: This catamaran caters to just 8 guests and cruises the unspoilt islands of Madagascar; a region of pristine dive sites. Dive there and you’ll be well away from other boats and visiting stunning beaches and paradise islands. It is a true getaway from daily life.



What can you see: Divers regularly encounter whitetip reef sharks, hammerheads, barracuda and huge schools of fish. You also have the chance to see manta rays and swim with whale sharks, plus spot humpback whales.



The best time to visit: October and November for the chance to see whale sharks. Humpback whales arrive between July and October.


Visiting Madagascan locals ©Oceanes Dream liveaboard

Visiting Madagascan locals ©Oceanes Dream liveaboard

Diving Madagascar ©Oceanes Dream liveaboard

Diving Madagascar ©Oceanes Dream liveaboard

Aqua Tiki II


Where is it: French Polynesia


What makes it special: If you’re looking to dive paradise islands without other divers around, the Aqua Tiki II is a perfect choice. Cruising French Polynesia, this intimate 8-guest catamaran visits the stunning dive sites of the Tuamotu Archipelago. For a real adventure, join their popular 17-night Tuamotu dive safari. As well as diving, Aqua Tiki II safaris also include village and pearl farm excursions, water sports and evening BBQs.



What can you see: French Polynesia liveaboard diving is all about the sharks. Dive there and you’ll see the famous ‘wall of sharks’ where hundreds of grey reef sharks can be found.


You’ll also have the chance to see humpback whales, hammerheads, eagle rays and numerous reef sharks. There are plenty of manta cleaning stations and healthy coral cover to explore.



The best time to visit: Grey reef sharks can be seen all year, whilst hammerheads and eagle rays are spotted from December to March. Humpback whales visit from around August to October.


Aqua tiki

Aqua Tiki II, Polynesia

Young reef sharks - French Polynesia

Young reef sharks - French Polynesia




Where is it: Italy


What makes it special: This traditional 1922 sailing vessel offers a different kind of liveaboard experience for just 6 guests, cruising the best dives site of the Tuscan Archipelago in Italy. Easily accessible within Europe, it is a great choice for combining diving with the exceptional food and diverse cultures Italy is known for.


What can you see: The Norseman specialises in finding hidden secluded coves and will take you to dive sites hosting schools of barracuda, plus groupers, congers and moray eels. There are plenty of critters on offer for macro fans, wrecking diving, and the chance to see dolphins and whales.


The best time to visit: Scuba diving is possible all year, with the warmer summer months offering the most critters.


Campoloro Wrack Italy © Norseman Events

Campoloro Wrack Italy © Norseman Events


This article was written by divers and writers at