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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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July 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Want to Buy a Dive Center or Liveaboard?

we found a few, if you’re looking for something new to do

from the July, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Back in the early '80s, Freddy Storheil left his native Oslo to sail his steel-hulled ketch Colona II around the world twice, then ended up in Egypt's Sharm el Sheikh doing liveaboard dive charters back when that area's dive industry was embryonic. He added other vessels to his fleet --Colona III and Colona IV -- and hired two fellow Scandinavians as their skippers. Eventually, Storheil moved on to Thailand with Colona II and pioneered diving charters around Burma's Mergui Islands.

Storheil has had a great life, but he's now ready to put his feet up -- he has refitted the Colona II and it's now for sale at $125,000 ( Interested?

Many recreational divers dream of swapping their conventional way of life for the alternative lifestyle of running a dive business somewhere exotic. Fancy a dive center on Ambergris Caye in Belize? It's on the market for only $200,000. The seller says it was a good little project that gave him some epic experiences, but now he wants to go traveling for a year (

A lot of these dive centers are listed online at Dive Center for Sale (, which was started by a guy who was hoping to buy a dive center quickly but realized there was no good platform on the Internet for listing these businesses. It took him a year to find his dive center, and in the meantime he created the listing website.

Buying an Established Business Versus Starting from Scratch

Along with the photos and details, the owner of the Ambergris Caye dive center has posted a word of caution for potential buyers. "The size and success of a scuba business and the real profit comes in the high quality and ease of the owners' lifestyle. That is why 99 percent of all scuba business owners in tropical destinations are there -- they want to live the lifestyle on the island and dive whenever they want to. I don't know any liveaboard, dive resort or dive center owner in any tropical destination who decided to start the business (or buy it) because it would give them the best return of investment."

Buying an already-existing dive operation is the best bet, but he warns that it will probably be like building a new business from scratch. "The dive center will have many contracts and relationships with the resorts and hotels around it that will have taken years to establish. This is not do-able in a short period. The new owners [of any dive center or liveaboard] will effectively have bought themselves a job or built it themselves . . . Even some of the so-called tangible assets, such as the online assets and customer database, are, in reality, a time-earned asset."

Sure, you could start a brand-new dive business, buying your own boat, compressor, dozens of scuba tanks and a pile of new scuba gear to rent, but you'll work very hard for a decade to establish a customer base, so it's better to buy a going concern. "You really can't just throw a lot of money at a struggling or brand-new dive business. These things take years to build up momentum, followers and trusted status."

He also points out the problems of running a business in a foreign country where you may not understand the culture or the language, and almost certainly not the property laws.

John Bantin, our senior editor, knows that last part all too well, having once owned a dive center on one of Spain's Balearic Islands. His wife was Spanish, so it should have been straightforward. Though he faced a mountain of paperwork, he had the permits to run it. Everything seemed to be perfectly legal, but apparently he still needed the patronage of the local chief of the Guardia Civil, Spain's national police force, who stated that he alone decided what was legal and what was not. So case in point: Don't piss off the locals, particularly not the government officials.

However, if none of the above info has dashed your dreams, here are a few choice listings currently available.

Selling for Health, Education and Political Reasons

How about the Deep Blue Dive Resort on Utila? Located next to the dive site Pretty Bush and a five-minute boat-ride from town, the resort's three buildings have 10 rooms to accommodate 20 guests. The owner, who has run it for 14 years, is asking $1.2 million, and he's willing to stay on site to help new owners make a smooth transition. The reason for selling is typical: We all get older, and eventually health reasons send us scuttling home (

Or else it's due to getting the kids into school. David and Gaelle Mesnard, owners of the 110-foot Maldives liveaboard Ocean Divine, wish to return home to France with their daughter, Dune, who is now of school age. You can check out the boat at and, if interested, email David at

Eco2 in Tanzania: The Bargain of the Year?When political instability and government crackdowns hit a country, ex-pats tend to leave. Maybe that's why there are so many liveaboards for sale in Egypt at the moment. Similarly, we noticed dive operations on Indonesia's Komodo Island up for sale. That's because the local government plans to shut down the island in January for approximately a year to start a conservation program aimed at increasing the population of its famous Komodo Dragons. So while it's not for political reasons, the shutdown will keep the doors closed a while. But if you're thinking long-term, $650,000 will set you up with a fully equipped dive center with a paid-up, seven-year lease and five boats, one which could serve as a phinisi-rigged liveaboard. The seller reckons it has a cash flow of $125,000 and sales revenue of $400,000. The rest of Komodo National Park, with great diving, will remain open (

Over in Africa, the Eco2 dive center in southern Tanzania is for sale because the owner is now living in Geneva and working for the United Nations. The asking price is $100,000, and there's also the opportunity to buy Ten Degrees South, the neighboring guesthouse and hotel, which the listing states "is the bargain of the year, as the buildings alone are worth the asking price." Indian Ocean diving is superb, but keep in mind that the owner shut down Eco2 before he left and isn't available for an on-site transition, so this would be probably be a starting-from-scratch business (

Dive Shops Closer to Home

Buy Waikiki Dive Center, and This Boat Is YoursIf Africa is too far away for you, how about something closer to home? Waikiki Dive Center in Honolulu, with two boats, states that much of its $800,000 annual sales revenue comes from the large military presence on Oahu. The owner is willing to stay on for a year to ensure a smooth handover. But besides spending $900,000 for the center, you'll have to add on to the cost of buying somewhere to live in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the U.S. (

Only $30,000 (the price was recently lowered) will buy you a private guiding business in Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Yucatan, including a truck, tanks, some snorkel and dive gear, all the necessary paperwork, social media and web presence, customer database and marketing materials. There's no boat or storefront, but the sellers say they would help with that setup for a few weeks before they return to Europe. They reckon they're grossing $35,000 at present (

Buying a Boat

Boat ownership is not always plain sailing, especially in a hurricane-prone area. The British Virgin Islands was hit especially hard in 2018 by Hurricane Irma. But if you feel the next big hit is a long way off, there's a custom-built 50-foot luxury catamaran that won the Tortola Charter Yacht Show for $750,000. It has cabins for six guests, plus the crew, and comes with a 15-foot tender and 4-kilowatt dive compressor (

Legal problems often beset commercial boat ownership, too. The Swedish owner of a 20-berth diving ship anchored in Croatia bought the vessel three years ago, but only received ownership last month, thanks to legal ramifications. In the meantime, he started a hotel and restaurant on the nearby island of Brac, and will offer new owners full support for an asking price of $700,000. The vessel will sail under a Moldova (tax free) flag (

Still Feeling Lucky?

Operating a dive center can be hard work, says Bantin. "It's not for the faint-hearted. Out in the boat, while the customers are enjoying the ride, the owner has one eye on the weather. While those same customers are enjoying a riotous evening, the dive center owner might be hard at work stripping down the compressor. It's not a business for someone who wants to take it easy. Retirement is an important aspect to consider. It certainly isn't something to do when you retire, and remember: if you want to make a small fortune from diving, it's best to start with a large one."

However, if you're feeling young and lucky enough to run a dive operation and enjoy doing it, consider the case of Josh Ptaszynk, a 26-yearold accountant from Wollongong, Australia. When the owners of Kosrae Nautilus Resort in Micronesia wanted to sell it in 2016 to return home to Australia, they decided to raffle it off. Ptaszynk, who wasn't even a diver at the time, got the winning ticket. He gave up his job, moved to the threeacre island, and immediately learned how to snorkel and dive.

A few months in, Ptaszynk told the Daily Mail Australia he had adapted to his new home and was using his accounting skills to manage the business. "I will take it one day at a time and keep things running. And continue what the previous owners did successfully for 20 years."

So far, it seems he's doing well. The latest Trip Advisor reviews give Kosrae Nautilus Resort an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars, and guests use words like "friendly" and "fantastic" to describe Ptaszynk and his staff.

-- Vanessa Richardson

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