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May 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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By Land or by Sea: What Makes for the Best Diving?

from the May, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Our Truk Lagoon writer took 10 days to compare land-based (Blue Lagoon, featured in last month's issue) and shore-based diving on the Truk Odyssey to see if there was a clear winner. Now that you have read both stories, which would you do if you go to Chuuk? Stay on land or on a liveaboard? Because a lot of the time, it really boils down to that: a diver's personal preference for where to hang up his or her fins at the end of the day.

I regularly extoll the virtues of diving by liveaboard, where you spend a week or more with a close-knit group of like-minded scuba fanatics, doing nothing but diving, eating and sleeping. What could be better? Except for when you learn more about some shipmates and realize you can't get along with them, but there's nothing you can do about it in the confines of what now seems like a too-small boat, besides bailing ship. As our travel writer found out, the chances of spending your dive trip with a "Metamucil boy" are not that slim.

I love how a liveaboard gets me closer to remoter dive sites. I hate how my non-diving friends ask if the vessel can go into a little harbor for dinner at a local restaurant. The thought of not seeing land for the duration of a trip is bliss for me but is often returned with a stare of incredulity by them.

A liveaboard takes a lot of the slog out of the diving experience -- little to no hauling or setting up of tanks, which literally takes a load off my back. Stan Waterman, that grand old man of diving, always said, "When you get to my age -- liveaboard." On the other hand, you might suffer from the dreaded mal de mer -- and the only cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree. So there's one merit of shore-based diving.

Here's another: While it's true that when staying on a tiny island, you see the same people every day, the tiniest island is still bigger than any dive boat.

There are few places in the world where shore diving is still a viable possibility, so you'll usually have to endure something on the order of an hour each way by boat -- sometimes a small one with less-than-comfy seating and no shade -- to get to the majority of dive sites. But at least, you can come ashore, stretch your legs and choose to eat somewhere different each night or even not go diving at all some days.

Traveling with a non-diving spouse can mean landbased diving is a more viable option, and if there is local culture to consider, why not? If you're visiting Fiji or Papua New Guinea, for example, it would be criminal not to experience things other than the diving. If you're on Cozumel, it would be a shame not to visit the Yucatan mainland, or to even dive in a cenote or two.

It's different strokes for different folks. Sometimes, it's the destination that decides it for you. But give each option a try. Ultimately, for a diver, it's what lives underneath the waters lapping at the liveaboard or the resort's shores that matters most.

-- John Bantin

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