Liveaboard Experiences : Southern
Exumas Bahamas

By guest author Keeley Collins / Part 2 of 3 articles

R/V Sea Dragon awaits our boarding

In my 2nd article I share my experiences aboard our Shark Week liveaboard (Sea Dragon) in the southern Exumas of the Bahamas, and hopefully this will inspire your own sweet dreams of a future trip.

8am. Awaken to the sound of water gently lapping, roll out of bed & follow the smell of fresh coffee & pancakes. Eat while motoring to the first site. Dive twice before lunch. Relax & snooze while motoring to the next site. Dive again before dinner. Eat & grab torches for a night dive. Dry off. Sleep. Repeat. No dishes. No cooking. No slogging your wet gear around. Sound good? This is liveaboard life.

Diving is available in the Bahamas nearly year-round and features stunning turquoise waters with uninhabited beaches of soft white sand. There’s something for everyone – wrecks, deep walls, shallow reefs, large pelagics (sharks!) and macro life. The southern Exumas, only fairly recent on the tourist scene, are sleepy little islands with a few small air strips,. They’re the home of the famous swimming pigs!

We dove mostly around uninhabited Conception Island, a national park since 1964 & a designated marine park since about 2016. A fun shore excursion was boating up the estuary with miles of mangroves – and hundreds of baby sea turtles (I kid you not). We floated out as the tide changed and witnessed a mass spawning congregation of 65+ puffers. The flat seas & little wind just after Hurricane Isaias afforded us a rare opportunity to dive the north walls & wrecks. (More in that in my next article.)

While the accommodations are basic, the food & the experience is not….the folks aboard Sea Dragon made us feel like family visiting on vacation, a welcome change during COVID. The food was plentiful & delicious home-style cookin’ (turkey with fixings, roast beef, lasagna, burger night, grilled salmon, waffles, french toast, soup+sandwiches).

R/V Sea Dragon is a custom designed 65-foot fiberglass liveaboard (built in 1980). Based out of Ft. Lauderdale, it runs 7-14+ day trips of either north Exumas (from Nassau – fall/spring) or south Exumas (from George Town – summer). The boat has accommodations for 8 guests, offering 4 bunk-bed style cabins with 1 shared full bathroom & 1 toilet. Two outrigger stabilizers provided us with a smooth ride. With this small size boat, they’re free to offer customized itineraries.

The crew has 30+ years experience in the Bahamas and that showed. The boat is not fancy, but if you’re a serious diver you’ll happily trade creature comforts for unforgettable experiences. The dive deck is well equipped with cubbies for each diver, and the safety briefings are comprehensive.

They have 3 friendly dogs (Australian Shepherds) which have a very special relationship with a local dolphin named Calypso – amazing to watch them swim & play together! Calypso followed us from
site to site, quickly checking on us, and then swimming on to find her friends to play with. I could write a whole article just on this special friendship alone…

Sunsets are spectacular to view from the top deck, featuring conch-shell corals and drenched yellows with a green flash. Just writing this makes me wish I could go back!

I always meet new life-long friends on liveaboards (work & play). You will too – I hope you start planning today!

Liveaboard Considerations:

  1. Destination Considerations: How to get there? Small plane? What’s your weight limit? What is the best time of year to visit? What animals will you see?
  2. Are conditions right for your level of training? Training/Courses available? Dive guides available?
  3. Health & Safety: Check to make sure your liveaboard is equipped with smoke detectors, 24-hour watchman, satellite phone, O2/Defibrillator, COVID-19 cleaning/sanitization and social distancing protocols. Also, you want to check to know where the nearest chamber is.
  4. Stability & Seasickness: Research which season has the calmest seas, ask your doctor for non-drowsy seasickness medications just in case, and find out what type of stabilization the boat uses.
  5. Accommodations: Size of cabins (with or without en suite bathrooms) – bunks vs. flat beds – roommate vs. single.
  6. Gear: Rentals available? Nitrox?
  7. Do They Provide or Should You Pack Your Own?: Reef safe products (hair, sunscreen, soap) Quick plug here from Liz – I know exactly where you can get some marvelous reef-safe products – right here: (Use the coupon code delightfuldepartures45 to save 10%)
  8. Costs: Perks, added fees, and tips. Expect to tip 10-15% on top of trip costs. (average)
  9. Pricing Tip: Break down your cost per full diving day (not including travel & partial days, aka embarkation & disembarkation). Compare full costs apples to apples, if possible, to help find the liveaboard right for you.

Keeley Collins is an avid traveler & award winning marine photographer based in North Carolina.  A DAN Ambassador, she dedicates her time to supporting non-profits that promote reef conservation, diver education and the NC scuba community.  See her work at

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