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This is probably a dumb question. I think I know the answer before asking it, but I want to be sure. I keep hearing everyone talking about "Cattle Boats", and how to stay away from them. The name implies that hoards of divers are packed on a boat like cattle and herded around with very poor or no service. Is this the correct assumption? If so, what does a newbie like myself need to know to prevent winding up on them?
Cattle boats do refer to dive boats that can accomodate a large number of divers.
But it does not mean than the experience on such an operation will be less than satisfactory. I have been on two trips where there were 20+ divers on the boat. Everyone had a great attitude, the staff did a great job, and I had a blast. And I'd return to those operators again if plans to dive those areas were being made.
So much like cramming a bunch of friends into one booth at Chili's can be a lot of fun, so can having lots of divers on the same liveaboard.
you can try to avoid them by asking a lot of questions before you hand over the money for your dive and then decide for yourself if there are too many divers on the boat, Also try to get all info on the dive operator ahead of time.
Just wanna drop my 2 cents in. I dive on a small boat usually just four of us and we go to wrecks that very few people know about which is one advantage. I have also been on cattle boats they hit the same wreck week after week and they are picked clean. Also other dive boats pull up to the same wreck because the captains are all buddies so it can be confusing if you take your eye off your buddy too.
back in a remote island in the philippines, cattle (& carabaos too)traders need to transport their stocks to the main island which is about an hour away by a motorized banca. What they do is tie up these poor guys and drag them in the water single file to the main island.
Please re read what TexasMike wrote. I agree 100% with what he has said.
I hate the term " Cattle Boats." It implies herds of divers, and bad service and that is not the case.
A larger boat that holds more divers, also has more luxuries then most smaller boats. And I believe these boats are better for some new divers.
If you're in a small boat more then likely you will have to do a backward roll into the water. Several new divers get disorientated for a few minutes after doing this. Having some forward strides under your weight belt first could make you more comfortable and ready for the small boat non-luxury situation.
Also, the larger boats have heads, and canopies to keep the sun out.
Let's try to not use that awful term anymore. This is not an awful experience, most of the time.
There are so many divers that like live a boards. What are those not frowned on, and these larger boats are?
but when you are swimming along with your buddy and suddenly 20+ divers descend on you all at once in a confused bundle I think you would be unhappy too.....
I don't like the look of some of those larger live aboards that may advertise 5* service but has facilities for 25+ divers. The max on a live aboard I have dived was about 20 but it was a club trip and we had 2 divemasters on the boat, 2 instructors and 2 DM's in training in the group so we split up into much smaller groups to do our own thing.
"Cattle boats" here on Guam are boats that primarily have vacation tour groups on them. They normally go to the same sites day after day, and most of the divers on board are of the "dive once or twice" a year variety. The divers, for the most part, are clueless (with some exceptions) and each group has their own divemaster to baby sit them. Our shop does rent spaces to tour groups on every morning trip...but they also have a "local" boat that goes out in the morning. That boat usually is packed full, but the difference is in the divers. They know the basic rules, don't need baby sitters, and have respect for other divers on board.
It all depends on where you are diving. I went on a "cattle boat" in Yap, and everyone there was very professional and knew what they were doing. There were at least 30 on board, and we all went to the same sites, but everyone gave each other space.
I don't know if this helps, but don't rule out big boats. Just ask if they have tour groups on board. Like Natasha said, the big boats have the most advantages. And, from what I understand...live-a-boards moor to one spot for hours. That mean everyone doesn't jump in the water at the same time. If you want a divemaster, they will provide one. But, anyone can jump in at anytime if you feel comfortable doing so.
h'mmmmm I think I got hit by one of your "Tour Groups" in the incident I was thinking about on the my post. Diving on "The Tanker" I think you call it in Guam and also Finger Reef (if that's the one with the annoying sub driver?)