Diving holidays are similar to any other holiday, except your interests and needs are going to be slightly different from the general crowd. Guidebooks generally indicate the best restaurant or most vibrant nightlife in the area, but if you are looking the best place to see delicious healthy coral and dance the night away with some scorpion fish then you might want to check out a different type of research.
Just like when picking a country destination in accordance to your interests, divers pick their destination in accordance to their interests too. Drift Divers, Wreck Divers, Night Divers and Underwater Digital Photographers, Technical Divers etc. All these different type of diver will be looking for different things out of their diving holidays, and when travelling with a family who have non-diving members there a lot of things to consider when choosing your final destination.
There is a variety of types of dive groups holidaying, some with spouses on their way to ‘Shell Village’ tours, and some with little kids coming back from ‘Kids Club’, and a lot of them with solely diving in mind (Dive Clubs and Students wishing to further their Diving Education), so it is important to make sure you choose carefully your diving holiday to include all parties.
For strictly no-nonsense divers, the size of the hotel room or the décor in the lounge area will not be a factor. The only thing you will be concerned with will be what season is the best for Manta Ray and can you fit in breakfast before the boat leaves?
For those travelling with non-diving companions, there are many other activities that don’t involve getting wet that you will need to deliberate on. Island hopping, local history tours, nice places to eat and even other water based activities on the surface like windsurfing, parasailing, jetskis and canoeing are all in consideration when choosing the appropriate destination.
Obvious holiday destinations like the Caribbean and Australia are all well and good but what if you wanted to up the ante a little? Surprisingly, perfect locations for diving can be found in the most offbeat of places.
Artistic and snap happy divers can bask in underwater aquarium of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil. With crystal clear visibility up to 50 metres in some areas, for example dive site Corveta, and dolphins, turtles and stingrays flocking to the area, Fernando de Noronha is a tropical island 545 kilometres from the coast of Pernambuco. Diving here is literally mandatory, and you can't barely help yourself when you see what’s awaiting your approval below the surface. Hopefully you will not to be too busy with your camera and the surroundings to miss out on the beautiful array of tropical fish that remain there. Dive vary in depth with the shallowest, ‘Navio do Leao’, being a snorkelers and free diver’s dream at 3 metres. The high level of respect for marine life makes it the ideal spot for the underwater naturalist. This area is actually the home of Brazil’s first Marine Park and Unesco World Heritage Site with more than 70% of the island being protected. Dolphins Bay is a perfect breeding ground for Doplhins, including the most acrobatic spinner Dolphin.
Going further into the ecologically friendly aspect of Fernando de Noronha, check out the Conversation Centre at environmental organisation Projeto Tamar, where you can witness first time green Turtles and hatched Hawksbill take their first steps in to the ocean. For the non-diver or for repetitive divers needing some surface time, there is dune buggying or horse riding. The isolation of this island is magnified by the fact that only 420 tourist can visit it at a time. But this is not a stopover, give yourself at least a week to pace yourself out to see everything on offer.
Romantic Divers will fall in love with areas of the Maldives, known for their weddings on the beach and breath-taking dives in their famed rare underwater landscapes. Some hotels go one step further with secret wedding dive sites. Most of them offer indoor and outdoor Spa pavilions adding to the romantic theme of having side by side massage beds for couples. But don’t count the Maldives out if you are planning a family holiday, as there are plenty of activities for all ages! These include local excursions to neighbouring villages where you can experience the wonderful culture of the Maldivians. Aquatic lovers who prefer to snorkel can avail of the many snorkelling trips and glass bottom boat rides that provide a look at the marine life without ever having to re-style your hair or wrestle with soap to remove the salt on your skin. Experience night fishing with the local dedicated Maldavians -fishing is a cultural ritual here with celebrations to be had after a good catch. And learn more about the local islands from trips to some inhabited and uninhabited islands.
Historical Divers and Jacques Cousteau fans will have to visit the Great Blue Hole in Belize. Cousteau decided to declare this wonder of nature the world’s best dive site, when in 1971 he descended down off into this magnificent abyss. The eclectic view of The Blue Hole was formed when the ceiling of an underground cave collapsed, allowing the diver to be able to swim next to complex limestone stalactites and sophisticated wall formations. The massive depth causes the deep blue indigo colour which in turn creates the ‘blue hole’ structures. The enigma of this site doesn’t stop at the enticing colours of this ‘blue hole’, coral surrounds the hole except in 2 narrow channels, so at low tide it breaks the surface and the multiplicity of marine life is really complimentary to the deep blue backdrop. Due to its protection by the Belize Audubon Society and The Blue Hole being a National Monument of Belize, it is no wonder in 1997 it was declared a World Heritage site. Belize has plenty other things to offer in the form of the Altun Ha Ruins, a mayan ruin close to the city of Belize or Belize’s largest Mayan Ruin, Caracol Ruins. The local Belize Zoo sports a range of wild animals used to make documentary films. And for those who prefer to stay on the surface but still enjoy the hint of the adventure the Caves Branch River could be your thing. It flows through the Mayan mountains in central Belize and travels for miles underground.
Adventurous Divers like ones with a dedicated Wreck Dive logbook or particular deep diving profiles will find there is nothing better than Malta. Famous for its technical diving because of the calm water conditions and deep wrecks, and if you combine that with the beautiful architecture and amazing cultural delicacies, Malta truly is a well-rounded holiday destination. Places like St Pauls Bay or island of Gozo and Comino satisfy even the most hard to please diver. Plenty of manmade wrecks to occupy your time and excellent courses in Nitrox and Technical diving to further enhance your diving education. Take up a night dive to see these wrecks through torch light so you can really feel the history. An impressive wreck cleared as safe to penetrate and explore would be the Rozi, a tugboat sunk at 35 metres. Beside the Rozi there is the P29 Patrol Boat, Malta’s latest edition to the wreck mass. Enjoy the magnificent night dives at the Moari, Malta’s most famous wreck. With the cheap flights and very reasonable hotel rates, coupled with supreme deals at the local diving schools you can find yourself diving 3 times a day (night dive optional) and spend less than in an all inclusive holiday resort. Malta has plenty of reasons to be dived, but what you may not know is the superb attractions for the non diver. Beautiful visits to Mdina old city and night outs at the Chamber of Mysteries, you will find it hard to say goodbye to this European paradise.
Relaxed and laidback divers who prefer to glide, will enjoy the drift diving possibilities of Tobago in the Caribbean. While the visibility may vary from 15m – 50m, the marine life more than makes up for it with attractions from assortment of species including schools of jackfish and tarpon, turtles, rays and sharks. With the strong Guayana current flowing alongside the Atlantic coast and up through Speyside, the north end of Tobago, the drift dives are some of the most spectacular in the Caribbean. Boasting the largest brain coral colony, measuring 5.3 metres across and 3 metres in height, drift diving here may just impress the most seasoned drift diver. Over twenty dive sites are connected to you from a short boat side off the Speyside coast, giving you access to a multitude of drift diving. Other activities include riding horses in the ocean at Buccoo and the Historical museum. Checking out the Tobago Forest Reserve will keep the kids entertained all day with a 2-hour hike and plenty of attractions like its amazing waterfalls hidden inside this local treasure, making Tobago a holiday you and the family will never forget. One and two week holiday options are available and diving can be arranged for the whole of the holiday or just one or 2 days depending on your schedule.
Recent graduates of Open Water and Introductory Divers can dwell in the warm waters and calm conditions of Eilat in Israel. Here the usual schedule is 5 days shore or boat diving included on one week package price, depending on which resort you will choose. Diving couldn’t be easier here with most dive sites being right off the shore on the reef. For those divers suffering seasickness no need to worry about long boat rides on choppy waters, just so they can have an exciting dive. Just simply walk straight in because, and enjoy the slope dropping off so close from the shore you can reach 20 – 40 metres depth in a matter of minutes. This means you are just moments away from the vibrant fish life and healthy corals. The popular dive site ‘Nature Reserve’ is home to the famous Joshua and Moses Rocks. Moses Rock is a big coral head housing an animated reef with an outstanding bio-diversity. ‘Nature Reserve’ ends where the ‘Japanese Gardens’ begins, which is only accessible by boat. ‘Neptune Tables’ dive site is found between 15m – 40 m and holds the ancient tables of Acropora corals which attracts abundant marine life. Eilat is full of trigger fish, puffer fish, moray eels, octopus, sea snakes, stonefish and crocodilefish. Also to be seen are frogfish groupers, barracudas, tons of coral reef fish and clown fish and peoples favourite’s turtles and different variety of rays including eagleray stingrays and blue spotted rays. It doesn’t stop there with occasional dolphins and sporadic Whale Sharks this area is rich in aquatic life and a healthy environment for coral. Beginner divers can enjoy the pristine and tranquil learning environment and more experienced divers will appreciate the deep or technical dives.
If the idea of a typical hotel food and sand in your bed doesn’t appeal to you, you may then take a different approach with the liveaboard holiday. These liveaboard trips are for hardcore divers only, with some of them boasting up to 4-5 dives a day. The beauty of the mobile location is you get the best chance to experience new dive sites every day and don’t have to worry about making it on time for the boat to depart from the dock. Some cruise ships do come equipped with Diving as an activity, so for the family who have non-divers attached, this might be the perfect choice.
With the liveabroad option, you can dive in the most inquisitive and impressive places without having to worry about if the dive will be good or not, since all these dives are handpicked by professionals and guaranteed quality. There are even changed in accordance to the optimum time of year in the particular area so your dive appetite is satisfied thoroughly. Unfortunately this exclusive experience don't come cheap. With everything you need catered for, including all meals included and free drinks (from coffee to soft drinks to beer), the only question you need answered is how soon can I come aboard? Read more about Liveaboard inspiration travels in our article Liveaboard Diving.
By Aoibhe Searlait Ní Chinnéide