If you’re into swirling words off your tongue like buddy diving, controlled buoyant lift, demand valve and calling yourself frogman, then you’ll love these next holiday termini. Yes, the wide world of diving opens up continents and countries (and namely waters) that were once overlooked by us all. Some holidaymakers would rather stare in the face of a shark or parrotfish, look closely at a purple sea fan or yellow brain coral than do anything else. Those that prefer to go under the water instead of going over the mountain should read our list of scuba diving holidays carefully.
7. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, South America – There are a lot of reasons to globe trot to Ecuador. If you’re a diver, you won’t want to miss diving in the Galapagos Islands. Talk about being at one with nature; these creatures are endemic to only these waters. Most diving tour operators plunk you off two or three times per day. Most outings cover the best islands and areas, such as the famous Darwin, the teeming Wolf, Punta Albermarle, Cape Marshall, Santa Cruz, Gordon Rocks, Puerto Ayora and James.
6. Italy, Southern Europe – There are about one hundred reasons to visit Italy. One that tops the list of white-striped red flag wearers knows that Italy is a primo diving destination. In addition to parts off the mainland, the two islands of Sardinia and Ustica make the trip well worth it. The former puts you in the lively waters of Costa Paradiso, Stintino, Vignola, La Maddalena, and Porto San Paolo, while the latter submerges you in a 23-year-old Marine Reserve. The area is volcanic, considered by some to be some of the best diving the world over.
5. Jordan, Western Asia – Jordan offers a surprising array of diving opportunities. The one place, however, that shouldn’t be missed is the Gulf of Aqaba. The best spots are accessible right from the coast, some twenty in all. Jordan proffers warm waters and rainbows of fish. The average temperature is 23 degrees Celsius with water visibility at 20-30 meters. There are dolphins, turtles, over 100 species of soft coral, with the same number of hard coral, and schools of fish. The Red Sea is the place to be.
4. Philippines, South-East Asia - Some people holiday to the Philippines to eat fruit and lounge on the beach; others, come to choose a wife and lounge on the beach; while, still, others come to dive the vibrant azure waters. The Philippines off the Puerto Galera district is one of the best diving spots. If you’re into coral, then there’s more than 700 species here. The whole area was considered so special that it’s now off the list for industrial fishing. It was given Marine Reserve status just three years ago. The Verde Island Passage imparts tons of food for the corals, gorgonians, crinoids and other species. Plus, if you like colorful fish, then you can view blue ribbon, frogfish, ghost pipefish, fire gobies and the like.
3. Venezuela, South America – Venezuela has the most venerable National Marine Reserve in the Caribbean. The Archipelago Los Roques lies less than 100 miles (60km) north of Caracas and the same east of Bonaire. There are no less than 300 islands with reefs, islet and secluded beaches. The area is as pristine as yesteryear. There are dropping walls, underwater mountains, caves, snappers, groupers, barracudas, stingrays, turtles, sharks, and sponges. The area is becoming more known and thus crowded, but a holiday here is less crowded than many other lesser quality dive sites strewn in the Caribbean. It is still possible to be the only one diving among verdant islands.
2. Sri Lanka, South Asia – If you like marine life, but really crave ship wreck diving, then Sri Lanka offers some 200 shipwreck sites around its ginormous coastline. Shipwrecks include the 1661 Hercules, 1704 Overness, 1877 Ethopy and the 1956 Aenos, all less than 30 meters under water. The waters are warm and diving is year round, though you’ll have to go to either the east or west seashore depending on the season. The east coast gives way to six great coastal dive spots while the western side gives five that just can’t be missed. You’ll get the chance to go out on the boat for most of the dives as well.
1. New Zealand, Oceania – New Zealand gets kudos on many of our lists because it is just that great of a holiday destination. Scuba diving in New Zealand is no different, either. With 15,000km of coastline, how can it not be the perfect place to dive? Again, the northern and southern islands both offer superb diving and wreck sites. However, the North Island takes the cake with the Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve (est. 1981). The reserve presents a natural zoo of everything that is special about New Zealand’s underwater life. In fact, Jacques Cousteau loved it, and you will too. Additionally, stay for plenty of dive time to take in (or under) Bay of Islands, Fiordland and Stewart Island.
By Julie Bowman