21 best diving holidays: In search of adventure beneath the waves
Sunday 26 September 1999
The unspoilt islands of the Turks and Caicos, just south of the Bahamas, have some of the best diving in the Caribbean. Scuba Safaris (tel: 01342 851196) offers a seven-day voyage around the islands for pounds 1,250 per person, based on two sharing, for the week 23-30 October, including return flights, transfers and full-board accommodation on a luxury dive boat.
2 Manta Rays
See majestic manta rays dancing under the sunlit waters of the Maldives. Maldives Scuba Tours (tel: 01449 780220) is offering pounds 200 off its 12-night trip on the MV Sea Queen liveaboard boat with a price of pounds 1,695 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and full-board accommodation in an en suite cabin. November is a good time to see both mantas and Grey Reef sharks. Qualified divers only.
Thailand is just the place for relaxing and a diving adventure, and Tony Backhurt Scuba Travel (tel: 0800 0728221) offers a two-week trip incorporating both. The first week is spent on the Excalibur live-aboard dive boat, visiting the Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock and the Mergui Archipelago. And to recover, your second week is spent on the beautiful Phi Phi island. The holiday costs from pounds 1,700 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, b&b accommodation on the island and full board on the boat.
4 Micronesian wrecks
In February 1944, American bombers sent many Japanese ships to the bottom of the sea around Truk Lagoon in Micronesia. Now divers can explore the wrecks. Explorers Tours (tel: 01753 681999) offers a 17-day itinerary for around pounds 2,000 per person, based on two sharing, including scheduled return flights, room-only accommodation at the Truk Continental hotel and diving.
It is often difficult to know just where to dive in Africa, but Oonasdivers (tel: 01323 648924) is offering a 16-day adventure. The first week is spent on the Protea Banks, off the coast near Margate in South Africa, famed for its high-voltage shark dives. Then, after a stopover at the Hluhluwe game park, you move north over the Mozambique border where you can dive with whale sharks and huge groupers. The price is pounds 1,820 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights to Durban, transfers, full-board accommodation and diving fees.
6 The last frontier
Papua New Guinea is one of the last wildernesses and offers some awesome diving. Scuba Safaris (tel: 01342 851196) offers tailor-made holidays starting from pounds 1,400 per person, based on two sharing, for an eight-day trip to Madang, including return flights and room-only accommodation, but excluding diving fees. My advice - try and stay for longer.
7 Galapagos Islands
These islands have some of the most unusual marine life around. Out of the 307 species of fish, 50 are unique. Divequest Holidays (tel: 01254 826322) offers a seven-night cruise on a luxurious live-aboard. The price of pounds 1,625 per person, based on two sharing, includes seven nights on full- board on the boat, with five full days of diving. Flights to Quito, two stopover nights there and transfers cost an extra pounds 945. Qualified divers only.
8 Learn to dive
Learn in the warmth of the Red Sea. Goldenjoy Holidays (tel: 0171-794 9767) offers a five-day course, with either PADI or BSAC certification, for pounds 399 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, and b&b hotel accommodation.
9 James Bond
Fancy flying around one of the shipwrecks used in a James Bond film on an underwater scooter one day, then watching a couple of dozen sharks being fed just metres away from you on the next? You can if you book a dive holiday to New Providence Island in the Bahamas. Barefoot Traveller (tel: 0181-741 4319) offers a seven-day trip with five days diving at the Stuart Cove resort. The price is pounds 900 and includes return flights and room-only accommodation at the Orange Hill Hotel.
If you enjoy swimming among hundreds of hammerhead sharks, make for the Cocos Islands 260 miles off Costa Rica. Maldives Scuba Tours (tel: 01449 780220) offers a 10-day trip for pounds 2,600 per person, based on two sharing. This price includes return flights, transfers, two nights' b&b in a hotel, full board on a dive boat and diving fees.
11 Shark Rodeo
There can be few better shark dives than Walker's Cay Shark Rodeo. Divers can swim about while 50 or more hungry sharks devour a frozen cocktail of fish attached to the back of the dive boat. You can also see dolphins, a shipwreck and eat as much conch chowder as you like. Divequest Holidays (tel: 01254 826322) offers seven nights for pounds 775 per person, based on two sharing, including flights from Fort Lauderdale to Walker's Cay and half-board accommodation. Flights from London to Miami cost from pounds 340, with one night's b&b in Fort Lauderdale, and transfers. Qualified divers only.
12 Wall diving
Many divers dream about the wall diving off Manado in the northern peninsula of Sulawesi. Explorers Tours (Tel 01753 681999) offers a 10-day package doing just this at the beautiful Tasik Ria Dive Resort. The price is pounds 695, including return flights, accommodation in a twin room and one night room only in Singapore. A five-day, 10-dive package costs an additional pounds 185.
Cuba offers some great dive holidays. A 10-day trip to the Isle Of Youth with Regal Holidays (tel: 01353 778096) costs pounds 1,009 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, seven nights' full-board accommodation in an en-suite room, an overnight stay in Havana and six days diving.
14 Big game
Hammerhead and whale sharks, mantas and sea lions are just some of the creatures you will see on a diving holiday to the Sea of Cortez in Baha California. Kuoni (tel: 01306 744345) offers diving breaks at the La Concha Beach resort for from pounds 739 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, a seven-night stay at the resort and an overnight stay in Los Angeles. A five-day, 10-dive package costs an additional pounds 259.
15 Southern Red Sea
There are lots of dive holidays to the Red Sea, but only a few to Egypt's far south, close to the Sudan border. Tony Blackhurst Scuba Travel (tel: 0800 0728221) is offering a trip on the Ghazala Voyager to St Johns, Furry Shoal, Ras Banas and Elphinstone reef, departing 26 November. The price is pounds 895 per person, based on two people sharing, including return flights, transfers, full-board accommodation and diving fees. Oonasdivers (tel: 01323 648924) offers similar trips.
Dive with stingrays and turtles in Tenerife. Island Divers (tel: 01487 824428) specialises in offering small groups week-long diving breaks. The price is pounds 112.50 per person, based on four sharing, including transfers and self-catering accommodation. Return flights cost around pounds 150 extra.
17 Two oceans
The waters around Tobago, just 70 miles from Venezuela, are rich in marine life. Huge tarpon, manta rays and sharks are just some of the creatures here. Scubaway (tel: 01273 746241) offers a seven-night holiday for pounds 599 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and room- only accommodation. A 10-dive package costs pounds 210 extra.
Snorkelling in a sea of jellyfish is a bizarre experience that you can try out off the islands of Palau in Micronesia. Many visitors also stop over at the island of Yap - possibly the best place in the world to see manta rays. Divequest Holidays (tel: 01254 826 322) offers several options for a twin-centre holiday with prices from about pounds 2,000 per person, based on two sharing, for a two-week trip, including return flights, room-only accommodation and diving. Qualified divers only.
Sipadan off the east coast of Malaysia is renowned for its marine life, especially turtles. Kuoni ( tel: 01306 744345) offers a twin-centre holiday with five nights on Sipadan at the basic Sipadan dive centre and five nights at the more comfortable Layang Layang resort off the coast of Sabah. The price is from pounds 1,628 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, full-board accommodation, and diving.
A new dive experience is offered by Crusader Travel (tel: 0181-892 7606) exploring the Chinchorro Banks south of Cozumel, Mexico. A nine- day package to the Maya Ha resort costs pounds 1,695 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, full-board accommodation and diving.
On Grand Bahama, divers can literally be kissed and spun by dolphins as they play on the bottom of a sandy sea floor a mile offshore. Harlequin (tel: 01708 850330) offers seven-night holidays at the Pelican Bay hotel, a short walk from the UNEXSO dive centre. The price is pounds 723, including return flights and room-only accommodation. Certified divers only.
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