Holidays on water: Where to make a splash

Whether you want to go sailing, diving or spotting wildlife, Mark Rowe suggests some adventurous waterborne holidays
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The Independent Travel

1. Spot rare Kiwi wildlife

If it's water you're after, head for Fiordland, tucked away in the south-west of New Zealand's South Island. This is the wettest part of the country, but don't be deterred - all that rain makes for spectacular waterfalls and lush landscapes. Take an overnight cruise on the luxurious Fiordland Navigator along the remote and isolated Doubtful Sound. This locally booked tour will whisk you there via Lake Manapouri, while you may spot fur seals and rare Fiordland penguin.

Why go? This is an outstanding cruise, bordering on the luxury status, professionally operated by genuine Kiwi outdoor enthusiasts.

Contact: Real Journeys (00 64 3 249 7416; realjourneys.co.nz) offers two-day packages to Doubtful Sound from Queenstown and Te Anau for £150 per person.

2 Save the whale in Scotland

Mull and its sister islands are the best places in Britain to see minke whales, along with harbour porpoises and common and bottlenose dolphins. If you are interested in learning more about our neighbours in the sea, sign up for one of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust's research projects, based on board the trust's 60ft sailing yacht, the Silurian.

Why go? A chance to get close to whales, and you don't need scientific knowledge.

Contact: The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (01688 302620; hwdt.org) offers one-week placements from £475, including accommodation and food.

3 Sail from a Maldives atoll

A 30-minute flight over the atolls of the Maldives from the capital Male will deliver you to Ari atoll, the home of Dhoni Mighili, a collection of six luxurious traditionally hand-crafted Maldivian sailboats, known as dhonis. The fully air-conditioned 65ft vessels, with bathrooms designed by Philippe Stark, operate with both traditional ivory sail and motor. Each is anchored by an adjacent beach bungalow with outdoor bathroom and waterfall showers. A dedicated "thakuru" - Maldivian butler, captain and crew - offers a 24-hour personal service and will cook you dinner on deck under the stars.

Why go? Simply put, this has to be one of the world's most luxurious boating experiences.

Contact: Seasons in Style (01244 202000; seasonsinstyle. co.uk) offers seven nights at Dhoni Mighili from £4,845, on an all-inclusive basis, including flights and transfers. Also visit dhonimighili.com.

4 Cruise the unknown Med

Fred Olsen is offering a cruise along the Dalmatian coast, departing from Southampton on 5 May. The ship calls at Palma, Corfu and Bari and spends a night in Venice before sailing south-east for Dubrovnik. The ship will then visit the ancient Albanian town of Durres, on a small peninsula, before returning via Gibraltar.

Why go? The Dalmatian coast is spectacular and the ports are less visited than other parts of the Mediterranean.

Contact: Fred Olsen Cruises (01473 742424; FredOlsenCruises.co.uk) offers its 21-day Mediterranean cruise from £2,261 per person including all meals and entertainment.

5 Stop pining for the fjords

Norway's fractured coastline is the inspirational setting for a voyage aboard the Hurtigrute. The ship nudges its way north from Bergen, visiting remote towns until it reaches Kirkenes near Russia.

Why go? This is one of the world's great voyages, with enough to keep fjord spotters happy for years.

Contact: Norwegian Coastal Voyage (020-8846 2666; norwegiancoastal voyage.com) offers six-night packages on board the Hurtigrute from £600. This includes full board and en-suite cabin from Bergen to Kirkenes and return flight from Kirkenes to Oslo. International flights are extra.

6 Get close to the coral reef

The Asian tsunami highlighted the crucial role that coral reef plays in coastal protection. Anyone with snorkelling and diving experience can join Thailand's Colourful Reefs project, run by Earthwatch, the conservation organisation. If you join the project, which is based in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea, you will collect data that will help to shape conservation plans, while also probably bumping into sea turtles and whale sharks.

Why go? The project offers a valuable insight into why Asia's coral reefs matter more than tourists.

Contact: Earthwatch (01865 318831; earthwatch.org) offers 10-day placements on its Thai coral reef project from £1,095, which includes accommodation, transfers and meals but not flights.

7 Find peace on the Shannon

Navigating between the north and south of Ireland has been made possible by the reopening of the Shannon-Erne Waterway linking the Shannon and the Erne rivers. The Erne, which winds its way south from Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, is far less travelled than the Shannon. Upper Lough Erne is dotted with hundreds of islands while the Lower Lough Erne, which stretches from Belleek to Enniskillen, has spectacular cliffs rising up 900ft. From Tully Bay, it takes a couple of days to reach the Shannon-Erne waterways, a series of 16 locks, before you join the Shannon. There are hundreds of moorings along the way, many by towns.

Why go? One of the most relaxing ways to explore one of Ireland's lesser-known gems.

Contact: Carrickcraft (028 3834 4993; cruise- ireland.com) offers a seven-day cruise, starting in Tully Bay in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and finishing in Carrick-on-Shannon on the motor boat Kilkenny, which sleeps four people with two additional pull-down beds, from £959.

8 Go fishing without guilt

A range of "divorce free" fishing holidays has been launched by Angling Direct Holidays. Trips to British Columbia allow anglers to catch wild salmon and sturgeon, while partners can go whale-watching, scuba- diving or horse-riding.

Why go? It keeps anglers and their families amused.

Contact: Angling Direct Holidays (01603 407598; anglingdirectholidays. com) offer seven days from £1,500 per angler (based on two anglers) and £1,100 for non-anglers. This includes flights, b&b, fishing equipment and boat hire.

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