Scuba Diving Vacations in Asia, Pacific and Africa Scuba Dive Asia Blog - liveaboard dive travel & dive resorts diving holidays Mon, 19 Dec 2016 14:11:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 All Aboard The Nautilus Explorer Fri, 05 Dec 2014 10:55:58 +0000 When it comes to scuba diving in Mexico, most divers think instinctively of the Caribbean dive sites of the Yucatan. However, Mexico’s Pacific coast also offers some spectacular sites- including some of the best liveaboard diving in the world. The Nautilus Explorer is one such liveaboard, offering luxury trips ranging from a week to two weeks in length. The itineraries of the Nautilus Explorer incorporate the very best of the Mexican East Pacific, and act as a gateway to treasures that include Guadalupe Island, the Revillagigedo Archipelago and the Sea of Cortez. While Mexico’s east coast is defined by its colorful reefs and thriving tropicals, the west coast is the domain of big animal encounters and even bigger thrills. The adventures offered by the Nautilus Explorer accordingly revolve around some of the underwater world’s most sought after characters- from giant manta rays, to great white sharks and colonies of playful sea lions. Best of all, a trip aboard the Nautilus Explorer means encountering these magnificent species in consummate luxury. The vessel is designed to offer absolute comfort and safety, with spacious staterooms, a separate dining room, and a main salon stocked with bar, entertainment centre and library. On the top deck, guests can soak up the Mexican sun between dives, or relax at the end of the day beneath the stars whilst enjoying the vessel’s freshwater hot tub. The Nautilus Explorer is a gastronomer’s fantasy, with professional chefs serving up fine cuisine at every meal; truly, this is a liveaboard that offers the last word in luxury dive travel.

Of course, all the luxuries in the world mean very little without the addition of excellent diving. Fortunately, the Nautilus Explorer’s various itineraries offer such incredible underwater sights that the only hardship is choosing between them. For those that wish to get up close and personal with one of the ocean’s top predators, the Guadalupe cage diving trip seems like the obvious choice. Twenty hours by boat from the west coast of Mexico, Guadalupe Island is the very best place in the world to encounter great whites in their natural habitat. Between the months of July and November, the island is home to some of the biggest white sharks on the planet- giving you the chance to observe them in crystal clear water sometimes boasting over 45 meters/ 150 feet of visibility. The water conditions combine with the curious nature of the great whites to make this trip and underwater photographer’s dream come true; especially because the Nautilus Explorer uses a submersible cage as well as a conventional surface cage. For those that would rather dive cage-free and still come face to face with some of the ocean’s largest creatures, perhaps a trip to the Revillagigedo Archipelago and the famous island of Socorro is more your style. Here, giant mantas come within touching distance of divers, whilst shark species including silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, and schooling hammerheads are also often spotted. From January to April, Socorro is home to over 1,200 migrating humpback whales, and an encounter with these incredible cetaceans is always a possibility at this time.

As well as Guadalupe and Socorro, the Nautilus Explorer travels to several other incredible destinations in the Mexican East Pacific. From diving with sea lions and watching for whales in the Sea of Cortez, to exploring the rarely-visited Clipperton Atoll, the potential for adventure with this liveaboard charter is virtually unlimited. For those that simply cannot choose between the once-in-a-lifetime itineraries of the Nautilus Explorer, do not fret- at certain times of the year, combo trips are available that allow divers to explore two or more destinations on a single voyage. Please enquire for further details of single and combo trips, so that we can help you choose the Nautilus Explorer experience that will make your time on Mexico’s ‘other’ coast truly unforgettable.

Loloata Island Resort; The Benefits Of Being Accessibly Remote Mon, 01 Dec 2014 11:50:39 +0000 It doesn’t seem possible that a remote island paradise could be found just 25 minutes from a busy international airport- and yet, Loloata Island Resort in Papua New Guinea is proof that such places do exist. The resort is only a short journey by taxi and boat from Port Moresby’s Jacksons Airport; however, the stresses of urban life fade away immediately upon arrival and serenity reigns supreme. Loloata Island offers the discerning diver the best of both worlds- convenient accessibility, combined with the opportunity to escape to a place defined by its unparalleled diving and its relaxed pace of life. Ringed by shallow reef and dressed in the emerald green of dense tropical vegetation, the island stands as a testament to nature’s beauty; whilst the resort itself offers the very best in Melanesian hospitality. There are two types of room available at Loloata Island Resort- those located directly on the beachfront, and those elevated on the side of the single hill from which the island gets its name. All rooms have private facilities and balconies complete with an ocean view- whilst guests will have the chance to sample delicious local specialties at the sumptuous meal time buffets. Loloata Island Resort is an excellent choice for those with non-diving traveling companions, too. Alternative activities on the island include bushwalking, birdwatching, fishing, snorkeling, indulging in sightseeing tours and shopping trips to Port Moresby- and of course, simply soaking in the delights of the island’s pristine beaches.
reef papua new guinea loloata dive resort
However, it’s also true that this destination epitomizes everything that one could hope for from a scuba diving vacation. Papua New Guinea dive resorts are the gateway to the incredible underwater sights that this tiny nation has to offer, and Loloata Island Resort is no exception. Papua diving is famous for its incredible biodiversity, boasting ten times as many coral species as the Caribbean and twice the number of fish species found in the Red Sea. The islands that make up the country are washed by the waters of three seas, and reap the benefits of a truly diverse ecosystem as a result. Loloata Island is famous in particular for the astounding number of macro species found amongst its dive sites; and for the numerous World War II wrecks that haunt its shores as a result of its proximity to Port Moresby. Loloata Island Resort is well equipped to offer visitors the very best of Papua New Guinea scuba diving, with two specifically appointed dive vessels, an extensive array of rental equipment, and excellent facilities that cater to every pre- and post-dive need. Dives are offered three times a day, with the option for additional night dives upon request. Within easy reach of the island itself is the smaller Lion Island, which is famous for its impressive hard corals and for its incredible muck diving opportunities. Underwater photographers and macro enthusiasts alike will delight at the chance to come face to face with myriad species of rare pipefish, nudibranch, cuttlefish and squid, all in the shallows of the island’s dive sites.
yawning rhinopeas
Loloata itself also offers some spectacular diving, from wrecks like the MV New Marine and the MV Pacific Gas that are literally thriving with life; to the sheer wall of The Big Drop, which offers the chance to see everything from large pelagics to tiny pygmy seahorses. Diversity is certainly the name of the game when it comes to scuba diving in Papua New Guinea – something that Loloata Island Resort showcases at every turn. Diving is possible year round at this destination, although the months with the calmest seas and the best visibility are October to December, and April to May. Water temperatures range from 25 C/ 76 F to 30 C/ 86 F, whilst visibility depends largely on the specific site and time of year.
coral whips loloata dive resort png

South Africa Launches First Six Hope Spots Fri, 28 Nov 2014 08:26:14 +0000 Dr Sylvia Earle South Africa Hope SpotsIn 2009, world renowned oceanographer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle was awarded the TED Prize, given annually to an individual with a vision to change the world for the better. With the funds she received with the prize, Dr. Earle founded the marine conservation organization Mission Blue, through which she subsequently launched her Hope Spot initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to create a global network of marine protected areas (or Hope Spots), each one chosen because it is considered critical for one reason or another to the future health of the oceans. There are currently 51 Hope Spots in existence, and this December will mark the launch of the first six in South Africa.

Scuba diving in South Africa is renowned for being amongst the best in the world. It is also amongst the most diverse, as is to be expected from a country that boasts no fewer than 136 distinct ocean habitats. Together, those habitats are home to over 11,000 marine species, of which a significant amount are found nowhere else on Earth. The key to South Africa’s biodiversity is its unique location at the confluence of three oceans, where warm and cold water currents meet and allow for the existence of temperate and tropical species alike. The imminent launch of South Africa’s first six Hope Spots pays tribute to the country’s astonishing marine resources- and underlines the importance of conserving them.

The locations chosen as South Africa’s flagship Hope Spots are False Bay, the Cape Whale Coast (near Hermanus), Knysna, Plettenburg Bay, Algoa Bay and Aliwal Shoal. Each have been selected for their environmental importance- for example, the Knysna estuary is home to the endemic Knysna seahorse, whilst the African penguin colonies that live in Algoa Bay account for 43% of the global population of these endangered birds. Each of the South African Hope Spots were also chosen because they are ideally positioned to facilitate the involvement of local communities- a concept that is central to the South African Hope Spot initiative and which makes these Hope Spots in particular so special.

Currently, 23% of South Africa’s 3,100km coastline is protected by government sanctioned Marine Protected Areas. However, because there is no real collaboration with or inclusion of local communities, the rules and regulations of these MPAs are tenuously enforced at best. South Africa is a country where countless impoverished people depend upon the ocean for their livelihoods, and where the majority of the population lacks the awareness or the opportunity to contribute to marine conservation efforts. If the new Hope Spots are to succeed, and to be sustainable in the longterm, they must address human issues as well as environmental ones.

The South African Hope Spots will be facilitated by Mission Blue’s South African partner, the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST). SST’s focus will be on making the Hope Spots fully inclusive, and on making marine conservation a concern not only for scientists and conservationists but for every South African- regardless of their race, income, profession or age. In order to achieve this goal, the Hope Spot committees in each location will be comprised of representatives from the worlds of science and academia, but also from business, politics, agriculture and the local community. The Hope Spots will focus particularly on education outreach programs, thereby teaching the children of today why we must conserve the marine ecosystems of tomorrow.

This month, the Hope Spots will be officially launched by Dr. Earle, who will embark on a ten day tour from Cape Town to Durban to promote the initiative and meet with community members in each location. When the tour is over, the real work will begin- in the form of action days and citizen science programs that will give members of the general public the chance to contribute to valuable conservation research projects. The December tour will coincide with the launch of a coffee table book created by SST and celebrating the relationship between humanity and the ocean. The funds raised from its sales will go directly into an education fund, which will be available for the Hope Spot committees to use to produce education materials and organize activity days for local schools.

The ways in which the Hope Spots will involve people from all echelons of society are almost endless- from enlisting the help of dive centers in each location to monitor underwater data buoys, to connecting isolated research groups working in the same area. As an international initiative with the backing of Dr. Earle and Mission Blue, the Hope Spots will attract attention and funding to little-known conservation projects within their remit. Eventually, SST aims to construct an education centre in each Hope Spot location, to allow as many schoolchildren as possible to be reached and inspired. Overall, the goal of the Hope Spots is to incentives South Africa as a nation to care about the future of its marine environments, by involving them in the fight to save them.

If the Hope Spots can succeed in this, Dr. Earle will have realized her vision to change the world for the better- and South Africa’s dive sites will remain some of the most impressive on the planet.

Four Of The World’s Best Whale Shark Destinations Sun, 29 Jun 2014 14:32:41 +0000 There’s no doubt that the whale shark is not only one of the most charismatic marine species in the world, but also that it is one of the dive community’s very favorites. Perhaps it’s the combination of its great size with its peaceful, docile nature; perhaps it’s the challenge that they offer underwater photographers, or maybe it’s just the sheer wonder of swimming alongside one of the ocean’s most enigmatic, impressive creatures. Whatever their charm is, it’s a fact that the whale shark holds the number one spot on many divers’ bucket list, and that each year, thousands of people travel far and wide just to encounter them in their natural habitat. There are a few very special places on this planet where whale sharks are seen with rare reliability; here is a list of five of our favorites*.

1. Isla Mujeres, Mexico
The prospect of scuba diving in Mexico holds many attractions, not least of which is the world’s largest whale shark aggregation. The Quintana Roo province is home to several fantastic spots for encountering these magnificent animals, but in recent years the island of Isla Mujeres has earned a reputation as the best of them all. In 2009, 420 whale sharks were spotted simultaneously from the air in the waters near the island, setting a record for the most ever seen at one time. Drawn by the spawning of the little tunny, the whale sharks can be seen at Isla Mujeres from June to September, in clear, deep water. Although never guaranteed, visitors during those months are likely to see several sharks on a single trip, while common sightings of manta rays and other passing pelagics provide an added bonus.

2. Praiha do Tofo, Mozambique
This idyllic beach town in Inhambane province undoubtedly constitutes one of the highlights of diving Mozambique. As well as offering spectacular reefs with a staggering level of biodiversity, Tofo is a true mecca for whale shark fanatics. There, local operators run ocean safaris to meet the area’s sharks and mantas, which are present in the area year round. Although Tofo can’t match Isla Mujeres for the sheer number of whale sharks that grace its waters, October to March certainly sees impressive concentrations, sometimes numbering more than twenty individuals. Tofo is a special place in its own right, however- thanks to its remote location and its relative lack of development, whale shark encounters here are likely to be among the least crowded and therefore most natural in the world.

3. Donsol, Philippines
Philippines diving is famous for shark encounters- namely, for the thresher sharks of Malapascua Island, and for the whale sharks of Donsol and Oslob. Visitors to the Philippines have a choice when it comes to seeing whale sharks- on the one hand, they can be seen from time to time at many of the country’s dive sites on scuba. For those wanting a more concrete probability of seeing the giant fish, however, the towns of Donsol and Oslob provide whale shark hotspots on Luzon and Cebu islands respectively. While Oslob may boast a greater number of sharks, they are enticed to the area because they are fed by local fishermen- a practice that is controversial in terms of its impact on whale shark populations. If you’re looking for a more organic and more conservation friendly experience, make your way to Donsol instead. As an added bonus, the Philippines is definitely a good choice for those on a budget, where whale shark tours are amazingly affordable.

4. Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia
Cenderawasih Bay is probably the least well-known destination on this list, and one of Indonesia’s best kept secrets. In a country famous for its diving, Cenderawasih Bay is something of a phenomenon located on the northern coast of Papua to the far east of the archipelago. There, whale sharks gather to feed from floating platforms used by local fishermen to sift small baitfish from the water- incredibly, the fishermen and the sharks seem to happily coexist and the bay is home to some very large sharks, with an average size of 40 feet. Because the sharks are so busy taking their taxes from the floating platforms, visitors can get very close indeed. The bay is also home to some beautiful sights typical of diving Indonesia, with highlights including dugongs, World War II wrecks and an incredible array of marine life.

* It is worth noting that in each of these places, whale shark encounters happen via snorkel, rather than on scuba.

Going Off The Map – The Remote Beauty Of The Solomon Islands Fri, 20 Jun 2014 13:08:21 +0000 Imagine a country made up of over 900 lush volcanic islands, a third of which are uninhabited; where cultural identity thrives, where the land is a tangle of tropical rainforest and the ocean is a wonderland of colorful reef and historic wrecks. If in your mind’s eye you are seeing a scattering of emerald islands ringed with white gold beaches and sapphire seas, you’re probably imagining a place that looks a lot like the Solomon Islands. Located 1,200 kilometers northeast of Australia in the southwest Pacific, the Solomon Islands are a true adventurer’s fantasy- a place that remains untouched by urban development and the taint of pollution, and where nature still revels in all its considerable glory. From tiny atolls to more significant islands, the country’s interior offers plenty of opportunities for exploration, from tumbling waterfalls, to thick jungle and colorful local villages. The real reason to visit however is for the scuba diving in the Solomon Islands, which offers pristine reefs, adrenaline-fueled big animal encounters and some of the most impressive, evocative wreck diving in the world. Best of all, thanks to the remoteness of these magical islands, there are no crowds either on land or underwater, leaving visitors free to experience the Solomons in peace.
Although diving in the Solomon Islands boasts crystal clear seas, warm water temperatures and unparalleled marine life, the country’s most unique underwater attraction is its Second World War wrecks. The seafloor around many of the islands is littered with ships and aircraft that were the casualties of the Solomon Islands campaign of 1942- 1945, in which Allied forces struggled to stop the Japanese advance into the South Pacific. In particular, the Battle of Guadalcanal sent many vessels to a watery grave, and diving around Guadalcanal Island today is therefore an unforgettable experience for any wreck-diving enthusiast. There, troop carriers, transport ships, submarines and planes can all be found, each of which now provides a stunning backdrop for the wealth of marine life that has transformed the wrecks into living war memorials. Tulagi Island is another wreck-diving hotspot, with many wrecks located just off the beach where Allied naval bombardments and amphibious landings happened simultaneously on 7th September 1942. All of the Solomon Islands’ wrecks are protected under National Heritage listings, and the salvaging of any artifacts is strictly forbidden.
A diver explores the wreck of the Soltai 61 that lies vertically jammed against a reef, Solomon Islands.
Although wrecks form a significant part of the Solomon Islands’ attraction, the country’s waters are also home to a vibrant array of marine life. Sheer walls, impressive pinnacles and thriving coral reefs provide excellent sightings of species ranging from the tiny pygmy seahorse to the giant manta ray. Schools of humphead parrotfish and angel fish can be seen moving across the reef, while the deeper water is patrolled by shoals of hunting trevally and barracuda. Popular dive sites for spotting these beautiful creatures include Tulagi’s Manta Passage, named for obvious reasons; the coral gardens and steep drop offs of Uepi; and Shark Point, a sloping reef 25 minutes from Munda where grey reef and silvertip sharks are usually seen. Macro species are rife at the Solomons’ muck diving sites, where mantis shrimp, harlequin snake eels and ghost pipefish can all be found.
There are two ways to experience the stunning and varied dive sites of this Pacific destination- either from a luxury dive resort, or with a Solomon Islands liveaboard charter. Dive resorts provide an opportunity to focus on one particular area whilst also enjoying terrestrial activities and land-based comforts, while liveaboards like the MV Bilikiki and the MV Spirit of Solomons are an excellent way to get the absolute most out of your Solomons experience by diving as many sites as possible. However you choose to discover these unique islands, one thing is for certain- doing so is sure to be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

Is Mozambican Diving Southern Africa’s Best Kept Secret? Tue, 17 Jun 2014 12:22:53 +0000 Just over two decades ago, Mozambique was a country plagued by civil war, and for many years foreign embassies advised against travel within her borders. Nowadays, the strife and misery of conflict have lifted from Mozambique, and yet she still does not attract the same influx of tourists as her neighboring countries, South Africa and Tanzania. Her deserted beaches and rural coastal towns give those that do visit the sense of having stumbled upon a magnificent secret – a paradise place not yet tainted by the unsightly trappings of a fully-fledged tourist infrastructure. Predictably for a country with a coastline that extends for more 1,250 miles and whose shores are washed by the warm waters of the Agulhas current, possibilities for scuba diving in Mozambique are endless. In the south, the dive town of Ponta do Ouro is the first port of call for travelers coming from South Africa, whilst the north of the country is home to the stunningly remote Quirimbas Archipelago. In between, the coast is littered with such an array of unique dive sites that the greatest hardship of a visit to Mozambique will be trying to decide between them.
Perhaps the most famous draw of diving Mozambique is the marine megafauna found off Inhambane province. Towns like Zavora to the south of the region provide an excellent opportunity for spotting mantas in their multitudes, whilst Praiha do Tofo is known worldwide for the reliability of its whale shark sightings. There, visitors are able to swim alongside the largest fish in the ocean in absolute harmony, in conditions considerably less overcrowded and more organic than are found at many of the world’s more popular whale shark encounter destinations. Tofo’s dive sites are also home to several manta ray cleaning stations and like everywhere else in Mozambique, offer an astounding level of biodiversity that translates into reefs positively teeming with life. Mozambique’s impressively healthy marine ecosystem is thanks in large part to the creation of several protected areas along the country’s coastline- including the Primeiras And Segundas Marine Protected Area that extends between Pemba and the Tanzanian border, and the Maputo Protection Area to the south.
Whale sharks aside, there are plenty of other highlights to Mozambican diving. The Quirimbas and the Bazaruto Archipelagoes are both good places to see the dugong, a rare relative of the manatee. Together, the two species are the only vegetarian marine mammals in the world, and to encounter them in their natural environment is a real privilege that very few divers will ever get to experience. Mozambique’s waters are home to 2,000 fish species representing over 80% of those found in the Indo-Pacific region. They are also home to five species of turtle, and in a place where the topography ranges from shallow coral gardens to soaring deep-water pinnacles, there’s no limit to what can be spotted underwater. From the tiniest macro creatures, to resident bull sharks and passing sailfish, Mozambique is a country with the capacity to equally surprise and amaze at every turn. The show continues on the surface, too, where pods of dolphins are commonly seen on the way to and from a dive site. Between June and October, divers are almost guaranteed sightings of the humpback whales that pass close to shore on their migration from the cold waters of the Antarctic.
Thanks to the warm currents that flow southwards from the Equator, water temperatures in Mozambique are a pleasant 72-82°F, while the visibility can fluctuate greatly from 33- 130 feet. Often, reduced visibility occurs as a result of increased plankton levels in the water, in which case the abundant marine life that follows the plankton is well worth the murkiness of the water. Despite Mozambique’s laidback atmosphere and rustic vibe, it is possible for divers to find all the amenities they need, from casual backpacker dive centers to luxury scuba resorts. A wide range of Mozambique dive packages are available to help you make the absolute most of your time in a country so beautiful it cannot possibly remain a secret for much longer.

Costa Rica’s Cocos Island- The Most Beautiful In The World? Tue, 10 Jun 2014 11:27:05 +0000 In 1994, legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau labelled Costa Rica’s Cocos Island as the most beautiful in the world: quite an accolade coming from a man who travelled to some of the planet’s most spectacular places during his lifetime. Located 340 miles off Costa Rica’s western shore, Cocos is certainly a breathtaking sight; a prehistoric landmass of jutting mountain peaks and lush rainforest emerging from the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It has many unique features, including cloud forests that are found nowhere else in the region and which are home to a host of rare and endemic species. However, for all the beauty of the island’s verdant landscape and many, tumbling waterfalls, Cocos’ real magic lies not on land but beneath the waves that lap upon its shores. Sheer walls, strong currents, soaring pinnacles and an abundance of nutrient-rich upwellings combine to make the waters around Cocos some of the most diverse on the planet. Over the years, the dynamic nature of the island’s diving as well as the thrilling number of marine species found there have deservedly earned Cocos a reputation as a once-in-a-lifetime dive destination- and made it the undisputed highlight of scuba diving in Costa Rica.

Eagle rays _ Manuelita_Herreno

The island’s underwater topography is a wonderland of caves, tunnels, channels and impressive pinnacles; all of which are home to over 300 species of fish, 27 of which are found nowhere else in the world. When diving Cocos, the possibilities for rare and unusual sightings are endless- from passing pelagics like yellowfin tuna and sailfish, to the many shark species for which the island is so famous. Of these, the most iconic of the island’s inhabitants are the scalloped hammerheads, which aggregate in their hundreds around Cocos’ underwater sea mounts. This is one of the few places in the world where divers can observe this extraordinary species in such numbers, and the sight is both incredibly beautiful and utterly unforgettable.

Hammer heards school _ Alcyone_Herreno
The hammerheads are by no means the only sharks to be found on Cocos’ dive sites, however- the area is also home to silvertips, tigers, blacktips, Galapagos sharks and marauding gangs of hungry whitetip reef sharks. It really is a pelagic paradise, where giant shoals of trevally and other large gamefish are commonly sighted, and where cruising mantas and whale sharks often appear to feast on the nutrient upwellings that are the key to the island’s incredible biodiversity. Because Cocos Island is located so far from land and surrounded by deep water, passing whales and dolphins are also frequently spotted; thereby completing the checklist of incredible encounters made possible by a visit to this exceptional place.

tiger by harry_cropped
Of course, Cocos’ charm and unspoiled magic is due in large part to its remoteness. The journey to the island takes 36 hours by boat from Puntarenas on the Costa Rican mainland, and the diving there can only be done via a specific Cocos liveaboard. It is recommended that divers planning to visit the island have at least 25 hours of experience underwater due to the unpredictable currents and the depth of some of Cocos’ dive sites. Depth is a defining characteristic of Cocos diving, and in a place where the majority of dive sites are deeper than 60 feet it is imperative that divers have a minimum certification of Open Water (or equivalent), with specialties in Night and Deep diving. Strong currents aside, the conditions at Cocos Island are typically good, with visibility ranging between 60- 100 feet and water temperatures hovering between 73- 84°F. It is possible to dive at Cocos throughout the year, with divers having to choose between better visibility and calmer seas in the dry season (December to May), and reduced visibility but better sightings of mantas and whale sharks during the rainy season due to seasonal nutrient blooms. Whenever you choose to go to Cocos Island, one thing is for certain- this is a destination that still deserves its Cousteau stamp of approval, and which for once, absolutely lives up to the hype.

Discovering The Magic Of The Maldives Thu, 05 Jun 2014 09:36:12 +0000 It seems inevitable that a nation comprised of over 1000 islands should offer some of the most spectacular diving in the world, and the Maldives does exactly that. The key to the archipelago’s rich marine life and beautiful coral reefs are the currents that bring a constant stream of nutrient rich water to the islands. Scuba diving in the Maldives offers visitors the chance to experience three distinct types of diving, including high adrenaline drifting between the island channels and along the sheer coral walls that make up the atolls’ outer edges; exploring the more sedate waters in the lagoons; and marveling at the huge number of species that are drawn to the region’s many pinnacles, or thilas.
The waters of the Maldives literally thrive with life, from the microscopic to the massive; from tiny crustaceans to the mantas and whale sharks for which the area is so famous. In the channels between the islands in particular, swiftly moving currents make for a dynamic environment that attracts impressive shoals of large pelagics, giant reef fish and passing sharks. Napoleon wrasse, schools of jacks and snapper, eagle rays and grouper are all common sights in the passes and channels of the Maldives.
Cleaning stations are another highlight of Maldivian diving, where divers can enjoy reliable encounters with one of the ocean’s most graceful, awe-inspiring species, the manta ray. It is possible to see several of these amazing creatures on a single dive, and mantas are present in the islands’ waters all year round. For those seeking encounters with other large marine species, atolls throughout the Maldives offer opportunities to spot whale sharks, thresher sharks, hammerheads and tigers. Due to the sprawling nature of the archipelago’s islands, one of the best ways to experience them is with a Maldives liveaboard charter. In this way, you not only maximize your time in the water but also gain access to some of the country’s most remote, pristine reefs.

Alternatively, Maldives dive resorts are a good option for those keen to take advantage of the atolls’ perfect beaches as well as the underwater treasures found just offshore. The long stretches of fine white sand and arching palm trees are the definition of tropical paradise, and resorts like the Bandos Island Resort on North Male atoll enable you to enjoy the very best of both worlds.
bandos island
Scuba diving is possible in the Maldives all year round, although many of the liveaboard charters run predominantly between November and May thanks to the rains bought by the southwest monsoon in the summer months. Visibility is typically spectacular in the Maldives, averaging between 65-130 feet, while water temperatures range from 78-84°F. Although strong currents in the island channels can mean that some dive sites are not suitable for inexperienced or nervous divers, there are plenty of sites appropriate for all levels of experience. In fact, thanks to the good conditions and amazing marine life found there, the Maldives is a great place for non-divers to get certified. Whether you’re a first time diver or a seasoned veteran; whether your interests lie with macro critters or giant pelagics; whether you like to dive five times a day or spend your afternoons relaxing on the beach, the Maldives has the potential to make your dive holiday dreams a reality.

Wrecks And Reefs | Diving The Red Sea Mon, 02 Jun 2014 08:33:03 +0000 Over the years, Red Sea diving has become the stuff of legend; a diver’s paradise where all of the most exciting aspects of the underwater world come together in a body of water so startlingly blue it is like a rare sapphire in the middle of the arid desert. Bordered by seven different countries, the Red Sea is so named thanks to the sporadic algae blooms that tint its waters from time to time throughout the year. It is a place well deserving of its reputation as a world-class dive destination, where sheer coral walls, technicolor reefs, breathtaking topography and globally renowned wreck sites jostle for attention. Amazingly for an area with a relatively high level of salinity, the Red Sea is also home to a staggering number of marine species, ranging from colorful reef fish to impressive ocean pelagics. Its diversity is thanks in part to the exchange of water that takes place with the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean through the Gulf of Aden, resulting in the presence of no fewer than 1,100 species of fish. Of those fish, almost 20% are endemic species found nowhere else in the world, making the Red Sea truly a destination like no other.
Screen shot 2010-10-07 at PM 08.40.03Although it is possible to dive from many of the countries adjacent to this unique sea’s shores, diving in Egypt has come to define the Red Sea experience. Firstly, Egypt is a fascinating destination in its own right, boasting some of the most famous terrestrial sights in the world- the treasures of Tutankhamun, the Valley of the Kings, the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians and the Nile to name but a few. Secondly, and most importantly for divers, Egypt is home to an impressive diving infrastructure that makes sampling the country’s underwater riches an absolute pleasure. Whether it’s a luxurious resort holiday, a casual beachfront dive centre or an unforgettable Red Sea liveaboard that you’re after, Egypt diving has it all. There are several locations along the Egyptian coastline from which to start your underwater adventure, including Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, Hurghada and Marsa Alam. Each of them boast astounding marine life, unbeatable visibility and warm water temperatures, so how exactly does one go about choosing between them?
Scuba diving in Sharm El Sheikh has long been the preferred way to explore the Egyptian Red Sea, and for good reason. The town is the jumping off point for the breathless, thriving dive sites of the Straits of Tiran, and the country’s oldest national park, Ras Mohammed. The latter was described by Jacques Cousteau as one of the best dive sites in the world, and its incredible diversity in terms of both reef and pelagic species substantiate that claim. Another popular feature of Sharm El Sheikh diving is the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm, a British merchant navy ship that was sunk by the Germans in 1941 and is now possibly the most famous of all the many Red Sea wrecks. Dahab is a favourite among technical divers thanks to the prevalence there of exceptionally deep dive sites, while Hurghada and Marsa Alam act as the departure points for liveaboards to the Red Sea’s spectacular southern sites. The most famous of these are Elphinstone, The Brothers and Daedalus Reef, where intense pelagic action offers the best opportunity for encountering hammerheads and the magnificent oceanic whitetip. The Brothers islands are also home to two beautiful wrecks, the Aida (only appropriate for technical divers) and the Numidia.

Wherever you choose to go, the Red Sea consistently provides some of the most rewarding diving on the planet. The summer months (from May to July) see plankton blooms that bring whale sharks and mantas in their wake, and are also the best time to spot hammerheads. From September through until April is oceanic whitetip season, while the elusive thresher sharks also prefer the cooler water of the winter months. Visibility in the Red Sea is typically unbelievable, and can range from 50-230 feet. Summer water temperatures hover at around 86° F, with the coolest temperatures falling to around 70° F in February. There are dive sites to suit all abilities, with a range of depths and currents to cater to first-time divers and experienced adrenalin junkies alike. The list of reasons to visit Egypt’s Red Sea is pretty much infinite, proving that for once, it really is possible to have it all.

Photo by Daniel Selmeczi

Photo by Daniel Selmeczi

]]> A Brief Guide To Diving Papua New Guinea Mon, 26 May 2014 08:00:12 +0000 The astonishing diversity of Papua New Guinea’s scuba diving is due in large part to its unique location at the meeting point of the Bismarck, Coral and Solomon Seas. Consequently, creatures from three distinct environments come together in Papua New Guinean waters, resulting in an incredible variety of marine life. Boasting twice as many fish species as the Red Sea, and ten times as many coral species as the Caribbean, Papua New Guinea’s underwater world consists of 52,000 square kilometers of reef systems and is truly a place like no other. Deep water channels create sheer coral walls within easy reach of the shore in some areas of the country, while in others, sheltered bays are home to unparalleled reefs made up of some of the biggest coral formations in the world. Rare macro species are found at many of Papua New Guinea’s dive sites, while others are meccas for big pelagics including sharks, turtles and enormous schools of fish. As if that were not enough, the seafloor all around Papua New Guinea is littered with wrecks, the majority of which are World War II casualties including seaplanes, cargo ships, bombers and submarines.

The country is home to an amazing array of well-run resorts, while those wishing to dive four or more times a day should consider one of Papua New Guinea’s many liveaboards. Liveaboards can be a great way to visit as many of the country’s dive sites as possible, of which there are plenty- each one very different to but equally as incredible as the next. In the sheltered environment of Kimbe Bay on New Britain Island, breathtaking marine life thrives against a backdrop of some of the planet’s most impressive coral- including giant soft corals, and hard coral species so large that they sometimes collapse under their own weight. A staggering 70% of Indo-Pacific coral species can be found in the Kimbe Bay area, where land-based and liveaboard diving can be arranged from the beautiful Walindi Resort. New Britain Island is also home to one of the best places for wreck-diving enthusiasts, Rabaul. There, a large number of ships sunk in the World War II battle for the South Pacific have since been transformed into incredible dive sites; other wreck diving hotspots include Kavieng on New Ireland Island and Loloata off New Guinea Island.
Papua New Guinea reef
Kavieng is also a prime destination for wide-angle photographers and macro photographers alike, where rarely seen critters like the pygmy seahorse and the mimic octopus live side-by-side with bigger species including large numbers of grey reef sharks. In the south of New Guinea, Milne Bay is another macro highlight, offering plenty of muck diving sites that provide the opportunity to spot amazing creatures like ghost pipefish, merlot scorpionfish and panda clownfish. New Guinea Island is also the location for one of Papua New Guinea’s most beautiful dive sites, both above and below the water. Tufi is defined by its deep fjords, which are home to incredible coral, a pair of American World War II wrecks, and a wide variety of juvenile fish. The area is serviced by Tufi Resort, which also offers dives to offshore reefs where scalloped hammerheads, reef mantas and grey reef sharks are all commonly spotted.
Although some areas see strong currents in the channels between islands, Papua New Guinean diving is generally suitable for divers of all qualifications. With balmy sea temperatures ranging between 79-87 degrees Fahrenheit, and excellent visibility of up to 150 feet, Papua New Guinea boasts the perfect conditions for first-time divers and experienced divers alike. Diving is possible year round, with the best seasons running from April to June, and from September to December.