Dive Travel Awards 2019 | The Winners!
The 2019 DIVE Travel Awards saw more than 4,500 individual nominations made for 78 destinations, 470 dive centres or resorts and 215 liveaboards. With close to 20,000 votes cast across the Top 25 in each category, finally, after six months, we have the winners...
The Best Scuba Diving Destinations in the World
For the third year in succession, Indonesia tops the list of best scuba diving destinations. As the world's largest island nation in the most biodiverse region on Planet Earth, it does have something of a size advantage, but it's also worth noting that Indonesia's overall number of tourists is far less than other destinations nominated in our Travel Awards. Those who have visited would probably say that Indonesia is consistently voted as the world's top destination for scuba diving because it is, in fact, the best scuba diving destination in the world.
In a mighty second place this year is Egypt, voted third in 2018 but with almost double the numbers this year. The nation's tourism industry has struggled since the Russian Metrojet disaster of 2015 and the subsequent four-year ban on direct flights to Sharm El Sheikh from the UK. Although there has been a significant recovery in the last few years, it's far from the heady peak of 2010, and no doubt many Egyptian dive centres will be delighted with the nation's spot in the Top Three. Many divers consider the Egyptian Red Sea to be the best scuba diving in the world, and this year the numbers suggest that Indonesia may have a rival in the 2020 DIVE Travel Awards.
For the first few months, Mexico just shaded Egypt for second place before a vote surge in the later stages of the competition pushed them into third place. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic achievement given that Mexico did not even place in the Top 10 in 2018. Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Mexico offers a wide range of dive spots from the rich and colourful reefs of Cozumel to the high-energy diving of the Pacific coast - and of course, the unique cenotes of the Yucatán peninsula. Mexico joins Egypt and Indonesia with the number of votes cast significantly higher than the rest of the Top 10 dive destinations in the world, and no doubt we'll be seeing more competition next year.
The Best Dive Centres and Resorts in the World
Our 2019 winner of the accolade of Best scuba diving dive centre or resort goes to Papua Explorers Resort, a new entry to the DIVE Travel Awards. Papua Explorers is based on the shores of the Dampier Strait in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, home to some spectacular reefs and big-critter current diving. Papua Explorers started strongly, placing fifth in the first update at the end of July and moving up to fourth place by the end of August. That update seems to have had an effect as, less than three weeks later, Papua Explorers took the lead in the Travel Awards and never left it. Papua Explorers' liveaboard, Coralia, took first place in the liveaboard category.
Siladen Resort and Spa, based on Pulau Siladen in Bunaken Marine Park, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, was category winner in 2017 and 2018 and started well this year, slotting into third place for the first update at the end of July. Despite a concerted effort during the last months of the campaign, Siladen lost out to Papua Explorers by the most slender of margins – if this had been athletics it would have required a photo-finish – and can take pride in its second place, even if it means losing the crown to a competitor. We have no doubt Siladen will be coming back just as strongly next year.
Of great significance in this year's competition is third-placed Elite Diving, a small, family-run business based in Sharm El Sheikh. To have pulled through the problems of the last four years where larger dive centres had been forced to close or become mothballed is not only testament to the way that the owners have handled their business, but also to the loyalty of their customers, many of whom made the inconvenient trek to Sharm from the UK while direct flights were unavailable. With Egypt placing second in destinations, two Egyptian liveaboards placing in the Top 10, and Elite Diving taking third place in the dive centre category, this is surely another sign that Egypt's tourism industry is bouncing back.
The Best Scuba Diving Liveaboards in the World
First place in the liveaboard category this year goes to Coralia, operated by Papua Explorers, which also took first place in the dive centre and resorts category. Coralia started in second place just behind last year's winner Dewi Nusantara, and the two remained closely matched until the mid-September update, when Coralia took the lead. Although it was very much a two-horse race until the finish, Coralia's winning margin was significant.
Dewi Nusantara may have lost out to Coralia, but the margin that both boats took at the top of the table was large. In fact between them, Dewi Nusantara and Coralia garnered more votes than the next five vessels combined. Both are based in Raja Ampat and, judging by the numbers, both clearly serve the area with excellence.
Although first and second places were won by a large margin, this should take nothing away from Mermaid I's position in third. In fact, the Liveaboard category's Top 10 was probably the most competitive of them all, with just 38 votes separating third place and tenth position. In some respects, coming top of the runners-up is almost as much of a victory as winning!
All three liveaboards are based in Indonesia, proving once again why Indonesia keeps winning its place at the top of the leaderboards.
The Best Scuba Diving Travel Awards in the World
For the third year in a row, our Travel Awards have been a phenomenal success. This year, just under 20,000 total votes were cast across the three categories. We expected that it would be fewer than 2018 as we required a valid e-mail address prior to being able to vote. We recognise that not everybody wants to sign up using their e-mail address, but we felt it necessary to do so in order to prevent voter fraud. This year we used third party software by Gleam to manage the competition and, although some people out there tried – yet again – to game the system, we were able to recognise and remove fraudulent votes with ease.
Watching the vote take shape behind the scenes provides a fascinating insight into the marketing strategies behind a very competitive business. Some operators clearly relish seeing their names climb the list and keep careful track of their progress through our social media feeds and newsletters, calling out for more support when necessary. On the other hand, we noted that at least one operator had all their staff sign up, vote for themselves and then unsubscribe immediately from our newsletter. That's completely fine and perfectly legal, of course, but they didn't make the Top Ten...
We'd like to thank leading UK scuba diving travel specialists Dive Worldwide for sponsoring the 2019 Travel Awards, and we'd especially like to thank YOU, our readers, subscribers and social media followers, for making the DIVE Travel Awards as successful as it is. Without you, none of this would be possible, so once again, THANK YOU!
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