Where Next Once the Coronavirus Lockdown is Lifted?
We've probably all had a go at diving in our bathtubs, but although that might have been fun it's already old news - and as we found out in last week's first list of lockdown longing, we're starting to get impatient. Here's five more from our post-COVID wishlist, and there's plenty more to follow!
There are not many places left in the world which you could call a true tropical wilderness but Fiji is undoubtedly among them. Covering 1.3 million sq km of ocean with a population of around 895,000 people, 90 per cent of whom live on only two of the country's 330 islands and 500 islets, most of Fiji's islands remain covered in rainforest and are surrounded by deep, nutrient-rich channels teeming with marine biodiversity. Many visitors claim it has the best shark-diving in the world, with bull, tiger, grey reef, nurse, silvertip, lemon, blacktip reef and whitetip reef sharks all regularly spotted. Reefs and walls filled with some of the richest collections of soft corals abound, with dive centres located on picture-perfect tropical islands and the furthest reefs, isolated from and unspoiled by human activity best explored by liveaboard
The Belize Barrier Reef, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was described by Charles Darwin as 'the most remarkable reef in the West Indies', and explored many years later by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who brought the famous Blue Hole to the world's attention. While the Blue Hole takes all the glory, there is far more to Belize diving, with more than 100 species of coral and 500 species of fish to be found in the surrounding waters. Loggerhead turtles frequent the reefs and in April and May each year, one of the world's largest aggregations of whale sharks takes place at Gladden Spit. During the surface interval, there are the ruins of ancient Mayan civilisation to explore, or take a walk through Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in search of jaguars. Check out our guide to one of the best scuba diving destinations in the Central American region for more information.
The Maldives must be on the wish-list of every diver that ever got certified, pandemic or no. 1,192 islands lie on a chain of 26 atolls which stretches 871km from north to south, creating approximately 300sq km of dry land in an ocean territory of more than 90,000 sq km. The reefscapes are varied and diverse, with a mixture of gentle drifts and protected lagoons to underwater islets and the high-intensity diving of the inter-island channels, where large pelagic predators wait for food to be brought to them by powerful currents. Many islands are home to small luxury resorts fronted by white-sand beaches and warm turquoise waters, but the best way to dive the Maldives is undoubtedly by liveaboard, to make the most of everything from macro to massive.
Located at the northern tip of the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba, the Jordanian port city of the same name is everything you would expect from a Red Sea diving resort, with great diving, lush corals, great wrecks - plus a whole world of history just a short bus ride away. Conditions are generally calm with little in the way of current, and steep drop-offs from gently sloping reefs make Aqaba diving suitable for anybody from absolute beginner to deep technical expert. The Cedar Pride is widely regarded as one of the best wrecks in the northern Red Sea and with a depth of only 30m, perfect for the novice wreck-diver. In recent years, two large aircraft and several tonnes of military hardware have been sunk to create an underwater, diveable military museum to add to the list of wrecks. Topside, no visit to Aqaba is complete without visiting the ancient city of Petra and, time permitting, enjoying the delights of Wadi Rum.
Papua New Guinea
Steep walls, historic wrecks, unexplored reefs and magnificent marine life, Papua New Guinea is one of the last scuba diving frontiers. When DIVE visited in 2019, a travelling companion warned that it would be 'Jurassic Park out there' - and he was right. Although the main island of New Guinea, the western side of which is Indonesian territory, is quite well developed, some of the islands which lie to the east in the South Pacific remain almost untouched. Currents between the islands are often big and powerful - but then, so is the marine life - and in more sheltered locations, there is much to be found in what many consider to be the birthplace of proper macro photography. Conflict during the Second World War raged above the island, but the tragedy has left many wrecks dotted around the island, with fighter aircraft especially popular. As with other island nations, liveaboards provide the greatest range of diversity, as we found out on board PNG's newest, the MV Oceania.