Where Would You Like to Go When the Coronavirus Lockdown is Lifted?
We're all longing to get away and get back in the water, but if you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow to go diving, where would it be? Here's the first part in a rundown of some of our favourite spots to help fill the long hours of coronavirus lockdown longing...
Many regular visitors to Egypt would swear that the Egyptian Red Sea is the best diving in the world. The visibility over the reefs is some of the best in the world and the near permanent sunshine from cloudless blue skies lends the coral a vibrance of hue that unsurpassed. From the lush reefs of Tiran and Ras Mohammed in the north, to the majestic island reefs of Elphinstone and the Brothers in the south with their healthy shark populations; the perfect technical environment of Dahab's Blue Hole and the simple and shallow reefs of much of the Egyptian coastline; macro shrimps to massive whale sharks; calm conditions to thrilling drift dives and some of the best shipwrecks on the planet, there is something to satisfy even the most demanding of divers.
The Philippines had a wide variety of completely different diving depending on where you want to go. If you want some of the most stunning reefs in the Coral Triangle, they can be found somewhere in the Philippines - and in the national park of Tubbataha, you have a fantastic chance to see whale sharks, or thresher sharks around Malapascua, the historic Second World War wrecks of Coron Bay and the black sand muck diving of Dauin. Most of the diving is easily accessible and great value for tourists, with easy diving making it a great place to learn and more challenging dives for the adventurous thrill-seeker.
A country of high contrast both above and below the water, bordered on its western coast by the mighty Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to the east. Sheltered from the Pacific by the long peninsula of Baja California, the Sea of Cortez is one of the best places in the world to encounter huge groups of megafauna as they visit to feed in the nutrient filled water. The tiny islands of the Revillagigedos, some 400km from shore constitute some of the finest of high-intensity diving in the world, with humpback whales, oceanic mantas rays and schools of hammerheads frequently sighted. Guadalupe Island is famous as one of the best locations for close encounters with great white sharks. To the east, the coral reefs and walls of Cozumel and the Riviera Maya will attract those who prefer their diving a little more sedate, and then, of course, there's the Yucatán peninsular with its unique and breathtakingly spectacular giant sinkholes - the famous cenotes. Topside is a delightful array of topical colour, cuisine and entertainment, plus the ancient historical ruins of Aztec and Mayan civilisations.
Bali / Lembongan / Penida
Bali is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, and it has as much to offer scuba divers as any other location in Indonesia - perhaps more, in some cases. While much of the above-ground action is centres around popular spots such as Kuta, Sanur and Ubud, the northern locations around Pemuteran and Gilimanuk are nowhere near as busy - and full of amazing dive sites. Also accessible from Bali are the wonderful Nusa Islands of Penida, Lembongan and Ceningan, home to a resident population of reef manta rays and one of the best locations in Indonesia to spot the southern sunfish. Bigger fish are known to visit from time-to-time, and the reefs and walls have a great deal to offer. Back on mainland Bali, there's much diving available in the black sands of Padang Bai and Amed, and the famous wreck of the USAT Liberty near Tulamben to the east.
Some of the best diving and the biggest fish in the Caribbean can be found among the more than 2000 islands that make up The Bahamas. Each of the inhabited islands has its own unique charm, both above and below the water. The most famous dives are undoubtedly those around the fabled Tiger Beach, where huge tiger sharks and great hammerheads get up-close-and-personal with visiting divers – and then there's Exuma Cays, home to a colony of the most unusual sea creatures known to the diving world – pigs! In between the sharks and their porcine friends are some wonderful coral reefs and walls, interspersed with brilliant white sandy bottoms and innumerable small caves and caverns. The long walls of Andros are a coral divers delight while the caves of Lucayan National Park are perfectly suited for technical diving. Topside – well – it's the Bahamas, need we say more?