With more flights to far-flung destinations than ever, divers have a wealth of exotic locations to choose from. Cape Verde and the Philippines are now viable alternatives to favourites such as the Caribbean or the Red Sea.
Security concerns have knocked hotspots such as Sudan, Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia off the tourist map. For the time being, liveaboard diving – where clients stay on the boat – has enabled safe access to these areas.
In the more remote areas, local investors have seen the potential in attracting divers and facilities have improved dramatically over the past few years. Here are some of the hot spots for 2007.
About 625 miles southwest of the Canary Islands and 280 miles from the Senegalese coast of west Africa, Cape Verde got its first direct flight from the UK in November. Just under six hours from the UK, Cape Verde is being touted as the next Red Sea, Caribbean and Canary Island in the same breath. Not bad for a destination no one had heard of a few years ago.
With a similar marine environment to the Red Sea, an abundance of fish life, coral reefs, wrecks and a whale shark and manta ray season, it’s ideal for those looking for something new.
With 10 islands to choose from, there’s plenty of variety. Pristine white sand beaches, volcanic islands, alpine scenery and a vibrant music scene will keep most visitors happy.
Dive Worldwide offers seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the three-star Cape Verde Discovery Hotel from £999 per person twin-share including flights, transfers and 10 dives in November and December.
With a new twice-weekly direct flight with Virgin from the UK, it takes a just over nine hours to reach and is one of the world’s most enigmatic and fascinating countries. Organised diving is still in its infancy and all the more exiting for it.
The best diving is to be found on the west and south of the island around Playa Maria La Gorda, Isla de la Juventud and Cayo Largo del Sur and along much of the north coast. President Castro is an avid scuba diver and has encouraged the development of diving with the sinking of a warship as a wreck.
Cuba’s colonial and revolutionary heritage makes it a wonderful place to visit. Havana is a city with crumbling Spanish colonial buildings and classic American cars. Other highlights include Santiago de Cuba, home to Cuba’s oldest palaces and museums; Trinidad, Cuba’s best preserved colonial town and the Parque National Viñales, the country’s most beautiful natural setting.
Scuba en Cuba offers 13 nights’ full-board accommodation at the Hotel Colony Bungalows from £1,250 per person in November and December including flights, transfers and 20 dives.
There are 7,107 islands in the Philippines and although there are no direct flights, there are good connections through Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East. The small island of Malapascua is about five miles northeast of Cebu, one of most developed islands in the Philippines. Malapascua is known as one of the best shark diving locations in the Philippines.
Sharks seen here include White Tips, Black Tips, Nurses, Hammerheads and Thresher sharks. It is the only place in the world where Threshers can be seen close up on a daily basis.
Malapascua is a small tropical island with only a handful of resorts. Many visitors twin it with another dive destination like Sangat, which has great wreck-diving on sunken Japanese wrecks.
Dive Worldwide offers 11 nights’ bed and breakfast at the three-star Exotic Island Resort from £1,086 per person including flights, transfers and a dive package in November and December.
Situated on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is a seven-hour flight from the UK with daily flights to Muscat and good connections throughout the Middle East. With more than 40 recognised dive sites around Muscat alone, and a warm dry climate, Oman offers great diving potential.
The Musandam peninsula in the north is cut off from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. It is a spectacular area of sheltered fjords and towering cliffs and is known as the Norway of Arabia. The plankton-rich waters attract numerous species including Wrasse, sharks, Manta and Eagle Rays
Oman has some of the most spectacular desert scenery in the Middle East, with many desert adventure activities available. Many of the small fishing villages dotted along the Musandam Peninsula are only accessible by boat and can be visited on excursions. Muscat, the capital, is also worth seeing.
Regal Dive offers seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the four-star Golden Tulip Hotel from £679 per person including flights and transfers in November and December.
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