How To Make Any Destination a Dream Diving Destination
You’re thinking powder white sand snaking to a turquoise horizon, crystal ripples lapping your toes, the distant ting-ting of your tank being swapped out for the next dive. You’re dreaming schools of mantas photo bombing your perfect turtle shot and you’re seeing a comfortable dive boat barely quarter full of a friendly crowd of your best mates looking like they stepped out of a PADI video … The reality could be this idyllic, but sometimes we just don’t ask ourselves the right questions before we breathlessly hover over the photo on a website and click the “book now” button.
What are you going to be doing between dives and where are you going to be staying? Are you really going to do those promised possible 25 dives in a week? Do you really want to see only sun, sea and sand when you’re not under the water? And what if you realize in the taxi back to the airport that you’ve missed out on seeing all the amazing things you were reading about the country but were too focused on the diving…?
With a bit of preparation and flexibility, maximise your time away and turn any dive destination into a dream holiday without regrets.
BUDGET – compare prices year-round, ask why the prices are so much lower when you want to travel – is that because the weather – and therefore the dive opportunities and sea life are less than perfect, or is it because it’s just not when most other people want to dive? Diving the “shoulder” when prices have just gone down or haven’t gone back up yet, can reap rewards. A reputable dive operation will be up-front about whether the dives will go ahead if you’re the only person or people to book. Coral and fish don’t appear by appointment and wrecks don’t have a closed season.
BALANCE YOUR DREAM WITH YOUR DIVE EXPERIENCE – often those “dream” destinations are faraway places, make the best of it by getting some really good dive experience at home, some challenging opportunities at the weekends, and doing some pertinent and specific training for your dream destination to truly be able to enjoy it. Be on top of your game to get the most out of your trip. British diving is some of the very best to prepare you for those “easy” warm water trips.
TRAVEL TIME VS THE HOLIDAY TIME. Raja Ampat may well tick your dream destination box, however you can write off half a 10-day holiday traveling to and from this amazing place. Don’t discount the layovers, the time between airport and ferry, ferry and hotel, boat and dive site and time recovering from those; really do your homework, you want to be paying for diving, not ferrying between places. On the other hand, don’t discount a liveaboard because it looks more expensive – these hotels on the waves get you to your dive site whilst you’re sleeping, eating or relaxing between dives so they can often be the way to squeeze more dives out of your holiday, if that’s what you’re looking for.
PLACE – Working in this industry, when I’m taking my busman’s holiday underwater, I also love to explore a country topside, so ask yourself if that’s what you could see yourself doing too… Is there only a hotel room on stilts to relax in when you’re on your surface interval, or is there a market, museum or village to meander around, or a trek or a must-see for that last, pre-flight day?
PEOPLE – What kind of a person are you on your holiday? We rarely have the good fortune to dive with only our trusted buddy – so are you happy with a group of random strangers? Pick your dive operation with this in mind, increasingly boats will advertise a low guide-to-client ratio, or combine with choosing the right time to go (see PRICE above). Alternatively, book with your local dive club where you can get to know the members. Don’t forget that we’re all susceptible to being judged as well as doing the judging, so a little camaraderie and concession goes a very long way.
EQUIPMENT – when we think of these dream destinations, they’re often places, bizarrely, with no dive shops, so do think hard about your save a dive kit. Do an equipment specialist course – plan a bit of redundancy in your kit, and make sure you have the right kit for the right conditions (think exposure protection, SMB and reel, lights, masks, reef hooks, underwater photography equipment) and make sure you know how to use it all and be prepared to focus on your dive not your new kit. Also, think hard about what is really essential (7 t-shirts in a tropical setting might not be) and what you potentially could buy there (think toiletries). Remember that few airlines give us divers any weight concession, so shave the weight off the other wearables.
GET FIT! Most of us are going on holiday to get a fair few dives logged and to relax at the same time – but most of us are not used to diving day in day out up to 5 dives a day – so (as is the theme of this article) prepare yourself right so you don’t end up too exhausted, too stiff, too sucky on air (or worse, giving ourselves an injury) to benefit the most from your time away. In lockdown, most of us have had a chance to get walking, get fitter, get some further training, brush up our skills, get our equipment in tip top condition, and to plan ahead for that dream dive destination.
Thinking about it, a holiday that goes smoothly is already a dream holiday- no dive has to be a nightmare!
Do you have more tips on how to prepare to the max?