How To Make Any Destination a Dream Diving Destination

How To Make Any Destination a Dream Diving Destination

Created: 2020-12-01

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? 



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Where's your favourite warm water diving destination? Anna's sharing another of hers with us today.


Where is Saparua and what’s so special about it?
Saparua is such a tiny island that a google map search probably won’t leave you much the wiser as to its location. Where many avid divers have heard of Raja Ampat (an area, not a single location), a few of those now consider Raja to be dived out, and favour a longer but ultimately more rewarding trip further south to the Lease Islands. Saparua, a speck off Ambon well known for its incredible muck diving, is home to breathtaking wall diving, superb muck sites and gigantic plate and brain corals. Tourism here is virtually zero, I had a guide, a boat and a resort totally to myself for a week. It’s not for everyone, for sure, but as an experienced diver with all my own equipment, getting off the beaten path and having the option to laze around the top of a wall for an hour and a half following an oblivious ghost pipefish, watching a solar powered Nudibranch meander the reef or have a staring match with a scorpionfish was a real bonus.

Why should I dive there?
You’ll be diving where very few people have been, getting into local culture and enjoying the sunsets. As I mentioned above, the dive sites around the island are superb, from an underwater arch entered at 5meters and spews you out at the top of a 100m wall, to huge table corals as far as the eye can see, to fabulously coloured coral covered walls and white sandy valleys for superbly long dives. You can motor down to the uninhabited island of Molana where there are several dive sites.

When to go?
February – April & September - November is good. Ambon, which is the muck diving heaven to the west, can be dived year-round as it’s sheltered, but Saparua lies to the eastern edge of the island cluster. The liveaboards that cruise the Banda sea avoid the in-between months due to those wet and windy seasons. Water temp is around the 28C, air temp up to 30C.

What to take?
Take your own gear – have it serviced beforehand. Take spares / redundancy if you can. Definitely take your own entertainment! And your camera.

Preparation, preparation, preparation !

Consider the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy for holding your position whilst photographing. Definitely look at investing in a good underwater camera with housing and light for both night and wall dives and get to know your way around your rig with the PADI Underwater Digital Photography specialty. I’ve mentioned before… my favourite mid range rig is the Olympus TG6, though I’m itching to get out with one of the new Sealife iPhone housings for (much) lighter travel. (Disclaimer, sadly none of the photos below were taken with either of the above, so don’t judge the quality of the cameras on my photos!). Do consider the PADI Equipment Specialist to get to know your way round your equipment and how to fix any niggly problems that may arise.

Where to stay
I stayed at the most amazing Mahu Lodge. Built and owned by local Paul, it’s now managed by his wonderful son Johann – both of whom speak great English. Mahu lodge is no-frills simple, and the grounds are stunning: huge mature trees including Clove, Nutmeg and giant palm; hibiscus, fruit trees and expansive green lawns give you ample space to relax after diving. The rooms are basic, clean and some have a/c (which, due to the number of trees around, isn’t strictly necessary to be honest). Meals are included and you can ask cook to prepare the local “Papeda” – a seafood stew made from the local sago palm. (Be warned. It’s a texture thing, but it’s cooked right in front of you and it’s an … interesting process).

Splurge. There is no splurge accommodation on Saparua. There are no restaurants in Spararua to spurge on either. And you don’t have to splurge to get pretty much a private dive experience here, that’s just par for the course! You can rent a scooter to see the sights, though you can also hire a driver to do just that. I did splurge (£15) on getting back to Ambon for my flight, as it was Sunday and I’d forgotten the ferry (£7) doesn’t run. See the photo of my private speedboat below! Of course, you could do a liveaboard in the Banda sea which is most definitely a splurge!

Do visit the old Dutch fort Benteng Duurstede in the town, and do not miss the detailed, superb but slightly dusty dioramas at the museum next door. You’ll have to hunt around for the keyholder but definitely worth it to learn about how these islands were once the very centre of the nutmeg trade and fiercely fought over. A few metres away is the market – see the sago I mentioned earlier, and a plethora of different fruits and vegetables. It’s incredible to read the history of these once fiercely fought over islands at the centre of the spice trade and realise that they have reclaimed their culture and way of life.

How to get there?
Fly to Ambon via Doha/Singapore and Jakarta, then take a ferry.
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Please join me in congratulating Ocean Turtle Instructor @alunsalt on the amazing achievement of #masterscubadivertrainer

To earn this accolade he has studied to become an instructor in five PADI Specialties and certified 25 divers in various courses. No mean feat!

#diving #scubadiving #padi #oceanturtlediving #sea #ocean #ukdiving #adventure #underwater #livingthedream
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One of our Ocean Turtle Diving Hatchlings, Maisie, has written this great blog that we wanted to share.

My name is Maisie, I am now eleven years old and earlier in the year I passed my Junior PADI open water and dry suit diver qualification in February 2020 when I was ten years old. I saved all my money I got from my family for Christmas to be able to pay for the course. The course was tough and being in February very cold; but the Ocean Turtle Team were incredibly supportive.

I got inspiration for diving when I went to Greece in 2019. I did a pool dive followed by scuba diving in the sea. I started then to realise I loved scuba diving.

I love going scuba diving to see all the sea creatures and I would like to start helping the underwater environment. I am planning to go diving in the Red Sea next year (2021) and to hopefully get my photographer diver course, to examine the different types of sea creatures from Egypt (Marsa Alam) and the UK (Cornwall or Porthkerris). I have done multiple dives in different places, for example: Porthkerris, Vobster, Wraysbury and Greece. I also practice and keep up to date with my diving by practising my skills in the swimming pool.

In the future I hope to become more skilled and one day get my Master Qualification and learn more about the underwater world.


To book your Hatchling onto a PADI Junior Open Water Course click the link below. They can begin their self-study over lockdown.
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