While many travelers are happy to lay by the pool or take up residence on the beach with a good book when on vacation, some prefer to seek out adventure.
It is my opinion that the most inspiring escapes by the sea encompass an investigation of the world beneath the waves. Coral reefs, ship wrecks and a vibrant alien world of color and curious creatures awaits those who suit up and dive down into the blue.
Whether a certified Instructor or a complete scuba newbie, most dive operators provide dive sites which cater to all abilities. Therefore getting certified to a basic level is a must for anyone with a desire for aquatic exploration.
But where should I get certified I hear you cry?
Fear not, for I have compiled 5 of my very favorite locations in which you can acquaint yourself with the foreign sensation of breathing underwater, and qualify as an Open Water Diver.
Where | The Great Barrier Reef
Why | A multitude of reefs, wrecks and diverse marine life
When | Year round, although Minke Whale season is June – July
With over 900 islands and 2,900 individual reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is the only living entity on earth visible from outer space.
The largest coral reef system on the planet, it offers divers a wide range of depths, marine life and terrain to explore. Home to a diversity of life quite unlike that of anywhere above the waterline, the reef is protected from the open ocean.
It is essentially a paradisaical pond perfect for those learning to dive.
Guaranteed to inspire you to spend more time with you head under the water there are a number of operators that offer the Open Water Diver course.
Believe me when I say that once you’ve certified, you’ll be hopping onto one of the week long liveaboards which take divers to the most beautiful and untouched dive sites on the reef.
Where | Cozumel
Why | World famous dive sites and the opportunity to dive different environments
When | June – August
With a mix of coral reefs, inspiring underwater architecture and wrecks, Cozumel is a diver’s paradise.
Home to the reclusive ‘Splendid Toad Fish’ reputed to be endemic to the region, Mexico offers a colorful and more importantly, a cost effective location to earn your dive certification.
Visibility is often in excess of 100ft and the warmth of the surrounding tropical currents make for some very enjoyable conditions in which to gear up and get in the water.
A favorite of scuba legend Jacques Cousteau, this is one Technicolor wonderland that will serve to boost your appetite for underwater exploration.
Why | Pristine underwater environments and volcanic architecture
When | November – April
Home to a diverse spectrum of marine life the Poor Knights Islands were declared a marine park in 1981 and have been fiercely protected ever since.
Thanks to the efforts of those who have worked to preserve this area of natural beauty, the island’s shores are littered with such a variety of species that it is hard to have what diver’s often refer to as a ‘bad dive’.
Sharks, rays, schools of brightly colored fish and nudibranchs are here in abundance, and because they are unfamiliar with a prominent human presence they are inquisitive and unafraid of those who dive their waters.
With a spectacular volcanic underwater architecture of caves, overhangs, vast cliffs, arches and drop offs, this is one my favorite places to dive. For those new to scuba the chance to learn on such a world famous diving playground is not one to be missed.
Where | Playas del Coco
Why | Good mix of macro life as well as large species like rays and sharks
When | November – May
Costa Rica actually translates as ‘Rich Coast’ therefore it’s not too surprising to learn that it provides a superb marine environment in which to learn to dive.
With heavy importance placed on preserving the country’s biodiversity, it has some of the richest waters anywhere on the planet.
Although gin clear waters can be infrequent on the Pacific side, the nutrient rich waters cultivate a wealth of macro life along with the usual pelagic species of fish, sharks and rays.
With the opportunity to take your wreck specialty qualification and dive with manta rays at the Catalina Islands and bull sharks out at Bats Islands, getting certified in Costa Rica opens up a whole range of opportunities to explore the underwater world.
Where | Tortuga Loca at Turneffe North
Why | Excellent visibility and warm waters
When | March – August
Located on the Caribbean coast of Central America, Belize is a veritable playground for those who are new to scuba diving.
With over 400 islands and the longest stretch of coral reef in the western hemisphere on your doorstep, there’s plenty of superb locations to take your first breath underwater.
For the more adventurous among you there is the opportunity to dive with nurse sharks and get your cave diving certification. However if an Open Water Diver certification is all you crave, the excellent visibility and abundant marine life at Turneffe North make it the perfect spot for diver training.
Where have you been Scuba Diving?