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Top 5: Worlds Best Scuba Diving
Here's our pick of the world's best scuba diving holidays.
1 Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
This archipelago of 21 volcanic islands and islets is a tranquil, off-the-beaten-path dive spot lying 200 miles off the coast of Brazil. Calm waters, a rich variety of marine life and a host of well-preserved shipwrecks, including the Brazilian Navy Ipiranga Corvette V17, make it one of the best places to scuba in South America – so it was an easy choice for our top spot.
Once underwater, divers enjoy crystal-clear waters with visibility of up to an impressive 45 metres, perfect for spotting dolphins, turtles, stingrays and coloured tropical fish.
The island chain makes up part of the mid-Atlantic ridge, an underwater mountain range stretching 15,000km through the Atlantic Ocean. Formerly a volcanic cone, its base lies 756 metres below the surface, so you’ll get to explore fascinating volcanic rock, caverns and coral formations.
As both Brazil’s first marine park and a Unesco World Heritage Site, more than 70 per cent of the island is protected. This includes tourist favourite Dolphins Bay, the world’s oldest, largest school of the mammals and a breeding ground for the acrobatic spinner dolphin (we kid you not). Nearby Projeto Tamar (tamar.org.br), a Brazilian environmental organisation, is worth checking out. Get involved, as the conservation centre is a good spot to witness cute, newly hatched hawksbill and green turtles take their first trip into the ocean.
And if you’re looking for a few more activities above the surface, you can go horse riding, dune buggying and surfing on the island chain, earning Fernando de Noronha the title “Hawaii of Brazil.”
What’s more, you, thankfully, won’t have to fight with hordes of other tourists for a relaxing dive trip – the secluded island promotes “sustainable tourism”, and only allows 420 visitors at a time. You’ll be able to enjoy its incredible marine life and natural wonders in peace.
The best time to visit is in the low season between April and November, when accommodation is cheaper.
2 Great Blue Hole, Belize
Jacques Cousteau put this place on the map in 1971, when he took his famous Calypso ship here, declaring it one of the world’s best diving sites.
Today, divers continue to flock to the karst-eroded sinkhole, formed when the ceiling of an underground cave collapsed. It now boasts a collection of intricate limestone stalactites and wall formations. Book a dive package with Aqua Scuba Centre from £126.
3 Red Sea, Egypt
At the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in the Red Sea lies the Ras Mohammed National Park, full of rich coral reefs, underwater caves and thousands of species of fish.
Sweeping desert landscapes dotted with gazelles surround this diver’s paradise. The waters, home to the SS Thistlegorm wreckage, are believed to be one of the few remaining sewage-free dive spots. Packages from £92 with Divers International.
4 Andaman Sea, Thailand
The Surin and Similan islands make up a chain of 14 beautiful uninhabited islets in the Andaman Sea, making them Thailand’s best spot for diving.
The remote areas are famed for virtually untouched reefs and exceptional visibility, as well as a host of colourful fish, mantas and turtles. Nearby Richelieu Rock is a favourite with the more experienced diver for its purple corals and visiting whale sharks. Introductory courses start at about £33 with Crystal Dive (crystaldive.com).
5 Molokini Crater, Hawaii
Just a short boat ride away from tourist hotspot Maui lies this uninhabited islet, formed along the rim of an ancient, partially submerged volcanic crater.
It’s ideal for divers of all skill levels – the crescent moon shape protects beginners against powerful currents, while the more experienced can head to the back of the crater, which sinks to an ear-popping 350ft. Expect to spot eels, mantas and dolphins, as well as one of Hawaii’s most pristine hard coral reefs. Packages from £107 with Lahaina Divers.