STRONG & STRONGER
“The destination we’ve seen the most interest in for 2018 is the Red Sea!” says Angela Nordin of Scuba Travel. “Obviously it’s had a tough couple of years, but there’s still nowhere quite like it, that you can get to in only a few hours, and with such diverse or exciting diving.
“The sightings have been incredible throughout – you name it, our divers have seen it in 2017. The southern Red Sea has been especially rewarding, and we’re thrilled that the airlines are finally starting to put more flights on.
“The new routes with Thomas Cook offer us more choice of UK departures into both Marsa Alam and Hurghada.”
A rhinopias in Alor in eastern Indonesia, a destination that gets several mentions. Photo: Ben Stokes, Dive Safari Asia
John Spencer-Ades of The Scuba Place adds an important word or five for what was once divers’ principal entry-point to Egypt but remains the victim of a UK air-landing ban: “Let’s get back to Sharm!”
But he is also a firm advocate of the Maldives, probably the most popular choice in this strong-and-stronger category: “The corals are fighting back, costs are down, and the choice of liveaboards has never been wider,” he says.
“Over the past 12 months Regaldive has witnessed a surge in the popularity of liveaboards in the Maldives,” reports that company’s Kelly Pipes. “We expect demand to be maintained into 2018 and beyond.
“The beauty of the Maldives programme we offer is its flexibility, meaning that many guests combine a liveaboard with an island-based stay. The Maldives will be a key destination for our guests for many years to come.”
Marcus Bull of Planet Dive concurs about the Maldives, and says the resorts offer something for any budget and any type of traveller. “The liveaboards
are also starting to diversify,” he says, “with unique experiences on offer including spa-and-dive combos and dedicated trips for families or freedivers.
“With weather-patterns changing, the Maldives is also becoming a year-round diving destination, with the big-hitters like mantas and whale sharks being seen for longer and more frequently. So even in the low season you can enjoy great diving at unbelievable value for money.”
Phil North of Dive Worldwide suggests that Lanzarote in the Canary Islands will be a 2018 winner: “With the lustre of Egypt’s Red Sea continuing to fade, Lanzarote is well-placed to stake its claim as the most popular short-haul destination, with year-round sunshine and excellent visibility,” he says.
And even closer to home, Portugal is the unexpected tip from Paul Hughes of Hidden Depths Dive Tours, and his belief is down to the Algarve’s Ocean Revival Project.
“It’s now five years since four ships were sunk to make it the largest artificial reef in the world, and marine life is prolific,” says Paul. “With Portugal being a safe destination, coupled with its proximity to the UK, it’s perfect for weekend or longer trips.
“It’s also perfect for non-diving partners and families, and word is spreading that it has a very good dive-centre.”
Time to move really long-haul, and Truk Lagoon is the location of choice of blue o two’s James Evans. “Truk is renowned for world-class wreck-diving, and with 61 wrecks tightly packed into a coral-reef lagoon, it’s easy to appreciate why divers love to travel there,” says James.
“Many of these incredible wrecks can be explored within recreational dive-limits and, with a fantastic array of marine life, Truk Lagoon is a truly unforgettable diving experience.”
Truk Lagoon is also top of the list in this category for Marcelina Jesus of Ultimate Diving.
It’s a wreck-diving destination likely to figure on any diver’s bucket-list, she says, but also “getting more accessible in terms of travel and costs.”
Kris McBride from Divequest backs remote Socorro and Guadalupe off the coast of Mexico as they continue to build their reputations for amazing big-animal encounters.
“Giant oceanic mantas compete with humpback whales and 10 shark species to be the highlight of Socorro, while the world’s most famous shark steals the show at Guadalupe,” says Kris (that’s the great white, just saying!)
Among the tour operators we spoke to, Ben Stokes of Dive Safari Asia is the only one confined to a particular part of the world, albeit a huge part, and he offers some interesting observations about Indonesia.
“With so many different regions on offer, divers are increasingly considering Indonesia as a collective of unique destinations, each with its own attributes,” he reckons.
“East Indonesia is currently leading the charge – the Banda Sea has recently had a great season for spotting hammerheads and big fish, with many liveaboards reporting excellent sightings from September to November.
“Alor is increasingly being recognised as a destination that offers muck-diving on a par with Lembeh Strait, and Triton Bay also boasts excellent chances of encounters with whale sharks.
“These relatively new destinations show that Indonesia is reinventing itself as a premier dive-destination ahead of typically popular destinations such as Wakatobi, Sulawesi and Raja Ampat.”