By Chris Leadbeater
Fish flitting beneath your feet, bubbles escaping overhead, that curious sensation
of weightlessness - there's nothing like a few days' scuba diving to make you
feel you have really left the world of work behind. Particularly in these into-the-deep
Best for experienced divers: Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Who can do it? Experts. It is surely impossible to consider
yourself a true scuba aficionado until you have answered the call of Australia's
foremost natural wonder.
Let's go! The bare facts are simple: The planet's largest expanse
of coral - made up of some 3000 individual reefs; so big that it stretches out
for 1600 miles. Visible from space. The Great Barrier Reef needs little introduction,
but plenty of exploration. The city of Cairns in northern Queensland
is a reliable base for doing just that - as is the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort,
a comfortable hideaway a block from the waterfront.
Top tip: Keen amateurs can also apply. This is the ultimate
place to do the five-day PADI Open Water course, complete with three days on
Best for beginners: The Red Sea, Egypt
Who can do it? For those who want to dip a toe (well, a full
body) into scuba diving, Egypt
- just four hours' flying time from Britain - is a worthy choice for a trial
Let's go! The Red Sea is an ideal testing 'ground' for scuba
novices. Not only is it consistently warm, but Egypt's many resorts are geared
for holidaymakers who want to dabble with life underwater during their week
on the beach. The first-rate Sheraton Soma Bay, about 50 miles south of Hurghada,
has a PADI dive centre - and may be a prime option for first-timers, offering
quieter, calmer shores for those learning the art.
Top tip:Keep looking. The Red Sea plays host to a veritable
kaleidoscope of colourful marine wildlife - lionfish, butterflyfish, stingrays,
Best for families: The Maldives
Who can do it? Parents and kids. The Maldives
is renowned as a romantic destination, but its shallow blue waters and soft
sands are also great for families.
Let's go! Like Egypt, the Maldives is perfect for new-to-it
divers, the Indian Ocean presenting itself as warm and clear around this vast
archipelago. However, there is also much to do above the waves, not least for
youngsters. The mid-range Sun Island Resort and Spa on the island of Nalaguraidhoo
in South Ari atoll is home to a PADI dive school, but also equipped for volleyball,
tennis, water-skiing, windsurfing and catamaran sailing.
Top tip: If it flaps, photograph it. The resort lurks a short
boat ride away from a patch of the Indian
Ocean renowned for sightings of manta rays. Who's going in first?
Best for half-and-half couples: Varadero, Cuba
Who can do it? Couples made up of one diver and one landlubber.
Varadero works well both for those who like a holiday under the surface and
those who prefer it above.
Let's go! Cuba's
famous north-coast sun-and-surf enclave, with its stretches of reef, is an excellent
location for sub-aqua exercise. But the gentle touch of the Caribbean Sea and
white sand galore make it just as enticing for non-divers. The luxury (adults-only)
Princesa Del Mar resort is a good compromise, catering for scuba types,
but also looking after beach bunnies with its eight restaurants, six bars -
and swish spa.
Top tip: The resort offers two free dives per person per stay.
Best for culture vultures: Riviera Maya, Mexico
Who can do it? Those who want to combine scuba diving with
sightseeing. Mexico's Yucatan
Peninsula has some of the finest archaeological remains in Latin America.
Let's go! You won't be bored on the Riviera Maya. Along with
fine beaches and the party town of Cancun,
the area has superb dive sites (the second longest reef system in the world,
the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, runs right down the peninsula) and historic sites
left by the Mayan civilisation that once ruled the area. The deluxe Dreams Tulum
Resort & Spa has a dive centre - and is just a hop from the stunning ruined
citadel of Tulum.
Top tip:Try diving in the Tulum cenotes - freshwater sinkholes
linked to underground cave networks. The Maya considered these water pits to
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Chris Leadbeater is a freelance travel journalist. He writes regularly
for the Daily Mail. His favourite destinations are Cuba, the USA and Paris.