By Lauren Jade Hill
From Indonesia’s extraordinarily biodiverse Coral Triangle to the astounding Great Blue Hole in Belize, some of our planet’s most enticing destinations are also some of the world’s most rewarding for scuba diving. We take a look at the most captivating locations where luxury stays come hand-in-hand with a chance to explore some of the best dive sites in the world.
Encompassing more than 17,000 volcanic islands of exceptional diversity, Indonesia is home to bountiful wildlife, both on land and beneath the surface of the sea. From Komodo National Park and Wakatobi in Sulawesi, to Raja Ampat off the northwest tip of Papua, the archipelago contains some of the world’s greatest sites for scuba diving. Comprising hundreds of islands across a 40,000-square-kilometer area of the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat is considered one of the richest biospheres on Earth. Manta Ridge is one of the most reliable spots to see Manta rays here, while Cape Kri is lauded for its abundance of tropical marine life.
Not only is this archipelago the setting for exceptionally luxurious private island resorts, the 26 atolls this nation encompasses are renowned for the outstanding diving experiences staying within them affords. Baa Atoll is thought to be one of the best areas to head to for its marine-life, and has even been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with dives affording frequent turtle sightings. Over in the Ari Atoll, meanwhile, whale sharks steal the show as they pass through the region throughout the year.
Laying claim to the world’s second longest barrier reef, and some of the only coral atolls to exist within the southern hemisphere, Belize attracts worldwide attention for its exceptional diving, with many visitors basing themselves on Ambergris Caye. The site that draws the most recognition here is the Great Blue Hole. This giant submarine sinkhole lies at the heart of the Lighthouse Reef atoll, around 70 kilometers from the mainland. Measuring 300 meters across, and 124 meters deep, the sinkhole offers a bounty of marine-life, with excellent visibility.
Where to Stay: The boutique hotel El Secreto lies in a remote spot of Ambergris Caye, making it ideally situated for exploring Belize’s most exceptional diving sites.
The most northerly of the Whitsunday Islands, Hayman Island, lies off the coast of Queensland and close to the world-famous Heart Reef within Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. As a gateway to the world’s largest barrier reef, the island is a short journey away from a number of dive sites that are home to a diversity of marine-life, with turtles and migrating whales passing through.
Where to Stay: Stay in the sublime surroundings of One&Only Hayman Island, while getting to know the nearby coral reefs.
Having famously inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution when he visited in the 19th century, the Galapagos Islands are known predominantly for their extraordinary richness of wildlife species, from giant tortoises and iguanas to sea lions. While much of this wildlife can be seen up-close on land, wildlife sightings are even more memorable below the water’s surface. Darwin’s Arch and Gordon Rocks are among the region’s most popular dive sites, owing to the sightings of hammerhead sharks, turtles and eagle rays that they afford.
Where to Stay: By staying at Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, travelers can set out on diving excursions, in addition to exploring the surrounding islands.
Hawaii’s Big Island has long attracted diving enthusiasts from across the globe, with what is said to be the highest percentage of endemic species on the planet. Off the coast of Kailua-Kona, night dives are especially rewarding, with most divers coming here to swim with the Manta rays as they glide through the darkness at this atmospheric time.
Where to Stay: Situated on the coast of Kailua-Kona, Four Seasons Hualalai is the ideal luxury base for setting out on diving excursions.