Affordable Post-COVID 19 Dive Adventures
As we watch the world tentatively open up again from the screens of our devices, many of us are thinking about our next chance to get in the ocean as our enthusiasm for underwater experiences remains strong, even if we can’t actually be in the water. However, things have changed. The ‘new normal’ has left us with a set of restrictions; for many of us, financial as well as social. But COVID-19 has also left us with a new set of opportunities and a chance to redesign how we make the most of our holiday time. So, before saying that in 2020 you can no longer afford that trip abroad, consider the possibilities of what is within your reach when it comes to post-COVID dive adventures.
Tip 1: Adventure doesn´t need to be far
As travel restrictions are still a reality for many of us, it will give us the opportunity to discover the beauty of local diving. Even if you don’t live anywhere near the ocean, there will still be some aqua-options. Hop online or download the PADI Adventures App to see what’s available in your area. The best part? You’ll meet your local diving community, save big on international travel and avoid jetlags.
Tip 2: Divers are everywhere
If your heart craves international adventure and there are no restrictions preventing you in the destination you want to go, then head to the COVID-19 Diving Status Map. Discover where diving is happening and to what degree so you can plan and execute that dive adventures you’ve been dreaming about for months. The map is populated by real divers in real dive centers around the world, so you can trust that the information is based on first-hand experience.
Tip 3: Location
You may know this already, but where you dive has a massive impact on how much your diving adventure costs. Generally, any European, Russian or Middle Eastern diver can expect great diving, warm weather and incredible deals in the Red Sea. American counterparts on a tight budget may want to skip more expensive Caribbean islands, Cozumel in Mexico, the charming Honduran Bay Islands. You can also find some great deals on self-service diving in the coral-reef haven of Mahahual.
Those based in Asia have a loads to choose from when it comes to budget dive travel. Take your pick from whale sharks in the Philippines, turtles in Thailand or miles of coral reef and shimmering shallows in Indonesia. With many operators keen to bounce back, great deals and flexible booking policies are everywhere.
Tip 4: Go as a group
It’s no secret that the biggest discounts appear when you book as a group. Often, dive centers and liveaboards will offer a final space for free (known as FOC, for free of charge) when you book a certain number of spaces. If you can pull together the requisite number of friends (respecting the group size restrictions) and split the free space between yourselves, this can lead to some quite interresting deals. Operators don’t often advertise this, but in the current climate it is always worth emailing your favorite operator, letting them know how many of you are interested, and politely enquiring about group discounts.
If you can’t pull together a large group, you may still save by booking as a smaller group. A self-catering apartment split between four or six divers, can often be up 50 percent cheaper than booking two or three traditional rooms in a resort and dining out every evening.
Tip 5: Travel smart
Whith all the hygien restrictions about Covid-19, the best as a diver is to get your own gears. All the dive centers have great cleaning protocols but better for yourself to have your own equipment, especially regulator, masks, fines and eventually BCD. There are affordable professionnal gears you can buy online.
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Affordable Post-COVID 19 Dive Adventures
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Diving with Giant Manta Rays in Ecuador
Diving with giant manta rays in Ecuador is possible not only in the Galapagos, but also nearer to the coastline, which stretches for over 1,400 miles (2,300 km). Along that coastline, Isla de la Plata (also known as “the poor man’s Galapagos”) has an allure all its own. While overfishing in Isla De la Plata means that there is less marine life around than the Galapagos, the area recently became a no-take fishing zone and thusly marine life is predicted to increase.
Diving Isla de la Plata
Isla de la Plata is only 40 km off the central coast of Ecuador, making it ideal for those limited on either time or money but who still want to experience excellent diving in Ecuador. Isla de la Plata’s standout highlight is that it hosts the largest seasonal aggregation of giant manta rays in the world. During peak manta ray season between 50 and 600 giant manta rays, each growing up to 7 m wide, have been documented at Isla de la Plata.
A one-hour boat ride from Puerto Lopez takes divers to this amazing site. The manta rays are friendly and inquisitive and often spend 10 to 15 minutes with divers, even following them up to their safety stops.
Currents around Isla de la Plata can get very strong, making it best suited for advanced divers with experience diving in currents. The Humboldt Current brings nutrient-rich water to the area and creates the perfect conditions for manta ray feeding.
While reef mantas are residents of the area, giant mantas travel to Ecuador to mate, feed and clean. The best time to see giant manta rays in Isla de la Plata is between late July and early October. Between 500 and 2,500 humpback whales come to the area during this time to mate and give birth as well. Whale sharks are also in the area around the same time, with peak season falling between June and November. And to top it off, there might even be a chance to see a mola mola.
Isla de la Plata is also a breeding ground for blacktip sharks and there’s abundant macro fauna, such as nudibranchs, as well.
When to visit
The dry season is between June and December with water temperatures between 61 to 73 F (16 and 23 C). During this time the air temperature can be slightly cooler, and the weather overcast. July to October can get windy, making for rougher seas and poorer visibility. During this time visibility can be as low as 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 m).
During the wet season, between January and June, water temperatures are between 68 to 82 F (20 to 28 C). The air temperature is usually warmer than in the dry season and rain showers often only occur in the afternoon. During this time visibility can be as good as 82 feet (25 m). Only a hand full of dive centers offer trips to Isla de la Plata so pre-booking is essential.
The Best Diving in Sulawesi
The Indonesian island of Sulawesi offers visitors a diverse and beautiful landscape. Volcanic peaks form the backdrop for forested hills, thick jungles, rolling highlands, and over 3,700 miles (5,900 km) of dramatic coastline. But the world-class diving is really the biggest attraction. There are three main dive areas around Sulawesi: Bunaken National Park, Lembeh Strait, and Wakatobi National Park. Each offers divers something different, including muck diving, fringing reefs, sheer walls, large pelagic species, and rare crustaceans and fish. With so much diversity, there’s plenty for every diver to enjoy. Here we take a look at some of the best diving in Sulawesi.
Bunaken National Park
Bunaken National Park, off the northeast coast of Sulawesi, encompasses the islands of Bunaken, Manado Tua, Nain, Siladen, and Mantehage. This marine park is home to nearly 70 percent of the species found in Indo-Western Pacific and, with more than 30 dive sites, this area could keep divers occupied and happy for their entire stay in Sulawesi.
Wakatobi National Park
Four small islands make up the Wakatobi National Park in South Sulawesi. This remote region has some of the best diving in Indonesia with 370 miles (595 km) of pristine reef, nearly 750 species of healthy coral, and more than 1,000 species of fish.
Lembeh Strait is famous for its muck diving, earning it the nickname as the “critter capital of the world” and a macro-photographer’s dream. The island of Lembeh sits off the northeast point of Sulawesi, separated from the mainland by the Strait, a thin strip of water only 10 miles (16 km) long and 0.7 miles (1.1 km) wide. It’s a completely different dive environment with calm conditions, shallow depths, and sandy bottoms that are home to a variety of tropical fish and some of the planet’s weirdest and rarely seen marine creatures.
When to visit Sulawesi
The good news is that any time of year is great for diving in Sulawesi. Water temperatures vary little throughout the year and sit at a comfortable 82 to 87 F (28 to 30 C). Whenever you decide to visit Sulawesi, you will not be disappointed. Instead, you will be rewarded with some of the most exciting and unique diving you will ever experience.
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