Tim Simond, author of best-selling Dive in Style shares his top picks for winter diving holidays to escape the UK winter to the world's most stylish dive destinations.
As your garden begins to pile up with dead leaves, the trees begin to bare their branches and you question whether you can last another evening without the heating on, what better time to turn dreams of sunny climes and azure seas into a reality? The magic of flight - whereby you enter a metallic silver tube in freezing conditions and emerge 8 hours later blinking in 30 degree heat - is a transformation we often take for granted. With UK temperatures today hitting freezing, it's time to get that essential dose of winter sun in the diary. So where would I want to go to escape the extreme British winter? Here are my top five picks for exceptional winter diving holidays.
Peter Island, British Virgin Islands
With one of the world's best climates and longest seasons, endless white sand beaches and perfect turquoise hued waters, what is there not to like about the Caribbean? Add to this political stability, the sub-zero crime rate of a private island and world-class wreck dive of RMS Rhone and the result is Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. This large private island has a superb spa for après-dive, private villas to rent and its own harbour; a two minute walk from breakfast to the dive boat. Perfect for winter diving.
Amazingly, this is still a real secret and one well worth discovering in the depths of the UK winter. Occupying its own private island and surrounded by a sensational and scarcely believable fine white powdery beach, one of the beauties of Amanpulo is that, virtually whatever the weather, one side of the island is always calm enough to dive so storms never prevent you getting underwater. In typical Aman style, guests enjoy acres of space, supreme privacy in pavilions sprinkled up the hillside or on the beach, unbeatable food in striking locations and pristine waters teaming with a fascinating range of marine life. This is simply the most wonderful resort, so very different from anything else in this archipelago.
Zighy Bay, Oman
Home to the worlds' most unusual check-in, via hang glider, this Six Senses resort is right out there and tucked up in the Northern Oman anomaly that is the Musandam Peninsula. Modelled on a Berber village, clustered around a burbling 'spring' and vast freeform pool, Zighy Bay is also home to our favourite dining experience, the Edge, perched high above the resort in this remote outpost. In true Six Senses style, Zighy Bay offers faultless service, sensational themed food of constant variety and unusual dive sites under vertical red cliffs that tumble directly into the sea. The Middle East is a real winter favourite.
Despite flying into the Spring Break Mecca that is Cancun, your final destination could not be more of a contrast. This is pure escapism approached through 500 acres of former coconut plantation and greeted with the warm welcome from 'La Familia Maroma'. With lush mature gardens and a 2-mile sandy beach, the position is dream-like and so too is the diving. The diving offers stacks of variety, from calm reef dives to exploring nearby Cenotes, and Maroma's 7,000 ft spa offers ultimate in après-dive relaxation.
Lizard Island, Australia
This has been a top Australian destination for years and continues to be so. Right up on the Northern Great Barrier Reef, a short hop from Cairns, this island is inhabited exclusively by this stylish lodge resort together with a marine research station and a staggering 24 beaches! Explore them with your own outboard-powered dinghy for picnicking and snorkelling with green turtles and 100+year old clams; your treat before venturing deeper for the finest fields of coral I have ever seen and probably arguably the best part of the Barrier reef. Your dive experience is topped off by the best dive lunch of your life, moored out at the world famous Cod Hole or Dynamite Pass.
For more information on any of these winter diving holidays please contact us.