It's not often we're gifted the time to chase our passions without the loom of work hanging over our heads. Whether you want to stave off burnout, tick off some bucket-list experiences or learn a new skill, taking a sabbatical to travel gives us the time and space to reset and reignite our passion for work and life. If you've already taken the plunge and are on the verge of embarking on your Trip of a Lifetime (official title) but are wondering how to incorporate diving into your sabbatical, fear not. Whether you're free for a month or a year, read on to learn how to make the most out of your sabbatical - both above and below the waves.

Aerial view of fishing boats along the beach of Zanzibar

Research diving destinations

The ocean is rife with world-class diving spots, so you'll need to narrow down the pool, beginning with your interests. If you want to focus your sabbatical around wildlife and conservation, a longer break in Africa might be appealing. In Tanzania, for example, you can spot the 'Big Five' and more in Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve, contribute to rhino conservation efforts and swim alongside whale sharks off Mafia Island. Perhaps you want to experience the world's most remote diving? The Aldabra Group, found 700 miles south of Mahé in the Seychelles, are about as remote as it gets. When researching how to incorporate diving into your sabbatical, you'll also need to consider your diving experience.

Diver explores the reef covered wreck of the Japanese Ship Fugikawa Maru in Truk Lagoon.

Build your diving resume

A sabbatical, by definition, is an extended break from work, so getting back to the grind may seem counterproductive. Yet, honing your skills and gaining more experience in the water can open up a whole new world of diving opportunities. If you have yet to strap a tank on your back, a sabbatical is a perfect opportunity to learn to dive. Mastering your skills is considerably easier in calm, clear water, and this is where the Caribbean shines.

For those already certified but keen to venture to new sites, feed two birds with one scone by learning a new speciality in the world's best classrooms. If you're keen to get your wreck speciality, we can think of no better place than Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia, where over 50 Japanese WWII wrecks rest at varying depths.

Become a divemaster

A sabbatical also offers the rare opportunity to become a divemaster, which is the first step in pursuing a career in the dive industry. However, for those not considering a career change, the course develops your dive skills and builds your knowledge of dive theory. The course usually takes between three to six weeks to complete, and unlimited diving is the quickest way to ramp up your dive count.

two reef sharks with small with along a reef in the Bahamas

Plan your itinerary

Creating a rough itinerary will help you visualise how to incorporate diving into your sabbatical. Keep in mind the diving seasons at your chosen destinations. For instance, if you want to swim with humpback whales in Moorea in French Polynesia, you will need to visit between mid-August and mid-October.

Some wildlife phenomena may require more meticulous planning. French Polynesia's marbled grouper spawning, for example, only happens for one day of the year, around the full moon in May in the southern Fakarava channel. Those who remember the event from Blue Planet II might also remember the crew narrowly missing the event and having to wait a whole year to recapture it.

Pairing destinations

We've all met a box ticker: someone who has blasted through countries without really experiencing them. Unless you have a year-long sabbatical in the works, taking several long-haul flights to every corner of the Earth will likely be fruitless. Sticking to one destination, or looping locales in the same continent, will minimise travel time, enabling you to really get under the skin of each place.

A duo of humpback whales breach at sunset

Big Animals in Central America

If you're travelling to the Americas and wondering how to incorporate diving into your sabbatical, several destinations stand among the best in the world for aquatic adventures. For advanced divers, the Pacific Ocean has some of the best big animal diving on the planet. Mexico's Revigeggido Archipelago (also known as Socorro), boasts curious manta rays and bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales (January to April) and a staggering ten species of shark. Further south, dive with hundreds of scalloped hammerheads around Costa Rica's Cocos Island, or head to Ecuador's Galapagos Islands which are home to ginormous pregnant whale sharks, hammerheads, Galapagos penguins and marine iguanas.

Sun Corals Tubastraea faulkneri Feeding at Night in Indonesia

Complete the Coral Triangle

Curious about how to incorporate diving into your sabbatical in Asia? The Coral Triangle, which stretches across the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, is the most biodiverse marine region in the world. Whether you stick to one country or navigate several, kaleidoscopic coral reefs and blizzards of marine life are guaranteed.

Ready to take the Trip of a Lifetime? Get in touch with our team of dive experts for a bespoke itinerary and start planning the ultimate sabbatical.