When we were researching the Dive in Style books, we tried where possible to visit all the resorts 'in season' given the short stay and need to photograph everything at its sunlit best. Surprisingly we were continually greeted by management sheltering under umbrellas and the phrase 'we have never had weather like this at this time of year!'
There are many reasons why the phrase 'off season' should not weave defeat into your holiday plans, especially for marine lovers - crowd-less beaches, uninterrupted dive sites, upgrades to superior room categories and luxury resorts at a fraction of the price, and suddenly the unreachable dream holiday turns from fantasy to reality.
Best of all, fish don't listen to hotelier dictated seasons and marine sightings 'off-season' can be the most alluring of the year! Here are some of our top picks for off-season diving.
Time to Visit: Mid-May to Mid-October
Yes the visibility drops, but the reason for that is an abundance of plankton in the water, and life begets life, in this instance manta ray and whale shark. Mantas are guaranteed just minutes off the beach at the incomparable Soneva Fushi (still our favourite) and whilst Whale Sharks are more elusive, they are more easily found at this time of year.
Red Sea, Egypt
Time to Visit: May to August
Hot. But that doesn't really matter when you are underwater looking for the schools of fish and hammerhead shark which tend to congregate around this time of year. Head north to Sharm for possibly the better marine life but Hurghada's ace card is that, thanks to the local topography, it is not as furnace like, albeit still hot as a pistol. The Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh is my top pick at the moment.
Time to Visit: June to September
Our favourite resort is still the untouchable Maroma, hidden away on a perfect untrammelled white sand beach south of Cancun, and offering private trips to Holbox Channel and Contoy Island to snorkel with the whale shark where they pass through on their migration for just a few months every year. An unforgettable experience and one that is affordable if you pick your time right.
Time to Visit: Mid-January to March
The big attraction here is that one of the world's great dive sites is only really accessible from one of the world's more expensive Robinson Crusoe style resorts, Vamizi. If you travel off season though, prices tumble and yet you still get to dive Neptune's Arm; but remember you will need an advanced ticket to join in. Throw in the fact that Vamizi is protected from the bulk of the rain due to its position off the coast and there is a good case for taking advantage of the more unpredictable weather.
Time to Visit: April to July and September to December
The serious divers dream. More sites than you can believe, wrecks, manta, shark, and alarming drifts, albeit that during low season occasionally the holy grail of Blue Corner' can become inaccessible. Still whether it is the Nautilus dive, swimming in a lake of non stinging jellyfish, or finally finding the world's (to me) most beautiful fish the Mandarin Fish, this is a must visit and there is only one resort which gives you easy access, the Palau Pacific.
If you want to know about these and other off-season diving destinations please get in touch.