If, like me, you are in the phase of life where everything seems to revolve around nappies, nursery and obsessions with football (I have a 1-year old, a 3-year old and a 5-year old) then you will know that finding a suitable destination for a diving trip as a family can be tricky. If, also like me, you are a passionate diver and traveller who loves nothing more than being on a boat or under the waves, this challenge can be a frustrating one. Gone are the days of being able to hop on a plane to a remote part of the world to dive four times a day, every day. Long gone.
Research and Planning
We mustn't despair! With a bit of research and some militant planning, there are still options out there for those of us looking for a holiday that the whole family can enjoy and where there is some brilliant diving. Some of the more exotic destinations may have to wait, and a liveaboard diving trip is probably a bad idea with a 1-year old (if for nothing more than the sanity of fellow passengers) but there are destinations out there.
Here is my list of three great places to go for a diving holiday with young kids. When choosing these destinations, I prioritised three things:
There must be direct flights. I have NO interest in a middle of the night plane change with three screaming kids in tow.
They must offer good weather and diving conditions at a time that coincides with school holidays.
The resorts I have selected must be child friendly. They don't need to be overtly family resorts though I am, despite initial hesitations, starting to like the idea of a kids' club.
Some people may be more adventurous than my family when it comes to where they will travel but with three small children, these criteria are very important.
Here are my top three picks:
Soneva Fushi, Maldives
This is at the outer realms of how far I would be willing to travel with my kids but (at least for four months of the year) you can fly here directly from the UK. It takes 10h30mins but I can handle that for the blue seas and white sands that await.
I am a fan of big fish, so the Maldives will always be a draw for me. The coral has been badly bleached due to the El Niño weather pattern. You can still find lovely coral in patches but this can't be claimed to be the main draw in the Maldives any more. The marine life has held up well and on most trips, depending on the season, you still have a great chance of seeing mantas, whale sharks and all manner of other pelagic life.
Soneva Fushi is pretty much my idea of heaven. Rustic but of the highest quality; it's like being stranded on a deserted islands, only a deserted island on steroids, with a tennis court…and a sushi chef…and a celestial observatory…oh and an amazing dive centre. Add in the relatively new kids club - The Den - and you can see why I would choose this for a family diving adventure.
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah, Oman
A direct 7h flight from the UK, guaranteed sunshine nearly all year, some great diving and a wonderfully family-friendly resort. What's not to like about Oman?
With the Egyptian Red Sea suffering badly due to the political turmoil of recent years, Oman offers a relatively close, secure, Middle Eastern diving option. The best diving close to Muscat is to be found around the Daymaniyat Islands which offer healthy coral and good marine life. Conditions can vary but, particularly for people who are a little more experienced, diving here can be very rewarding.
The Shangri-La is not for those looking for a quiet, boutique resort! It is a collection of three hotels with a total of nearly 700 rooms. If you've got young kids though, it's perfect with all the facilities you could ever need, an onsite dive centre and much more. A definite winner!
Kempinski San Lawrenz, Gozo
If you don't want to travel far at all then Gozo is a fantastic option for a short-haul family diving trip from the UK. 3h20mins in a plane to Malta and a short drive and ferry crossing and you are on the fun, laid back island of Gozo. It's Europe, so unless you like cold water and unpredictable weather, you will likely only want to travel in the summer and early autumn months.
The diving here is some of the best on offer in Europe. It's the Med so the marine life will never compare to some of the more far-flung destinations, but there are some good wrecks, the visibility is generally very good and the underwater topography is stunning, particularly at sites like The Blue Hole.
The Kempinski San Lawrenz is a wonderful family resort with a kids' club, babysitting, multiple pools and many other facilities to keep the little ones occupied. It is also conveniently located for many of the island's best dive sites so you never need to be away for long when diving.
Don't Give Up
This is just a small selection of the family diving holiday destinations we can offer here at Original Diving. The key message: you don't need to stop going on diving holidays just because you've reproduced! You may have to scale back a bit but never give up!