Divers are really astronauts; gliding weightless through the ocean we observe alien worlds carpeted in vast fields of colourful corals with equally bizarre, enthralling inhabitants - from the foreign clicks of dolphins communicating to minute technicolour slugs (nudibranch). And best yet, you don't need years of gruelling training or a rocket to experience these watery worlds, just four days and a eagle-ray-eyed (sorry) ground control. That's where we come in, and to ensure you start your adventure starry-eyed, discover our top five places to learn to dive where magical marine moments are all but guaranteed.
Marine Madness: Maldives
So much more than a pretty face, the Maldives boasts some of the most sought after marine species, from the gentle giant whale shark to hundreds of manta rays (between June and November). Add to that calm, clear lagoons to learn in and some of the most luxurious private islands to spend your surface intervals on, and you'll leave a certified ocean dweller (official title). Insider tip: for an intergalactic experience paddle in the shore after dark and see the waves shimmer as bioluminescent plankton light up like stars in the night sky.
The Best in the Med: Gozo
If you hail from the UK, Gozo is an excellent choice to dip your toe (or fin) in the water. The little sister to Malta, this small laidback island boasts the best diving in the Mediterranean with warm, turquoise waters more reminiscent of the tropics than of Europe. Add to that wrecks, caves, caverns and the Blue Hole (as mysterious and mesmerising as it sounds) to explore in superb visibility which regularly exceeds 30 metres, and we're confident you'll be hooked on diving for life
Enter the Kaleidoscope: Fiji
Diving in Fiji is akin to reaching the end of the rainbow. As the soft coral capital of the world (official title), its reefs are carpeted in kaleidoscopic colours alive with a flurry of colourful reef fish, all of which can be seen while learning to dive on Qamea's delightful house reef. Once you're certified you'll get to start your log book with the likes of "Fish Patch", "The Playground" and "Purple Wall" - trust us, you'll want to take your camera for these.
Caribbean Calling: Grenada
Warm waters, colourful coral gardens, shallow reefs and an excellent local dive operation make this a perfect place for anyone to learn. When you do, the first dive should be to the world's first underwater dive sculpture park and artificial reef. Bolstered by friendly locals and a whole heap of above-water adventures, from hikes through the lush rainforest-covered interior to sailing the protected bay, the 'Isle of Spice' has all the ingredients for an unforgettable journey into scuba diving.
It’s a Shore Thing: Egypt
Fact: if you're from the UK the Red Sea houses the best diving close to home. A short five-and-a-half hour flight will see you learning to dive straight from the shores of The Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh which, quite simply, has one of the best house reefs we've come across, with beautifully preserved corals and abundant reef life right into the sunlit shallows. Once you've learnt the tricks of the trade, explore the reef for turtles, eagle rays, barracuda and, if you keep your eyes peeled, expertly camouflaged seahorses.