It's that time of the year again. The Michael Bublé CD is back in hibernation, we've sampled every Turkey leftover dish ever invented and - for some unknown reason - we are all feeling a little more rotund. As we get ready to enter 2018, we've been reflecting on the past year, which has been pretty marvellous for travel. We've scoured the globe, diving a wealth of incredible sites, seeing bucket list marine life and testing some of the most luxurious hotels - all in the name of research (tough gig). And to welcome in the new year we've ribbon-wrapped you a round-up of our favourite destinations, dive sites and top tips (because life is in the detail, after all). So if you're thinking of taking a diving holiday next year then read on to discover some of our favourite trips and, if you do book one with us, we'll even lend you a Go Pro so you can capture those magical moments.
Neill Ghosh, Director of Sales – Seychelles
Favourite dive site: Wonderland night dive - hands down the best night dive I've ever done. It felt like anything could happen at any time, one such point was when a huge nurse shark came creeping out of the dark ocean. We also went fluoro diving, which if you've never done you need to try - seeing the reef glow in technicolour is pretty special.
Why you should visit: It is incredibly remote and has only been visited by divers recently so the marine environment is virtually untouched. Plus the beautiful Alphonse Island resort is simply stunning.
Top tip: Try sailfish snorkelling - they cast unhooked 'teasers' to tempt the sailfish so that you can snorkel with them, it's a pretty spectacular experience.
Laura Borrowman, Original Diving Expert – Maldives
Favourite dive site: Christmas Tree at Noonu Atoll which features an impressive Thila (underwater island) with a reef formation in the shape of a Christmas Tree. On the sandy bottom you can find white tip and nurse sharks having a rest, or you may spot a stingray hiding under one of the overhangs. As you wind your way up the pinnacle, take in the colourful soft corals and finish your dive surrounded by a cloud of red tooth trigger fish whilst taking in the sheer abundance of fish here.
Why you should visit: The Maldives offers a bit of something for everyone, but is the perfect destination for those divers in search of the 'big stuff' (think manta rays year-round). Couple this with luxurious hotels on picture-perfect islands surrounded by white sand beaches and azure blue lagoons for the ultimate escape. Oh, and for non-divers the Maldives is a perfect place to learn - Original Travel's Founder Tom Barber took his kids to Soneva Fushi for the Bubblemaker course - read about it here.
Top tip: Experience fine dining Maldivian cuisine whilst sitting on the deck of a beautiful traditional wooden sailing boat at the stunning Ba'Theli restaurant at Milaidhoo - heaven!
Amy Cooper, Original Diving Expert – Belize
Favourite dive site: The Lighthouse Reef near the Blue Hole boasts one of the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean, characterised by coral encrusted walls and swim throughs, not to mention the giant group of tarpon and sharks I saw.
Why you should visit: Belize is great if you want to mix a land adventure with diving on holiday.
Top tip: Travel during lobster season between mid-February and mid-June. Head to a lively bar called Barefoot for their lobster grilled cheese sandwich washed down with a cold Belikin beer - perfection!
Liz Catchpole, Original Diving Expert – Mexico
Favourite dive site: The El Pit Cenote in Tulum - it is just nothing like anything I have ever witnessed before. 100% visibility and stalagmites millions of years old. I'm still utterly speechless over it (so were Original Divers Louisa Fisher and Lizzie Shipley).
Why you should visit: The Quintana Roo Region of Mexico offers a great range of diving, from ocean drift diving in Cozumel to adrenaline-spiking bull shark diving from Playa del Carmen (between November and March), snorkelling with whale sharks off Isla Holbox (between June and September) to cenote diving across the Yucatan Peninsula.
Top tip: Diving El Pit first thing in the morning gives you the best sunlight and beats the crowds.
India Tyndall, Original Diving Expert – The Azores
Favourite dive site: Baixa da Maia - accessible for virtually all divers, the visibility at this dive site is fantastic and you never know what will come by, plus you get to explore hidden caves in your surface interval!
Why you should visit: The Azores is perfect for divers and non-divers alike with activities including whale-watching, swimming with dolphins, hiking, mountain biking and horse-riding.
Top tip: Arm yourself with a detailed guide book and hire a car to explore the islands yourself on your dry days - and don't forget to take your camera for the stunning views!
India Tyndall, Original Diving Expert – Indonesia (Alor)
Favourite dive site: Black Rhino - descend to the mucky bottom in search of weedy rhinopias.
Why you should visit: Avoid the crowds of Lembeh and experience some world-class muck diving in an untouched paradise, combined with stunning coral gardens.
Top tips: Plan your stay around the full moon to be in with a chance of spotting the larger pelagics (scalloped hammerheads, mola mola, schooling reef sharks). Dive the house reef around 5pm to watch the mandarin fish perform their stunning mating dance.