Often surface from a dive ravenous? Fear not, you're not alone. Don't be fooled by the leisurely fin-kicks of divers, the weightlessness of this sport can push your body to its limits, working up a substantial appetite. Call us biased, but the icing on the cake after a day spent diving is a delicious meal. We've taken on the challenge of scouring the globe in search of the best destinations to keep your heart and your stomach full (tough gig). Whether you're a connoisseur of fine dining, a fan of street food, or someone who enjoys the best of both worlds, keep reading to uncover the world's best diving and dining destinations.
1. The Maldives
The Maldives has long been synonymous with palm-fringed beaches, marine-rich waters, luxurious hotels and the world's finest restaurants. This island nation, flung across the Indian Ocean, has some of the fishiest waters in the world, boasting everything from whale sharks and manta rays to kaleidoscopic cyclones of colourful reef fish, sharks, eagle rays and turtles. No matter where you decide to decamp, the Maldives caters to both beginner divers in shallow, turquoise lagoons, and advanced divers in the deep channels between the atolls.
Dining in the Maldives is an indulgent affair. Maldivian cuisine is a tantalising fusion of Indian, Sri Lankan and Arabian influences and seafood reigns supreme, with dishes such as 'mas huni,' a delightful combination of shredded coconut, tuna, and lime, and 'garudhiya,' a fragrant fish broth.
As the Maldives islands are spread out, it's not usually possible to hop across the archipelago on a gourmet tour. Therefore, you will need to choose your base accordingly. The Ithaa Undersea was the first transparent undersea restaurant in the Maldives. Located five metres beneath the surface at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, guests can sample delicious culinary creations alongside sharks and eagle rays. For those who prefer garden-to-table dining in a leafier setting, One&Only Reethi Rah's Botanica restaurant grows its own organic produce; a candlelit dinner in the garden should not be missed.
2. Bali, Indonesia
Bali, with the WWII USS Liberty wreck in Tulamben and Manta Point and Crystal Bay off Nusa Penida, is rich with world-class dive sites. On the surface, this lush island is no different, especially when it comes to food. From street eats to cosmopolitan restaurants, Bali's culinary diversity makes it one of the world's best diving and dining destinations.
Balinese cuisine is slightly different from the rest of the country. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim, you will find more pork dishes in Bali, such as the island's most famous dish, babi guling, or suckling pig. Indonesia is located in the Coral Triangle, and after spending a day diving in the the world's most biodiverse marine region, you'll likely be starving. Dishes like nasi goreng (fried rice) and sate ayam (chicken skewers served with peanut sauce) are staples of the local diet, while the region's iconic sambal sauce adds a fiery kick to every meal.
If hearty rice dishes feel a bit much pre-dive, Bali has become the capital for brightly coloured smoothie bowls, avocado toast and other light dishes. If you want to treat yourself, Bali is also home to some of the most refined dining experiences - it's not hard to find high-end restaurants perched on the edge of the ocean or artisan cafés overlooking rice fields.
3. Zanzibar, Tanzania
Zanzibar is best known for having white sandy beaches lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Yet, for beginner divers, this island is also one of the world's best diving and dining destinations.
While advanced divers might find more variation around Pemba Channel, for those learning to dive, Zanzibar is surrounded by shallow sites in great visibility. Water temperatures average at 27 degrees, providing the perfect conditions to master your skills.
When it comes to Zanzibar's cuisine, dishes are a fusion of African, Indian and Middle Eastern influences. Signature dishes like coconut curries, pilau rice and biriyani offer a mouthwatering combination of spices and tender meat.
Zanzibar's most famous restaurant, the Rock Restaurant, serves up local caught seafood - try the octopus curry and seafood platter.. For an authentic insight into the island's foodie culture, visit a local spice farm, where tours of the fragrant plantations end witha meal infused with the freshest spices.
4. Cozumel, Mexico
No round-up of the world's best diving and dining destinations would be complete without Mexico. Cozumel, located off the Yucatan peninsula in the cerulean Caribbean Sea, offers both diverse diving and delicious dining.
Cozumel is one Mexico's premier drift diving destinations, and with a wide range of sites - ranging from intricate cave systems to coral reefs brimming with life - promises to work up a real appetite. After a day of diving, indulge in fresh seafood at restaurants like Kondesa in San Miguel; if you only eat there once, opt for the catch of the day.
Mexican cuisine is a testament to the country's vibrant culture. Street tacos are filled with the freshest ingredients, while another must-try dish, Conchinita pibil, is a slow-roasted, succulent pork dish. Salsas, from mild to fiery, accompany every meal (as well as a margarita or two!).
Pro tip: For the drinkers among us, make sure to pair your seafood with a refreshing michelada, a traditional cocktail blending beer, lime juice, spices and tomato juice. For those of us who don't drink alcohol - a fresh coconut does just the trick!
5. The Azores, Portugal
Hailed as the 'Hawaii of Europe,' the remote and wild Azores archipelago offers some of the best big animal diving this side of the world. Below the waves, divers can explore volcanic seascapes and lava tubes that harbour a huge array of marine life, including lobsters, crabs, nudibranchs and rays. Meanwhile, advanced divers can venture to offshore sites to mingle with playful dolphins, manta rays and the elusive blue shark.
On the culinary front, Portugal is celebrated for its fresh seafood and hearty stews. The country is renowned for its succulent seafood rice dishes, such as arroz de marisco, a dish brimming with freshly-caught shrimp and mussels - best paired with a glass of vinho verde, a refreshing Portuguese green wine. If you fancy a post-dive sweet treat, you'll find moreish pastel de nata tarts wherever you go.