Petit St. Vincent
Love to scuba? These luxe locales offer an unforgettable underwater experience paired with fine accommodations. Let’s dive in.
The human race has been trying to achieve one of its most common dreams—breathing underwater—since the start. Herodotus wrote in 500 B.C. of the first snorkeler and the Mike Nelson of his day, Scyllis of Macedonia, who used a reed to breathe underwater as he swam about, cutting mooring lines of Persian ships.
About 200 years later, during the siege of Tyre, Alexander the Great was said to have submerged himself in a clear glass barrel, the forerunner of the diving bell and other submersibles.
Fast forward to today and thanks to scuba gear, diving requires little skill other than the ability to swim well. And, of course, beautiful waters to explore.
Luckily, fantastic diving outposts abound where you’ll be able to see some exotic fish and stay in comfort. And if you’re new to scuba, many locales will help beginners with on-the-spot training and certification.
When you’re ready to join the six million divers already discovering the mysteries and beauties of the silent world, here are some alluring choices:
The islands of Fiji are often referred to as the soft coral capital of the world, and the capital of the capital is Fiji’s fourth-largest island, Taveuni. The Taveuni Palms Resort offers private or group diving for certified and beginning divers with PADI instructors. You’ll head out to the Rainbow Reef, the Great White Wall, the Purple Wall, the Yellow Grotto and other renowned diving sites, all teeming with exotic tropical fish painted every color under the sun.
The luxury resort has room for about 12 in two private villas, each on its own beachfront acre with a private pool and a staff of seven, including a personal chef. The full menu of activities includes snorkeling on a reef right off the resort beach and trekking to (and swimming under) idyllic waterfalls in the nearby Bouma World Heritage Park.
The Eagles Palace Hotel in Halkidiki, Greece, is set among olive, palm and pine trees, with views of the charming village of Ouranoupolis, Mount Athos and Ammouliani island. Its extensive spa facility soothes the individual soul, but the resort is ideal for families as well.
Sisters Niki and Katerina Iliadou have run the Athos Scuba Diving Center right off the hotel beach for the last 20 years; few dive centers have as solid a reputation for handling beginners to experienced divers, young or old. While diving, there’s plenty to look at in the crystal-clear Mediterranean waters.
A PADI 5 Star Dive Center recently opened by Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques Cousteau, on Petit St. Vincent (PSV) offers one of the most beguiling locales in the Caribbean’s diverse waters.
This private island has seven beaches and a staff of 130 servicing 22 luxury cottages and villas scattered around 115 acres on seaside bluffs or steps away from the ocean. (An island buyout option is also available for big events, if you can keep the crowd down to 56.)
Here, the land may be as quiet as the underwater realm. The island has no telephones, no televisions and no WiFi signal, so social media addicts may want to think twice—or come for the cure.
Photo By Scott Ramsay
Quilalea is an even smaller island (86 acres) completely within a protected marine reserve in Mozambique. It is uninhabited, except for the staff of the Azura Quilalea resort and the guests in attendance. The resort comprises nine natural stone-and-thatch villas that house a maximum of 18 guests at a time.
Photo By Scott Ramsay
For those guests’ enjoyment, there’s a reef right off the main beach for diving, snorkeling or kayaking, and deep-sea fishing farther out. Or they can stroll among indigenous baobab groves and view some 60 species of birds.
The waters here see seasonal migrations of turtles, humpback whales, manta rays and whale sharks, along with countless reef fish, so things are never less than lively underwater.
When spending a good portion of a diving vacation submerged, the logical question arises: Why spend any time on land at all? Hence the popularity of liveaboard dive trips, where you can just jump overboard to head into the briny deep.
In the Maldives, an outfit called Floating Resort by Scubaspa roams the picture perfect islands and reefs of the Indian Ocean in two purpose-built luxury safari yachts, Yin and Yang.
The advantage is throwing anchor at rewarding dive spots as the currents dictate, such as at Boduhithi Manta Point or Kuramathi Kandu to search for manta rays and hammerhead sharks, or the Kuda Giri reef to investigate a wreck. Each vessel accommodates up to 40 passengers in 19 cabins and is available for private charters.
Scubaspa wisely accommodates for couples who include only one diver; its onboard spa has six treatment rooms and spans two decks. With gourmet meals, onboard lectures, night dives and daily yoga classes, Scubaspa has taken the liveaboard notion to new heights—and depths.