Dive into something new this year
Contributed by: Jo Morgan
The crystal clear water around you is shot through with light, and schools of tropical fish dart and swirl above coral gardens of extraordinary colour and fantastical formations. Grouper and shy octopus hide in dark caverns, and graceful manta rays float above you, their giant wings blocking out the sun that filters down to the sea floor. In the distance, you can see the dark hull of your superyacht through the water, its anchor chain sinking down into the sea bed.
In deeper waters, shipwrecks lie forgotten on the sea floor - lost warplanes from an ill-fated WW2 bombing raid, or eerie container vessels with their cargo of trucks still lashed to their decks. Corroding slowly in the cool depths and covered in barnacles, these mysterious hulks become home to hidden creatures of extraordinary wonder—sea turtles and prehistoric sharks, fish and crustaceans all finding safe habitat in the dark corners. So these steel vessels, once the machines of men—explorers, fighter pilots, pirates, fishermen—transform slowly into fabulous gardens of marine life.
Diving off of a yacht and discovering the world of colour and creatures beneath the surface is one of the most enduring, ethereal memories of the superyacht experience. The ocean is the final frontier, full of wonders— yet some destinations are particularly special for diving on a superyacht charter. Here are some of the highlights.
This beautiful island offers the best diving in the Mediterranean, with warm waters right through until October and sensational visibility. Its real appeal for divers however, is the magnificent shipwreck of the MS Zenobia, a football stadium-length ferry which sunk on its maiden voyage in 1980, taking its cargo of over 100 lorries to the sea floor. Today, divers can sit in the cabs of the trucks where they sit still tied to the deck, and explore the narrow corridors of the ship’s interior, floating through rooms which still have thick carpet on the floors and glass in the windows. Other dive sites of note in Cyprus include the wonderful cave network in the northeast of the island which teems with octopus and cuttlefish, and the reefs off the south coast.
The British Virgin Islands, Caribbean
The BVIs are one of the world’s great yacht charter destinations, for reasons that go far beyond the enchanting tropical scenery and classy resorts. Beneath the surface, this archipelago offers some sensational diving, the best-known of which is Wreck Alley, where four vessels were scuttled close to each other to create a diver’s paradise. Other highlights of BVI diving include the boulder field at Bronco Billy’s, the wreck of the RMS Rhone made famous by the movie The Deep, the vast Horseshoe Reef around Anegada, and Indians rock formation off Norman Island.
The Blue Hole dive site of Belize very regularly appears on the list of top 10 dive sites in the world, and this 300m deep sinkhole is home to some fabulous sea creatures, such as the Caribbean reef shark. However, that’s not all there is to diving in Belize, which has the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia. Ambergris Caye in particular is tipped to be even better than the Blue Hole for its astonishing array of sea life- although there’s something impressively eerie about that Blue Hole dive that you’ll remember until your dying day. Belize is a pristine environment tipped to soon become a yachting hotspot, so get there quick before the crowds.
The Maldives, Indian Ocean
A string of sugar-white atolls scattered far out in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives offers some of the best diving to be found on our glorious planet. A yacht charter is the ideal, (some say the only) way to do this glamorous archipelago justice, as you float from one astonishing coral reef to the next. Expect pods of whales, dolphins in vast numbers, hammerhead sharks circling in huge vortexes, and a collection of tropical fish and coral so dazzlingly colourful that your eyes simply won’t know where to look first. Highlights include the Baa Atoll, where you can see congregations of up to 150 manta rays flying through the water with consummate grace.
The Bahamas, Atlantic Ocean
The swirling shades of blue of the Bahamian sea are worth a yacht charter alone - the aquamarine and turquoise, the emerald, sapphire, and deep navy- all the colours of blue imaginable encircling the blinding white sands of the tropical Bahamas. However, it’s what’s under the surface that wins the Bahamas an entry on this list—and in particular, the sharks. The Bahamas are one of the great sites in the world for diving with sharks at night, with the bioluminescence lighting up the scene with an almost heartbreaking beauty and the action of the sharks feeding and thrashing lending just a frisson of fear.
A very close second to Cyprus for Mediterranean diving hotspots, Malta boasts crystal clear waters which remain warm long into the European autumn, and fantastic underwater scenery. The stunning rocky coastline creates a labyrinth of caves and tunnels for diving exploration, while shipwrecks and bomber planes lie sinking into the sea floor off the coast. Other highlights include The Blue Hole, where you swim through a tunnel to discover a magical coral garden full of tuna, barracuda and grouper. Celebrated for its rich history, spectacular diving, and winding fortress cities, Malta is tipped as the hottest new yacht charter destination in the Mediterranean.
The Red Sea, Middle East
The Red Sea is a place that gets experienced divers very, very excited, and it’s also a superb cruising ground for a yacht charter, with the sparkling blue sea contrasting vividly with the rolling deserts, whitewashed villages, and towering escarpments of the Arabian Gulf. There’s an exotic romance to this part of the world, conjuring up images of oases of palms and Bedouins crossing the dunes, but there’s something even more magical under the surface of the Red Sea for those who love diving. Highlights include Yolande Reef, where the wreck of the Yolande has scattered its cargo of toilets and BMWs as if in some underwater modern art installation, and the Thistlegorn, which regularly features in lists of the best dive sites in the world. If you’re not a wreck diver, never mind, for the Red Sea has enough extraordinary reefs, lagoons and cave networks to keep you busy for may lifetimes, and the marine life is nothing short of dazzling.
There can be no better way to experience dive sites than on a luxury yacht, as you can escape the crowds and explore remote dive sites as you please. After your dive you re-board your yacht, where you’ll be met with soft fluffy towels and a grand lunch on deck, as the yacht gets underway to the next amazing dive site.