Adventure Underwater, Luxury on Land
by, 06-05-2013 at 03:06 PM (3526 Views)
I’m a big fan of purpose-driven, experiential travel; exploring a destination and tying it in with a favorite activity (like golf or bird watching) or a special event (sports, concert, festival, etc.). That’s probably why I always had an interest in becoming a SCUBA diver, which finally happened when I completed my PADI Open Water certification course on Roatan – off the coast of Honduras – in late 2010.
I quickly caught the SCUBA bug (hence my Luxury Lounge avatar), and since that trip I’ve had the opportunity to log “bottom time” in some of the world’s best dive spots: the Red Sea, Hawaii and Thailand’s Andaman Sea. My goal is to integrate diving and travel as often as possible, and below I have highlighted four SCUBA-centric destinations that boast great sea life as well as great Luxury Link properties…
Just north of Honduras, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef runs along virtually the entire Caribbean coast of Belize. One of the most diverse ecosytems in the world, it’s estimated that only 10% of the reef’s species have been identified! Legendary among divers is Belize’s Blue Hole, a huge submarine sinkhole some 300 meters across that offers pristine, crystal-clear conditions to view giant groupers, nurse sharks and other creatures.
Hotel Recommendation: St. George’s Caye Resort
Regarded as one of the world’s premiere diving properties, St. George’s Caye Resort is just seven miles off the coast of Belize City, yet worlds away on its own private island. Those who are still unsure about “taking the plunge” can “test the waters” by SCUBA diving in the resort’s pool, one of many activities included in your vacation experience along with kayaking, windsurfing and sailing on Hobie Cats. For seasoned divers and those completing their open-water certification, the concierge staff at St. George’s Caye will coordinate your trips to Belize’s top dive spots such as Bev’s Garden and The Crack at Glover Reef Atoll and the aforementioned Blue Hole.
On land, each of St. George’s Caye Resort’s luxurious ocean cabanas features a private porch and hammock, with turndown service each evening. Coffee, tea and fresh juice delivered to your room each morning will get you energized for a day of exploration, above or below the shimmering Caribbean.
The Indonesian paradise of Bali is renowned for both its SCUBA diving and its refined resorts, but next door is an up-and-coming destination beckoning travelers looking for something new in Southeast Asia. Some say that the diving on Lombok – due east of Bali – is superior because there are more protected areas from the strong swells of the Indian Ocean. Sharks, eagle rays, turtles and manta rays are all common visitors to the Lombok Straight, while 25% of the world’s corals can be found in Indonesia.
Hotel Recommendation: Verve Villas
Lombok’s best dive sites are off its west coast, which is where you’ll also find the five-star Verve Villas. While the couples massages, private villa pools and feng-sui’d architecture suggest this is a place for romantic relaxation, the fact that accommodations sleep four or six guests means Verve Villas is also a great choice for a group SCUBA trip! At the end of a multi-dive day, unwind under your private beach bale (canopy), and fire up the grill with fresh seafood as you swap stories of undersea adventure. At sunset, Verve Villa staffers pamper you with cocktails and canapés…
Portofino Coast, Italy
Most travelers think art and food – not SCUBA diving – when planning a trip to Italy, but fantastic undersea experiences can be had along much of “The Boot’s” coastline. When you need to burn off that 15th pasta dinner, strap on your tank and head to the Portofino Coast, where the Marine Park of Portofino is reputed to offer the best diving in the entire Mediterranean.
Unique to the area is “The Christ of the Abyss” a giant submerged bronze statue which attracts a wealth of wildlife including giant moon fish, huge moray eels, lobster and octopus. The Marine Park of Portofino is also known as “The Dolphin Sanctuary”, with these playful mammals often observed.
Hotel Recommendation: Grand Hotel Bristol Resort & SPA
Each morning, step from your deluxe room with beautifully-tiled floors onto your private balcony with sweeping views of the Ligurian Sea, and decide which dive sites to tackle that day. Centrally located in Rapallo, adjacent to the Portofino Promontory protected marine reserve, Grand Hotel Bristol Resort & SPA allows you to experience the vibrant underwater wonderlands of The Isuela, Punta della Torretta and Gonzatti Reef.
During your surface intervals, take full advantage of the incredible inclusions in your Luxury Link vacation experience, such as daily breakfast, WiFi and a three-course dinner on one night of your choice served at the rooftop Le Cupole Restaurant. For those who prefer land-based activities, this stretch of the Italian Riviera boasts beautiful beaches, great golfing and hiking in legendary Cinque Terre.
Florida Keys, USA
Perhaps you don’t have time for an extended SCUBA adventure. Or maybe you just realized your passport just expired, and simply can’t wait for the renewal before logging some “bottom time”. Fortunately, world-class diving exists in the lower 48 states, and I definitely do mean lower…
The Florida Keys provide a true taste of the tropics without having to leave the U.S., and are shielded from the open Atlantic Ocean by the third-longest coral barrier reef in the world. With water temperatures ranging from the mid-70°Fs to mid-80F°s, and visibility of 50 feet or more, you’ll enjoy spotting the more than 260 species of tropical fish who call the Florida Keys home.
Hotel Recommendation: Cheeca Lodge & Spa
Midway down the Keys in Islamorada you’ll find Cheeca Lodge and Spa, a AAA Four-Diamond, full-service resort that will make you wonder if you were somehow transported to the Caribbean. The island’s two SCUBA shops will properly outfit you and introduce you to nearby reef and wreck dives, while kayaking, deep-sea fishing and outdoor spa treatments are also at your fingertips.
Each Luxury Lagoon View Suite lets you spread out in style with a king-sized bed, sofa bed and fully-equipped kitchen, but most guests take advantage of Cheeca Lodge’s fine dining. Atlantic's Edge Restaurant has earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, while Nakai Sushi features an Asian-inspired menu.
Speaking of inspiration, we hope this blog has motivated you to pick-up SCUBA diving as a hobby, or if you’re already certified, jump back in with a refresher course. As described above, literally an ENTIRE WORLD of diving and travel adventures await…