Get down with the fishes: A diver's guide

Written by  Kat Mackintosh

It’s a whole different world underwater. Even sound and light are different, sunlight appears in individual shafts, and it’s never quiet, a continual current of noise murmurs, clouding water-filled ears. The life here is alien at first. Imagine seeing coral for the first time, its strange hard shapes and texture, and tropical fish in all their colours, and a seahorse or a starfish, after only seeing the world above the waves? Must have been like visiting another planet.

These days we grow up on nature documentaries and aquariums, so many people are inspired to venture under water to meet what they already know is there. Diving is the best way to get down with the fishes; it allows you to get deep enough to play with the friendlier members of the marine population and the freedom of movement to get around comfortably. Neither of which a submarine shell affords.

Your first step into the blue has to involve diving lessons, but the good news is you can take lessons in some fairly exotic places. A weeks worth of coaching and diving in the warm waters of Fiji or the Red Sea will both instruct and inspire. The Great Barrier Reef and the waters off Manado may be familiar to you from the nature documentaries, but they’re not as inaccessible as you may have thought, you can learn to dive there as well.

Once you’ve mastered the basics you can start to consider the kind of diving trips you’d prefer, boat based or land based is the big choice. Divers need access to a lot of gear so they need a base in a resort or dive centre or on a boat. The next decision is what do you want to explore? Wreck diving on the S.S. Yongala, Million Dollar Point, or Bali’s Liberty Glo will amaze history buffs, there aren’t many circumstances when you can have such open access to such large ships, and each sunken lady has a sad story to tell. If you took your inspiration from Jacques Cousteau and his colourful and unusual discoveries, North Save a Tack Passage, the waters off Sipadan Island and Egypt’s Sha’ab Rumi were some of his own discoveries and favourite diving destinations.

Water temperature may also be an influencing factor. If you’re a cold fish you may not want to swim with the other cold fishes, but if you're made of tougher stuff Barkley Sound and Scarpa Flow are pretty incredible, the water tinged green rather than the bright blue of aptly named The Blue Hole or Blue Corner.

Best diving destinations

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