While we regularly spout our merry manifesto about the wonders of the world as seen from dry land, we're also major fans of the ocean and all it has to offer, which is why we have a specialist dive team here at Original Travel, the aptly named Original Diving - divemasters, instructors, marine biologists and all-round experts in the watery stuff worldwide. So whether you're a seasoned pro or looking to dip in the water a few times as part of a wider trip, read on to discover some of our favourite destinations and experiences, both above and below water.
Rugged, wild and refreshingly desolate, Oman has all the ingredients for a spectacular adventure. Haggle for Arabian treasures in Muscat's labyrinth of souks, camp under the stars in the remote Wahiba Sands desert, feel on top of the world hiking, biking and even paragliding the towering Hajar Mountain range and journey to the empty quarter on a 4x4 adventure.
Underwater is just as thrilling, whether diving with dolphins and turtles around the uninhabited Daymaniyat Islands from Muscat, exploring the dramatic fjords of the Musandam peninsula, home to over 900 species of fish, or discovering technicolour macro critters in southerly Salalah.
Whether combined with neighbouring safari hotspots or a standalone trip, Mozambique is one of Africa's best diving destinations. Set out on safari, camera in hand, to capture the Big Five in the heart of the African bush before decamping on the coast.
Located in the Quirimbas Archipelago, Azura Quilalea houses one of our favourite house-reefs, habituated by over 350 species of fish and the endangered dugong. While in the southernly Bazaruto Archipelago you can dive the famed Two Mile Reef teeming with life, including dolphins, sharks, turtles and eagle rays. Both destinations come replete with glistening white sandbanks, laid-back dwellings and spectacular sunsets.
California and French Polynesia
There's nothing quite like road trippin' in the USA. Tick off California's icons driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, from Yosemite National Park to the artistic Monterey County, Big Sur's wild coast and America's Riviera, Santa Barbara.
Next stop: paradise. From LA fly to the wild and wonderful islands that form French Polynesia. Skip Tahiti for its laid-back, evocative neighbour Rangiroa, otherwise known (by us) as the aquarium. Aside from the mammoth amount of marine life and colourful corals residing in the surrounding lagoon, it houses one of our favourite dive sites: Tiputa Pass, one of the sharkiest dives out there.
The Golden Trio: Belize, Guatemala & Mexico
Discover ancient Mayan ruins, dense tropical jungle, charming colonial towns, vibrant markets and postcard perfect beaches across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and Guatemala. And if that isn't enough, you can also tick off some of the world's most coveted dives, including Belize's iconic Blue Hole and barrier reef, the Yucatan's cenotes (underground caverns with crystal clear fresh water) and even whale sharks from the shores of Isla Holbox.
Sri Lanka and the Maldives
Sri Lanka is one for the Culture Vultures. Literally. Explore no less than seven World Heritage Sites in the aptly named Cultural Triangle, drink tea straight from the source touring rolling tea plantations and feast until your heart's content on famous local curries before heading to the Maldives.
Sure, the Maldives archipelago boasts endless white sandbanks, glistening turquoise lagoons and some of the world's most luxurious hotels, but what's really magical is the diving. Perfect for snorkellers, learner and pro divers, the Maldives is home to a startling amount of marine life, from nudibranch (technicolour sea slugs) to manta rays, frogfish to whale sharks - all in crystal clear visibility.
Lisbon and Azores
Combine a city break in Portugal's charming, coastal capital Lisbon with Europe's answer to Hawaii: the Azores. A sun-drenched city characterised with winding cobblestone streets and artistically tiled buildings, Lisbon is a place you can spend entire days on your feet exploring, or, for a more relaxed immersion pull up a seat in an alfresco café, custard pastry in hand, and watch the world pass by.
Polar opposite, the Azores is an archipelago of wild, rugged islands ripe for the adventurous. Not to mention being home to Europe's best diving (think: WW2 wrecks, manta rays, devil rays, blue sharks, mako sharks, dolphins and whales).