There's something romantic about scuba diving. I don't mean romantic in a Valentine's Day lovey-dovey sort of way (but there is that, too, ever hear of a couple's night dive?). I mean romantic in a James Bond, adventure, Navy Seal sort of way. Plunging backwards into dark waters from motor boats with killed engines wearing a wet suit with a tank of oxygen on your back. What's cooler than that? What you see underneath the water, that's what. Schools of neon-colored fish rippling past making the hair on legs bristle with delight as you kick your fins up and down moving your head from side to side pointing at your next rare sighting. Using an underwater camera. Super cool.
And don't stop reading if you just snorkel and aren't certified for scuba. The only real difference between scuba diving and snorkeling is you get to go down deeper. Those same fish, sometimes better ones, bristle by just as fast on the surface, and holding your breath to get a look at a hovering tortoise feels more aquatic, more natural. While you can always hightail it to Belize, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and find hotels that offer dive services or day-trips into the deep ocean, travel providers can also hook you up with stay and dive packages in great dive locations all over the world. They can also you hook you up with certification classes and deep-water dives.
Caradonna Dive Adventures (tel. 888/599-8400; www.caradonna.com) has information on price conscious dive and snorkeling packages or resorts to most major destinations. In addition to listing information and links to "preferred" diving destinations at locations around the world, Caradonna also lists current dive specials. A Scuba Club Cozumel special starting at $695 per person for five nights accommodations, four days of 2-tank boat dives with unlimited beach diving. This deal lasts through March 31, 2006. Accommodations are at the Scuba Club Cozumel, a small, intimate dive-centered hotel located about one-mile from Cozumel's central tourist strip. All meals, or three meals daily, are included in the price of the package that also includes round-trip airport transportation and hotel service charges. Most hotel rooms have ocean views. There are no telephones in the rooms, but there is an alarm clock to wake up for morning dives. The hotel also has an on-premise bar.
Also at Caradonna, we found a five-night, three-meal-a-day Costa Rican Dive Safari starting at approximately $1,113. Included in this package are five nights lodging, all meals, local alcoholic beverages such as beer and rum punches, four days of two-tank boat dives, and a one-day combo tour of Rincon de la Vieja volcano territory where an active volcano occasionally huffs and puffs as time and tourists go by. Translated as the "Nook where the Old One lives," Rincon de la Vieja is a Costa Rican national park where adventure tourists take a day-long horseback ride or trek to boiling mud pots, thermal strains and the cavernous craters adjacent to the volcano. With this deal, if you can gather a group of ten tourists, one travels for free. Lodging is at the Villa Sol Hotel and Villas Beach Resort where normal rates without any dives surpass $200 per night. The Villa Sol sits on the exotic and well-maintained Playa Hermosa, known for snorkeling, boogie boarding, diving and kite surfing. The surrounding vegetation is lush green, bringing the jungle almost to the water's edge. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Villa Sol is located in the Northwest area of the Costa Rican Pacific Coast. Travel for the above deal is good from May 1 to June 30, 2006.
A specialty dive travel service and tour booking company, Dive Travel (tel. 866/445-3483; www.divetravel.com) offers dive travel services for big groups. Specials to particular destinations will be offered via the Web site soon, but for now, you'll have to call a Dive Travel rep on the telephone to book your dive travel. Dive Travel specialists can arrange airfare, hotel discounts, all dive-related outings, meals, other sightseeing excursions in the selected areas, and will help you choose which island and resort are best for your diving and personal needs. Currently the site is filled with integral information on dive destinations and types of dives including free off-beach snorkeling, cave and cavern dives, drift diving, wreck diving and live-aboard diving.
Live-aboard diving is when you actually travel and sleep on a small craft or dive vessel that take you to special dive locations. Peter Hughes Diving (tel. 800/932-6237; www.peterhughes.com) is one of the leaders in live-aboard diving. With a fleet of small and mid-sized vessels called the Renowned Dancer Fleet, Peter Hughes provides a level of luxury not usually experienced on live-aboard dive vessels. From turn-down service to post-dive hot chocolates to instruction and equipment tips and cleaning services, the professional diving and hospitality staff of Peter Hughes provides every amenity. With over five boats and dive destinations including Tobago, Belize, Bali, and the Maldives, the fleet has large comfortable boats that cruise the open waters. A seven-night trip to Tobago aboard the MV Wind Dancer will run you $1,795 from now through July 21, 2006. All meals are included in the price of the package as are alcoholic beverages on-board the boat, airport transfers in Scarborough, the capital of Tobago, and five and a half days of diving with up to five days per day. A port charge of $65 and an estimated fuel charge of $100 per person are not included. Dive equipment and top-notch underwater camera equipment is available for a rental fee. Completion dives for scuba diving certificates from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) are also available for fees starting $180 for four underwater certification dives.
PADI (tel. 800/794-7234; www.padi.com) is the internationally recognized body of scuba diving instructors. All divers must be certified by a PADI-sanctioned class. Instruction begins in a classroom setting before dives are monitored in a swimming pool session. Before obtaining a certificate, prospective divers must pass a written examination and undergo a series of four deep-water dives. To gain night-dive access or professional status, PADI issues other certificates and examinations as divers grow from enthusiastic to professional. In addition to listing where you can take certification classes through authorized PADI dive centers, the Web site also lists travel specials, dive shops, and safety instructions.
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