Stroke a friendly maori wrasse and swim alongside turtles and clownfish in the Great Barrier Reef’s kaleidoscopic marine world. Visible from space, the world’s largest coral reef unravels 2,600km off the north-east coast of Australia and inspired the movie Finding Nemo. Boat operators run to the Outer Reef from Cairns.
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No matter which of the Maldives’ 1,190 coral islands you pick, you won’t have to flip far from your hotel to find outstanding scuba diving. Speedboats race you to outer reefs, where you might spy gliding manta rays, schools of fluorescent fish and harmless reef sharks amid the brilliantly colored coral.
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Fringed by the second longest barrier reef on the planet, Belize is one of the top 10 diving destinations in the world. Wetsuits are often optional in these warm Caribbean waters, teeming with neon fish and graceful rays. Explore the stalactites of the limestone Blue Hole cavern, or come face to face with gentle nurse sharks on Shark-Ray Alley.
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The contrast between the arid desert above ground and the dazzling marine life of the Red Sea couldn’t be more striking in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh. Plunge in to discover coral plateaux, potholes and lagoons, where parrotfish, pufferfish and lionfish hide behind bright coral.
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Nothing gets your adrenalin pumping and flippers quaking quite like a great white shark encounter in Mossel Bay, South Africa. Luckily there’s a steel cage between you and Jaws, with the best time to terrify yourself from May to October. Seals, dolphins and orcas add to the aquatic appeal in this strip of the Indian Ocean.
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Ko Tao (Turtle Island) is among the best diving destinations in the turquoise Gulf of Thailand, and an inexpensive place to do a PADI open-water certificate. Unlike neighbouring Ko Samui, the party here is underwater and swirls with psychedelic fish, giant clams, stingrays and spotted whale sharks.
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Divers flock to Cyprus for one reason: the 10,000-ton Zenobia ferry that capsized in 1980 and is one of the world’s most intriguing shipwrecks. A 10-minute boat ride from Larnaca, the 42m-deep wreck is an eerie maze of underwater truck passages, halls and bridges, now the hunting ground of barracuda and grouper.
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Like ghosts of the underwater world, manta rays fly through the inky waters of the Pacific on an otherworldly night dive from Kailua Kona in Hawaii. Slip into your wetsuit and take a torch to spotlight these graceful creatures as they swoop down for plankton.
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Filtered light from above turns the Mediterranean an exquisite electric blue in Gozo’s Blue Hole. Next to the Azure Window rock arch, the hole is a must-dive site for fans of dramatic drops, plunging 60m in total to the seabed. As you descend, look out for starfish, moray eels and octopuses.
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Migrating humpback whales, dolphins and turtles can be spotted on a dive in the 22-mile Columbus Passage separating the Turks and Caicos Islands, just south of the Bahamas. Or time your visit after full moon to see mating glow worms flash like strobe lights in the waters after sunset.
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