Diving destination advice on a RTW trip
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Nov 6, 2012 2:21 PM Last Post By: dxb1969
Sep 17, 2012 7:16 AM
Diving destination advice on a RTW tripHi everyone,
I was hoping to get some advice from Scuba-Diving/Snorkelling fans regarding my plans during a RTW trip. Basically I am planning a trip to South America, NZ, Fiji, Australia and Africa from December this year, and definitely want to get some scuba diving in along the way. I’m a big fan of marine wildlife, but am by no means an experienced diver. I did some diving in the Red Sea a couple of years ago and got my PADI scuba diver certification. I’ve only done 2 open water dives, so I’m still a beginner. The potential destinations where I had intended to dive/snorkel are below (in correct order), but I wanted to get some expert opinions on how realistic/suitable these destinations are. Bear in mind that I’ll probably need to do some kind of refresher course at my first destination:
Galapagos – This is likely to be my first potential destination on my trip. From what I hear, Galapagos is unmissable if you like marine wildlife but the best dives at Wolf and Darwin are very challenging and for advanced divers only. I’m sure there must be sites for inexperienced divers as well, but my question is whether these easier dives sites are actually any good and justify the high price point. Would I be better off just doing some snorkelling instead if I’m not experienced enough for the best sites? It would be a real shame to miss some of the unique wildlife there, but obviously safety comes first. Are there any recommend sites where I could refresh my skills and see some great wildlife?
Fiji Islands – I’m not sure exactly which islands I’ll be going to but it would be nice to spend some time diving in the waters here. I’ve heard there are some easier dives here, but is there anything unique about the dive spots here that I would get at any of the other destinations?
Great Barrier Reef – One of the things I’ve always wanted to do. I’m guessing there are plenty of sites suitable for beginners, but hope that its not all hype and it truly is the experience I expect it to be.
Ningaloo Reef – Swimming with Whale Sharks here is one of the main reasons I’m going to Western Australia! I plan to be there for June/July which is the best time of year to see them. Hopefully there are also manta rays around. For anyone who has swam with whale sharks, is it just as amazing to snorkel with them, or is it best to dive for the best experience?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Ideally I’d like to see Hammerheads, Turtles, Marine Iguanas, Manta Rays and Whale Sharks at some point along the way but obviously want to ensure that I’m not compromising my safety and throwing money into expensive dives which I won’t see the full benefit of with my level of experience.
Many thanks in advance.
Sep 19, 2012 4:30 PM
Sep 20, 2012 2:13 AM
Many thanks for your response. As much as I'd love to visit Honduras, Central America doesn't feature on my itinerary this time around. It will have to be one for the future I think. My current plan is to get to Ningaloo reef at the right time for peak Whale and Manta season, and I know there are some operators that guarantee signings. Have you swim with whale sharks before? If so, it is worth the cost of diving or would snorkelling be just as good?
Sep 21, 2012 12:52 AM
3You cannot dive with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef, all the operators there comply with strict interaction rules which attempt to limit interference with the animals. Given that you would be aiming to see them while they are on the surface feeding (as you've got no chance of following one when it dives), snorkelling is far more practical anyway.
I've not been to Galapagos so can't comment, but Fiji is a lovely dive destination. The Mamanuca Islands are just off Nadi, one of the main towns on Viti Levu and there are a number of island resorts catering to whatever style of living you prefer. The diving, especially the outer reefs, was great, water was warm, wildlife was plentiful and there were sites for all levels of experience. I wouldn't say it was unique compared to other South Pacific Islands, you would look elsewhere for wrecks (Vanuatu, Solomon Islands) or whales (Tonga, Rurutu in French Polynesia) but Fiji for me was really relaxing diving and well worth a visit.
Sep 22, 2012 6:23 AM
4Can't comment on Galapagos or Fiji.
For Great Barrier Reef, if you are proposing to dive Galapagos and Fiji first then you would not be a beginner by the time you reached Australia. On the GBR, the more you spend and the further go from land, the better it gets. I can highly recommend the liveaboard trips on Spirit of Freedom from Cairns which go to the Coral Sea for 4 days but it's not cheap. I can also recommend a liveaboard trip from Townsville on a boat called Sea Esta out to the Yongala Wreck and the outer reef - this is much cheaper than Spirit of Freedom. The day diving from Cairns is not much good in my opinion and better avoided.
Sep 22, 2012 4:38 PM
5I haven't actually swam with them before but I do plan on doing so, in Honduras actually. A couple of my friends have though and said that it was a really great experience especially for the amount they paid. Keep us updated on what you do plan to do, because I am only a beginner diver myself and am quite interested on what you intend to do!
Sep 26, 2012 3:36 AM
6Thanks everyone for your input.
I'll be sure to let you guys know what I decided. At the moment, my thoughts are as follows:
Galapagos - Realistically I think it's unlikely I'll get to do any diving here. Apparently you can get land-based cruises or diving cruises, but not a combination of both. As my experience level is unlikely to allow me to do the majority of the dives in Galapagos, it doesn't make sense to join a dedicated diving cruise. I'll probably get more from the experience on a land-based cruise with some snorkelling along the way. I could try doing some day-dives once the cruise is over, but I don't know how practical that will be.
Fiji - Assuming I leave myself enough time in Fiji, I'll do some diving here as suggested by Shannon. Not much else to do on the Fiji islands unless you like to lounge on the beach all day (which I don't). Will probably end up having to do my refresher and some beginner dives here, but hopefully see some good wildlife.
Great Barrier Reef - I'll try and make this my most substantial dive site and maybe get onto a liveaboard for the best experience.
Ninagloo Reef - Going especially to snorkel with Whale sharks/Mantas. However, if I manage to see them elsewhere on my trip (either at GBR or Fiji) then I might skip Ningaloo and spend more time on the East coast.
Question: Does Ningaloo Reef (as a dive destination rather than for whale sharks) compare to GBR? In other words, would I see the same variety of wildlife at a smaller cost than if I did at the more commercial GBR?
Sep 26, 2012 7:30 PM
7Ningaloo is still something of a hidden gem in Australia. It has pristine reefs, whale calving areas, manta ray and whale shark aggregations. The navy pier in Exmouth is the greatest pier dive I have ever seen. The reefs in Ningaloo are far more accessible than the GBR in terms of getting to them from the shore.
However, don't make the mistake of assuming that because less people visit, it is cheaper. Quite the opposite. Even getting there will set you back a decent amount. The accessibility of the reef from major capital cities (East Coast = 86% of Australia's population) plus the well established tourism hub of Cairns means that the GBR is most definitely the cheaper option.
Oct 2, 2012 3:10 AM
8Thanks for the advice Shannon. I think I'll focus my diving efforts in Cairns and stick to Whale Shark snorkelling in Ningaloo. Hopefully I leave myself enough time during the trip!
Final question - is it fairly straightforward getting onto diving trips for Cairns and Whale Shark snorkelling in Ningaloo, once there will little or no notice? I'll probably be there in around May/June/July. I'm from the UK want to avoid booking in advance as the prices are likely to be inflated.
Oct 2, 2012 10:56 AM
9it's easy to book trips from Cairns at short notice but as I said before, I would avoid day dives from Cairns - they don't go far enough out for decent diving and mass tourism in Cairns is having an impact on the reefs visited by the day boats.
Personally, I'd get on a liveaboard as far out as money will take me, or if your budget wont stretch to that, do day dives from Port Douglas or Townsville where there are fewer tourists.
Not sure about Ningaloo as I've never been, but fairly sure you wont be limited for time so no point booking in advance anyway.
Oct 2, 2012 10:56 PM
10I've always booked in advance for liveaboards, but that's just me. You can often see discounts of 20% or so on trip with immediate departures, if you're willing to wait and see. Also depends if you want the full 'Mike Ball Spoilsport' experience or the boats catering to the backpacker set. Friends of mine worked on a liveaboard where they got diving, board and meals in exchange for deck hand work. They said it was exhausting but worth it for the money they saved.
Try and get up to Port Douglas if you can, it's much nicer than Cairns and still has some nice reefs that are accessible by day trip. As dxb said, all the day trips from Cairns go out to horribly crowded sites with dead coral that's been kicked to pieces by careless fins. The outer reefs are where you want to focus your time and money, and that means a liveaboard.
April - July is peak season at Ningaloo and you'll be there right in the middle of it. I recommend booking well in advance and you're not going to save any money by waiting. All the tour operators there have a bit of a cartel going, there is a set rate that they've all agreed on and they have no need to offer discounts - it's peak season. For a dive on Ningaloo and then snorkeling with whale sharks you're going to be looking at upwards of AUD$400. There are no refunds for not seeing the sharks but you can go again on the next available day for free on any of the operators, regardless of which one you booked on. So book for your very first day, that way if things don't go to plan you've got time to get on a trip on another day.
Oct 3, 2012 2:26 AM
Oct 25, 2012 11:21 PM
12Australia - do the Coral Sea if you can, also 1770 has some great diving, Cairns is good fun for travellers but didnt think the diving was that great, I haven't done anything on the west coast but i hear Ningaloo is amazing
Africa - I have heard Mozambique is great for diving, haven't been - it's on my hit list
South America - are you also considering central? If so, definately go to Caye Caulker in Belize (big blue hole and 2nd largest barrier reef in the world) and do the cave diving outside of Tulum in Mexico (they'll let you do this on OW)
Happy diving and travels.
Oct 25, 2012 11:22 PM
13Book in advance for Cairns if this what you are doing, there are also some live abords out of the Witsundays.
Nov 6, 2012 9:37 AM
14Thanks chiko. Do you know how far in advance I need to book? As my itinerary is fairly fluid, I don't know when I'm going to end up in Cairns. I guess I was hoping I'd just to able to get something fairly last minute as I'll be a solo traveller
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