As we watch the world tentatively open up again from the screens of our devices, most of us are thinking about our next chance to get in the ocean. If the dive community under global lockdown has shown us anything, it’s that our enthusiasm for underwater experiences remains strong, even if we can’t actually be in the water. However, things have changed. The ‘new normal’ has left us with a set of restrictions; for many of us, financial as well as social. But, if we alter our perspective, COVID-19 has also left us with a new set of opportunities and a chance to reframe how we make the most of our vacation time. So, before you write off 2020 because you can no longer afford that trip abroad, consider the possibilities of what is within your reach when it comes to post-COVID dive adventures.
You might be surprised.
Read on for five top tips on squeezing out a diving adventure in the next 12 months without putting yourself — or your wallet — in harm’s way.
Tip 1: Adventure need not be far away
As travel restrictions remain in place for many of us, there’s no better time to discover the beauty of local diving. Even if you don’t live anywhere near the ocean, there will still be some aqua-options, as proved by Jennifer Idol, the first woman to dive in all 50 states. Hop online or download the PADI Adventures App to see what’s available in your area. The best part? You’ll meet your local diving community, save big on international travel and kiss jetlag goodbye.
Tip 2: You’re not alone
If your heart craves international adventure and there are no restrictions preventing you from jetting off, then head to the COVID-19 Diving Status Map. Discover where diving is happening and to what degree so you can plan and execute that dive adventure you’ve been dreaming about for months. The map is populated by real divers in real dive centers around the world, so you can trust that the information is based on first-hand experience.
Tip 3: Travel wisely
By now we’re all familiar with wisely social distancing and wearing a mask. Of course, those things are crucial, but there are a few other smart tricks you can implement to not only get a good deal, but also reduce your impact on the ocean. Did you know the majority of emissions attributed to flights occur during take-off and landing? To reduce the carbon footprint of your adventure and save big, sign up for a flight club membership. You’ll receive super-cheap deals on direct flights in your inbox. Once you book, head over to a seagrass or tree-planting organization site and off-set your flights.
Tip 4: Location, location, location
You may have clocked this already, but where you dive has a massive impact on how much your diving adventure costs. Generally, any European, Russian or Middle Eastern diver can expect great diving, warm weather and incredible deals in the Red Sea. American counterparts on a tight budget may want to skip more expensive Caribbean islands in favor of the charming Honduran Bay Islands. You can also find some great deals on self-service diving in the coral-reef haven of Bonaire.
Those based in Asia have a loads to choose from when it comes to budget dive travel. Take your pick from whale sharks in the Philippines, turtles in Thailand or miles of coral reef and shimmering shallows in Indonesia. With many operators keen to bounce back, great deals and flexible booking policies are everywhere.
Tip 5: Team up
It’s no secret that the biggest discounts appear when you book as a group. Often, dive centers and liveaboards will offer a final space for free (known as FOC, for free of charge) when you book a certain number of spaces. If you can pull together the requisite number of friends and split the free space between yourselves, this can lead to some quite juicy deals. Operators don’t often advertise this, but in the current climate it is always worth emailing your favorite operator, letting them know how many of you are interested, and politely enquiring about group discounts.
If you can’t pull together a large group, you may still save by booking as a smaller group. A self-catering apartment split between four or six divers (with each person taking turns to prepare dinner throughout the week), can often be up 50 percent cheaper than booking two or three traditional rooms in a resort and dining out every evening.