Divers looking for spectacular marine encounters no longer need to travel halfway around the world with the discovery of the Azores – nine unique islands that offer world class diving less than four hours flying time from the UK.
The archipelago’s remote mid-Atlantic location, perfectly positioned between the nutrient-rich currents from the north and the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream, allow for a unique biodiversity. There is no other destination in Europe where visitors can come face to face with wild dolphins and almost nowhere else in the world where divers can look a mesmerising blue shark in the eye.
The chance to dive with one of the ocean’s fastest fish, the captivating blue shark, is what entices most divers to the Azores in the first place. A stay on the mountainous island of Pico offers the best chance to meet small groups of these naturally inquisitive sharks underwater at the renowned Condor Seamount. Manta rays, morays, stingrays, groupers, wrasse, parrotfish, trigger fish and damselfish can also be encountered here. Pico also affords divers easy access to Princess Alice Bank, the most famous seamount of the Azores. A lengthy boat ride is rewarded with a majestic underwater mountain falling to some 500m whose 35m tip is packed with groups of devil rays, barracuda and schools of thousands of tuna swirling in the strong currents.
Divers visiting the Azores can hope to encounter at least 25 different pelagic species including the famous blue and mako sharks, spotted, bottlenose and Risso’s dolphins, five kinds of turtle, manta and devil rays, and even whale sharks. Coastal dive sites also offer the chance to discover friendly dusky groupers, octopus and morays lurking under rocks and tiny, colourful nudibranch. Beaked whales, sperm whales, blue whales, humpbacks and false killer whales can all be spotted from the surface making any boat ride to a dive site an exhilarating adventure in itself.
The Azores are fast gaining a reputation for these spectacular marine encounters but these emerald islands offer far more. Divers visiting the Azores have the opportunity to discover a unique geological underwater landscape etched by volcanic lava streams over the centuries. Labyrinthine tunnels, bubbling hydrothermal vents, canyons, caves and arches provide an impressive and exciting backdrop to the marine life and provide plenty of opportunities for photographers in the clear water. A number of impressive wrecks and the intriguing ship graveyard at the Underwater Archaeological Park at Terceira provide further opportunities for discovery.
Equally spectacular on land, divers can immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage and wide diversity of the Azorean islands. With each island having its own unique charm, non-diving days can be spent hiking through picturesque landscapes, climbing to waterfalls and towering volcanoes, exploring the islands’ maritime history, or simply relaxing in hot springs.
Diving holiday specialist Regaldive features holidays on the islands of Sao Miguel, Pico, Terceira and Santa Maria during the main May – October season when the best diving conditions are found. The location of the Azores means the islands are particularly well suited to twin centre combinations and Regaldive’s personalised itinerary service ensures divers will experience the best of this exciting destination. Prices start from £699pp for a seven night package including return flights, bed and breakfast accommodation (twin share) and transfers. Diving starts from £125pp for a four dive pack.
For further information or to book, visit www.regaldive.co.uk or call +44 (0)1353 659 999.
Introducing two new Colours of OBLU resorts in the Maldives
COLOURS OF OBLU, a brand by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, has opened two exciting new resorts in Male Atoll in the Maldives this year.
OBLU XPERIENCE Ailafushi opened in June. Translating from the Maldivian dialect of Dhivehi, ‘Aila’ means family and ‘Fushi’ means island, in essence, the Family Island. A 15-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport brings guests to this beautiful tropical island.
The four-star resort’s 268 villas and rooms are designed to experience nature at its best. A striking fleet of water villas shaped like dhonis are lined up along the jetty – a perfect spot for snapping some selfies. From the moment of arrival, a carefree and relaxed holiday unfolds with the generous Fushi Plan™. Dining, activities, a multi-level kids club with a pool and food corner, overwater gym, and live entertainment are all blended within the stay for a hassle-free holiday.
Sumptuous all-day dining options are available at the Element X Restaurant which serves modern Western, Central Asian, and Far Eastern cuisines. X360 Bar features a 1000 sqm infinity pool – one of the largest in the Maldives. Guests can enjoy unlimited orders of refreshing spirits, wines, and beer from the grab and go bar counter. Evenings come alive with enthralling music and party vibes at the bar’s dance floor. The Copper Pot Food Truck parked on the beach is perfect for an open-air dinner of choicest fresh seafood and meat grills that can be relished on the soft sandy beach beneath the starry sky.
Walk up to La Promenade located beside a channel that meanders across Ailafushi island. This picturesque walkway has cosy seating corners along with a wine boutique, souvenir shop, and café. There is so much to do here — lounge at the scenic overwater deck, sip a cup of coffee, and socialise with like-minded travellers. Experiential highlights also include The Dome, a futuristic 15-meter theatre and entertainment centre.
Sister resort OBLU SELECT Lobigili is an adults only property that opened in March. In the Maldivian language of Dhivehi, ‘Lobi’ means love and ‘Gili’ means island. Lobigili is, in essence, the island of love.
Blessed with verdant foliage, this five-star resort features 68 contemporary beach and water villas – all assuring gorgeous views of the turquoise-blue lagoon. With the resort’s exclusive Lobi PlanTM guests can immerse in a blissfully carefree stay. This generous plan includes specialty fine-dining, unlimited beverages, spa services, Indian Ocean excursions, a selection of non-motorised watersports as well as a fully stocked minibar replenished daily.
OBLU SELECT Lobigili continues with the brand’s tradition of exceptional fine dining, elevating the mealtime experience with playful and fun touches. At Ylang-Ylang, the All-Day Dining Restaurant, delectable world cuisine with intimate nooks for couples and a unique book corner are unmissable. The Swing Bar with itschilled out beachside vibe features chic hammocks, swings and a stunning infinity pool that is one of the largest in the Maldives. Evenings come alive with handcrafted, aromatised cocktails and hypnotic DJ and Live Band performances.
That is not all. There is Gaadiya 17 Food Truck serving grab-and-go game meat grills to be relished in a fun, open-air setting on the beach under starry skies. And an exotic ONLY BLU Underwater Restaurant, one of the largest underwater restaurants in the country, where guests can experience impeccable modern gourmet cuisine.
A standout experience is ELE | NA The Spa – designed exclusively for couples and adults – featuring locally inspired spa treatments including Lobi Dhooni (Love Bird) Hithun Hithath (Heart To Heart) and Dhekanbalun (You & Me).
Scuba Diving from both resorts is with OBLU’s partner dive centre, TGI Maldives, one of the best-known in the country. The dive centre teaches a variety of PADI and SSI courses. The island’s house reef is perfect for relaxed dives, snorkeling and training, whilst many of North Male Atoll’s best dive sites are just a short boat ride away. In particular, the atoll is well-known for its manta ray sightings from May to October.
Discover more at www.coloursofoblu.com
SSI releases new Explorers program for kids
SSI has announced the release of the SSI Explorers Program, where kids aged 6-11 years old can get a taste of the many ways to explore the aquatic world around them. This exciting program makes diving for kids stress-free, guiding them in engaging underwater adventures where they can scuba dive, act like a real mermaid, and go underwater on a single breath with freediving. SSI has invested much time and energy into re-vamping this child-centered experience program.
Formerly known as Scuba Rangers, the new SSI Explorers Program is today’s most extensive aquatic experience program for kids in the dive industry. Children who have not yet reached the minimum age for scuba diving will not only gain a solid foundation in ocean conservation, but they will have the opportunity to experience four main aquatic adventures and many specialties.
Your young aquatic explorer will join Emma and Nico on exciting underwater adventures with their marine friends, Star the starfish, Shelly the sea turtle, and Spike the shark. The comprehensive children’s manual is very engaging, with colourful cartoon drawings and authentic ocean images for this young audience. Emma and Nico guide children throughout the manual’s educational content in a fun and engaging way, using Spike as their equipment expert and Shelly as the ocean environment advocate.
The SSI Explorers materials start by introducing children to the importance of protecting and preserving our oceans by becoming a Blue Oceans Explorer. After learning why our oceans are important, about the world’s five oceans, and what they can do to help protect our oceans, students earn the SSI Blue Oceans Explorer recognition rating. They can then move on to learn all there is to know about snorkel equipment and snorkelling in a confined water environment to earn their Snorkel Explorer rating.
After completing these two initial experiences, SSI Explorers can choose from one of three aquatic adventures and either become a Scuba Explorer, Mermaid Explorer, or Freediving Explorer. Better yet, they can continue on to earn all three ratings!
SSI Mermaid Explorers get to swim around like real mermaids while improving their swimming skills. SSI Freediving Explorers will go underwater and dive deeper by holding their breath longer in an encouraging, relaxed environment. Explorers who have not met the minimum age for scuba diving can try it out within the safety of a pool or confined water and become an SSI Scuba Explorer.
The fun doesn’t stop there, however! SSI Explorers can go on even more underwater adventures to earn 22 different Specialty Explorer ratings. They can improve their explorer skills with exciting specialties like Underwater Model Explorer, Rescue Explorer, Shark Ecology Explorer, and Search & Rescue Explorer, just to name a few. Your child can earn the Specialty Explorer recognition rating by completing two Explorer specialties. When they complete four specialties, they will become Advanced Explorers, and after completing the Rescue Explorer specialty, they can become a Master Explorer. SSI Explorers will even be able to earn real C-Cards just like their parents to show off their hard-earned recognition ratings.
To look back on their explorer fun, SSI has included a logbook section toward the back of the colourfully engaging SSI Explorers manual. The Explorer Logbook is where students can record details of their underwater adventures as they work through these exciting experiences. Near the logbook, SSI has also included an area for the Explorer Instructor to place an SSI recognition sticker specific to each completed explorer activity. Children will be excited to work toward earning them all!
The SSI Explorers program is now available as a book or digitally in four languages: German, English, Spanish, and Italian, with more languages hopefully coming soon.
Training the next generation of ocean lovers and aquatic enthusiasts is very important to SSI and all SSI Training Centres and Pros. The SSI Explorers Program is an excellent way to promote ocean conservation and aquatic safety in our younger population and prepare them for future open water certification opportunities once they reach the minimum age for scuba diving.
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