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Red Sea Resorts: The Beautiful South

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Although the resorts of the Northern Red Sea have plenty of admirers and have become well-known for legions of divers, the Southern Red Sea remains an unknown quantity for many.

However, one only need consider the relative remoteness of the southern resorts of El Quesir, Shams Alam and Hamata with their unspoiled reefs, to make a direct comparison with the way the northern Red Sea resorts were decades ago, when the divers started to arrive.

The spectacular coastline to the south of Hurghada has opened up to reveal pristine diving, and direct flights into Marsa Alam throughout the year mean that it’s now even easier to access these impressive reef systems.

El Quesir was once one of Egypt’s most important trading hubs, but today it is a tranquil destination. The coral gardens, caves and reefs boast abundant marine life, and the advantage of less crowded sites means that the resort is perfect for those learning to dive, as well as keen underwater photographers who can take their time to find the perfect subject.

Shams Alam has access to more than thirty dive sites, as well as an excellent house reef. Sha’ab Sharm is a large reef lying atop a vast undersea mountain thought to be an ancient volcano. This site is famous for its dramatic, sheer walls swept by strong currents where you will often be accompanied by large schools of jacks and barracuda, as well as grey reef sharks, hammerheads and tuna.

Dolphin House is one of the most popular areas in the southern Red Sea. The three main dive sites offer a cave system and caverns, an eel garden, a little seagrass bed and the biodiversity of the pinnacles. The regular sightings of barracuda, mantas, sharks and dolphins, plus soft and hard coral, make this one of the most interesting and ecologically diverse sites in the Red Sea.

The small town of Hamata lends its name to the region opposite the Fury Shoal Reef system. This is the most southerly resort in the Egyptian Red Sea. The remoteness of this area – 110 miles south of Marsa Alam – makes it the ultimate in ‘get away from it all’ diving.

The house reefs in Hamata give divers the flexibility to dive to their own schedule and maximise their time in the water. There is an amazing array of hard and soft corals to be appreciated, all within a short walk of your hotel room. Night dives are also available and provide an exciting opportunity to watch Spanish dancers, lionfish and lobster.

The legendary Fury Shoal offers over 35 memorable dive sites. One of the sites – Gota Soraya – is rated as one of the best wall dives in the Red Sea, with large caves full of glass fish, sweepers and an abundance of corals. There is a good chance of enjoying encounters with dolphins and a variety of shark species, along with large shoals of mackerel in season. Turtles hatch along this coastline and sightings are common.

Ultimately, whichever Southern Red Sea resort you choose, you will leave remembering immaculate, uncrowded reefs supporting an abundance of marine life, including many species rarely found elsewhere. This far south the winter water temperature is significantly higher than that of the northern Red Sea, creating a relaxed dive environment that can be enjoyed all year round.

Divers, it’s time to turn back the clock and enjoy Red Sea diving as it used to be: visit the beautiful south.

Regaldive offer land-based trips and liveaboards in both the Southern and Northern Red Sea. Resorts include El Quesir, Shams Alam, Hamata and Marsa Alam in the south and Hurghada and El Gouna in the north. To find out more, call the Regaldive team on 01353 659999, or visit Diving in the Red Sea.

Nigel, a Sales & Product Executive for UK-based tour operator Regaldive, is currently a BSAC Dive Leader and working towards his Advanced certification. Nigel started diving in 2002 when he was at a loose end on holiday in Magaluf. He never looked back and now enjoys diving both abroad and in the UK, where he is an active member of his local BSAC club. Regaldive has been organising diving holidays since 1988 and offers liveaboards and resort-based holidays in 25+ worldwide destinations. Find out more about www.regal-diving.co.uk.

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Introducing two new Colours of OBLU resorts in the Maldives

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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

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SSI releases new Explorers program for kids

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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.

Look for an SSI Explorers Program at an SSI Training Centre near you. To find your nearest SSI Training Centre, check out the SSI Centre Locator here.

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