5 Places To Dive If Money Was No Object - Luxury Diving Destinations4th June 2014 | Jackie Hutchings
If money was no object, we have a few places in mind that would make the trip of a lifetime. All of these luxury diving destinations offer the pinnacle in ‘Dive in Style’ experiences offering world-class diving whilst staying in complete comfort and luxury. Here are our top picks:
Si Datu Bua or Silolona in Indonesia
Si Datu Bua and Silolona are sister boats that sail the archipelago of Indonesia (and beyond but Indonesia is our favourite!). Defining ‘Dive in Style’, these sailing yachts will allow you to experience some of the best diving spots on earth from the extreme comfort of the luxurious boats.
Both ships in the Silolona Sojourns fleet are imbued with spirit and tradition, based on owner Patti Seery’s more than 30 years’ experience and in-depth knowledge of South East Asia. She is an American who lived in Indonesia for 20 years. With incredible determination, she saw her dream grow into an amazing marriage of traditional shipbuilding skills and the most up-to-date technology – these are both amazing boats.
The boats are luxury sailing yachts modelled on the traditional Indonesian sailing ships known as ‘Phinisi’ that were created for trade along the historical Spice Routes. Measuring 40 and 50 metres in length, they have been designed immaculately to reflect the rich cultural heritage and traditions of Sulawesi with amazing attention to detail.
With three cabins on Si Datu Bua and five on Silolona, they are perfect for families to charter or indeed a group of friends. The crews are both friendly and professional whilst tending to your every need and thus making sure your stay onboard either boat perfect and they can also be chartered in tandem for a big group!
A typical day onboard would involve diving or snorkelling some of the most pristine reefs on earth and experiencing the culture and traditions of a magnificent archipelago or simply relaxing on the wonderful teak deck whilst being served fine wines and mouth-watering Asian fusion cuisine produced by the dedicated executive chef.
Four Seasons Explorer in the Maldives
Our favourite in the Maldives, the Four Seasons Explorer is an absolutely stunning boat that is by no means a traditional diving ‘liveaboard’ but just one that you can dive from whilst being in pure luxury.
A typical cruise programme will include island tours (it is genuinely interesting to see some of the remaining Maldivian culture), an evening barbeque on a deserted beach, lunch on a remote sand bar, basic marine biology talks, and video presentations of your underwater adventures, all punctuated by delicious food.
Just when you thought things on board could not get any better; it is time to go diving. Diving from the Explorer gives you the opportunity to dive a greater variety of reefs than were you staying on land. Smaller boats speed you to the dive sites, which can be anything up to 20 minutes away from where the Explorer anchors.
This is a very impressive boat which has set departures cruising between the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa in the Male atoll and Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru in the Baa Atoll so you don’t need to charter the whole boat and is the perfect way to experience the Maldives.
Laucala in Fiji
It is hard to know where to begin with this place as there are just too many good things to say about it. It might be expensive but it’s worth every penny.
The island was bought from the publishing magnate, Malcolm Forbes by Dietrich Mateschitz, the co-founder and owner of Red Bull, in 2003.
By 2008, he had turned Laucala Island into arguably the world’s best island resort. This is not an exaggeration. He has set out to create something special and spent vast sums of money in the process and in our opinion he has succeeded.
Laucala is huge and feels a bit like Jurassic Park. The 25 luxury villas are spread out over the island and you whizz around on suped up electric golf buggies or, if wanting to get to more remote parts of the island, in jet black Landrovers. There is so much to do here from the diving, fishing, stunning (but hard) golf course. You can even take out one of the sailing boats that won gold at the Beijing Olympics.
And then there is the diving. While you can easily access the sites of the Somosomo Strait from here given the power of the boats, the local sites are just as impressive. Most of the diving is wall diving with incredibly healthy hard coral and excellent marine life; time your dive right with the tides and you can find all manner of big stuff including hammerheads, reef sharks and mantas. They also have their own soft coral dives to rival those of the Somosomo Strait and many of the dives are located within 20mins boat journey of the island.
Overall, this really is an amazing place and undoubtedly one of the highest quality resorts in the world. The message is simple; go now (if you can).
Necker Belle in the Caribbean
Fancy slipping into the shoes of Richard Branson? Well you can if your hire Sir Richard Branson’s very own boat, Necker Belle. She is a 32-metre (105ft) catamaran with an unbelievable 14-metre beam; which means she’s 14 metres wide. She is one of the largest all-carbon multi hull yachts of its kind and can reach speeds of over 20 knots.
Days aboard Necker Belle can be spent exploring the clear waters of the Caribbean, whether this is underwater to see the marine life, a bit of sport of game fishing or cutting up the crystal clear waters on a pair of water skis. The forward trampoline acts as the most perfect spot for those that seek the sun, soaking up the rays whilst suspended of turquoise water.
The wonderful thing about Necker Belle is that you can choose your itinerary with a maximum sailing distance of 40 miles between destinations so making the Caribbean the ideal place to island hop. Destinations include the British Virgin Islands (home to Necker Island – Branson’s own), or the Bahamas, Antigua or perhaps even Barbados.
Vamizi Island in Mozambique
Located in the remote Quirimbas Archipelago, this is a stunning 8-mile long island covered in jungle and fringed by white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs. When it comes to barefoot luxury, no one does it better than this African island lodge that is made up of 13 enormous and elegant thatched beach villas each with its own stretch of beach. There are few experiences that will beat a walk on this stretch of pristine powder beach watching fishing dhows return as the sunset.
When it comes to the diving, Vamizi is not a one trick pony; however there is one dive that is particularly special: ‘Neptune’s Arm’. A 40-minute boat ride away (accompanied by humpback whales and a glimpse of mating turtles) lies a sunken island that is swept by currents and thus boasts an incredible amount of fish life including massive schools of fish (more than you can imagine) with fat grey reef sharks circling. Tim Simond, author of Dive in Style, still claims this to be the dive of his life.
In our opinion, this is one of the great African coastal lodges. Combine it with some time in Mnemba off Zanzibar if you want a ridiculously amazing two-centre trip!
So, there we have it. These are our top five.