IF YOU are an avid diver, you might spend your time daydreaming about a dive trip to Polynesia, the Caribbean or Australia – but it pays to remember that there are some brilliant places to dive right here in Europe.
Whether you crave cold water, dry suit excitement or lush tropical coral, there is something for everyone in diverse diving locations which don’t require a long haul flight.
We’ve found the top five places for you to strap on your tank and step into the sea:
1. Malta – The most celebrated European diving location is undoubtedly the islands of Malta. Offering high quality dive shops, world class certification schools and a nice mix of sea life, wrecks (in particular the HMS Maori outside Valletta harbour) and oddities (the Madonna statue at Marfa Point is eerily breathtaking), Malta has something for everyone. Expect to see octopi, rays, moray eels and many other species.
2. Kyrenia, Cyprus – Home to clear waters and warm weather, Cyprus is a gorgeous place to holiday for dive fanatics and novices alike. You’ll find Kyrenia on the Northern, Turkish part of the island, a lush diving spot prized for its colourful soft corals, abundant sponges and thriving marine life, including plenty of turtles.
3. Korcula, Croatia – Croatia is increasingly popular as an international holiday destination, with many people drawn to its UNESCO listed towns and unspoilt beaches. If you plan to dive in Croatia head to the island of Korcula, home to a well reviewed dive school. You’ll love the corals and plentiful fish (think wrasses, sea urchins and scorpion fish), along with a 2000 year old shipwreck. Croatia is becoming more touristy each year, so head there as soon as you can in order to enjoy the reefs in peace.
4. Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands – If you fancy a spot of cold water diving and you love shipwrecks the Scottish Orkney Islands are second to none. Here you’ll find 120 German ships sunk in 1919, seven large warships and four destroyers – unbelievable. You will need a dry suit and visibility is best in December and January.
5. Madeira – While Madeira may be an autonomous region of Portugal, its geographic location closer to Africa makes this a brilliant place for tropical diving. Often referred to as a ‘floating garden,’ this verdant jewel rises from the Atlantic like a rocky crag and is an ideal place to soak up the sun and enjoy delicious food all afternoon after spending all morning diving. No diver should miss the 300 metre long Monastery Reef, lying just offshore of Canico. This stunning expanse is filled with corals, rays, moray eels and even frolicking dolphins.