The ultimate travel bucket list for divers


By Olivia Palamountain, Freelance journalist and travel writer.

Photography by BBC

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updated February 2018

From bustling coral reefs in Fiji, to humpback whales in Norway, these are the places to explore the world's most intriguing underwater wildlife, says travel writer Olivia Palamountain.

Nouvelle-Zélande

Under water: New Zealand’s North Island is a feast of diversity, from natural beauty and geothermal wonders to vibrant cities and laid-back beaches – apparently there’s even the odd hobbit. Under the sea it’s a similar story with appearances from the rare false killer whale (between December and May), often accompanied by bottlenose dolphins.

On dry land: This time of year is also a fantastic time to experience life in North Island, whether it’s exploring the Abel Tasman National Park, hiking the Franz Joseph Glacier, or drinking in the atmosphere in Art Deco Napier, a wine-lover’s paradise famous for its red varietals.

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Offering out-of-this world wow factor, venture to the water and be blown away by sights such as giant trevally preying on fledgling birds, even leaping out of the water to catch them as they fly overhead.

  • Head to where the whales swim in the fjords of northern Norway © Audun Rikardsen.

    A whale of a time

    To spot a whale in Norway’s icy waters, head to Tromsø between October and January, where the whales follow millions of herring to the northern fjords each year.£70 return

    Discover Norway

Maldives

Under water: The Indian Ocean is home to some of the most idyllic destinations in the world and the Maldives is no exception. Venture to the water and be blown away by sights such as giant trevally, preying on fledgling birds, even leaping out of the water to catch them as they fly overhead. Check out the undersea-scape without dipping a toe in the water from 20ft below water at Subsix, one of the gourmet restaurants at the luxurious Niyama Private Islands.

On dry land: Survey the seafood that will end up on your plate at Malé’s bustling fish market, a tuna-fest considered the soul of the city.

Planifiez un voyage aux Maldives

Fidji

Under water: Chilled out Fiji is best known for two things: coral reefs and rugby. On the pitch players perform the ‘cibi’ war dance before every match, while on the tropical reef, every day is a battle of survival. Animals such as the colourful sea goldie rely on the reef to support them, swimming in schools and foraging for food. Snorkelling and diving in the Mamanuca Islands is a great place to start an underwater Fiji adventure, recommended for its varied sites and trips to suit all capabilities.

On dry land: A must see is the fire-walking ritual of the warriors of Beqa Island, where the traditional art of stepping barefoot over hot coals originated.

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  • Discover the oceans most impressive sea life in the depths of the Indian Ocean © BBC.

    Big catch

    The giant trevally fish, known to feast on birds from the waters of the Seychelles, can also grow up to 1.6 metres long and change colour when they sense a threat.£953 pp

    Visit the Seychelles
  • Soak up the beachside rays in South Male Atoll, Maldives © Getty.

    Chain reaction

    The Maldives are a long and narrow chain of islands consisting of 26 natural, coral atolls and some of the world’s most unspoiled diving sites.£1429 pp

    Book a trip to the Maldives
  • Get up, close and personal with the green turtles of Borneo, Malaysia © Jason Isley.

    Turtely awesome

    Borneo has its very own Turtle Island Park, located in the Sulu Sea, where you can watch baby hatchlings take their first steps into the water.

    Discover Borneo

Norvège

Under water: Norway’s glacial mountains and crystalline fjords make up some of the world’s most extreme landscapes, and come spring, the country’s once depleted northern waters teem with herring, attracting orcas and humpback whales for an annual feast.

On dry land: In the capital Oslo, warm summer days are best spent hopping between the Oslofjord’s many islands, before heading to the spectacular, iceberg-shaped Opera House for a rooftop picnic. Host to the Nobel Peace Prize banquet each year, it’s worth popping into the Grand Hotel for cocktails at its top floor bar, Eight, which overlooks the Norwegian parliament, or if you’re keen for some culture, make sure to keep a few hours clear for the Munch Museum, which houses more than half of the seminal Norwegian artist’s paintings.

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  • In North Island, New Zealand, bottlenose dolphins swim alongside false killer whales © Richard Robinson.

    Marine mix-up

    Confusingly, the false killer whale is not a whale at all, but the third largest kind of dolphin in the cetacean family, Delphinidae.

Les Bahamas

Under water: From The Bahamas’ beautiful beaches, look out to the water and you might spot a whirlpool. Created by tides that rush over deep coral caves, whirlpools carry fresh supplies of microscopic food from the reef to the caves. Locals prefer to feast on a fish fry, the best of which are said to be found at Arawak Cay where catch of the day with plantain, rice and beans will set you back around £9.

On dry land: The Bahamas has a bit of everything, from old school glamour on Harbour Island, pumping nightlife in Nassau, and accommodation to suit all sorts – from the family-friendly Melia Nassau Beach to the spectacular resort of Atlantis Paradise Island. It’s even home to flamingos, the islands’ national bird.

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Bornéo

Under water: Not only does Borneo have some of the world's most species-rich equatorial rainforests, it’s also notable for its offshore splendour, including the famed dive site of Sipadan Island. Head into the water to see bumphead parrotfish feeding on algae and corals, using their large foreheads to break them into pieces to digest more easily.

On dry land: Capital city Kota Kinabalu is buzzing with restaurants and some excellent places to stay including Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort. When you’re not orangutan spotting in Tanjung Puting National Par, or climbing Asia’s highest peak Mount Kinabalu, visit the Penan tribe for a picnic deep in the jungle and learn about how this stunning environment fosters life.

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