Diving Vacations: Long-Haul Travel

One trend in dive travel that promises sizable rewards for agents is the growing interest among divers in exploring the waters of far-off destinations. "Places like Truk Lagoon, Palau, the Red Sea and Indonesia, out-of-the-way places, are growing in popularity," says Bill Hamm, manager of PADI's International Resort Association in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

Following is a sampling of dive packages to a number of the exotic destinations that are attracting today's divers. Prices are per person, based on double occupancy.


Palau & Yap
Among well-traveled divers, the neighboring Micronesian destinations of Palau and Yap are much loved for their crystal clear waters, dramatic underwater terrain and big sea creatures.

In the waters off Yap, giant manta rays are the highlight, says Mike Musto, president of Trip-n-Tour Micronesia in Vista, Calif. "Some of them are 1,500 to 2,000 pounds." After diving the waters of Palau and Yap, Yap's cultural attractions, village life, traditional clothing and dance presentations,are the "frosting on the cake," Musto says.

Trip-n-Tour Micronesia, which customizes dive itineraries, can put together a land-based dive vacation that combines six nights in Palau, with accommodations at the top of the line Palau Pacific Resort, followed by three nights in Yap at the Manta Ray Bay Hotel. The trip includes five days of two-tank dives in Palau, including pickup at the hotel dock and lunch at one of the archipelago's uninhabited islands, and two days of diving on Yap.

Price: $3,042, including air travel from Los Angeles on Continental, air travel between Palau and Yap, airport transfers, lunches on dive excursions in Palau, dive permits; effective Jan. 16 to May 31, weekend departures. Call (800) 348-0842 or (619) 724-5027.

Papua New Guinea
Reef & Rainforest, a dive and adventure travel wholesaler based in Sausalito, Calif., combines nature, culture and diving on its custom itineraries to Papua New Guinea. As a dive destination, Papua New Guinea is acclaimed for the pristine quality of its dive sites and its tremendous diversity.

Typical of the custom itineraries that Reef & Rainforest offers to Papua New Guinea is a two-week vacation that combines seven nights on the live-aboard dive vessel the Febrina for diving in Kimbe Bay; three nights at Ambua Lodge with visits to the villages and markets of the Huli Clans and guided nature walks, and two nights at the Karawari Lodge, with visits to tribes along the Karawari River.

Price: From $5,450, including roundtrip air travel from Los Angeles or San Francisco on either Qantas or Singapore Airlines and Air Niugini; all domestic flights and transfers within Papua New Guinea; accommodations; guided touring, and, on the Febrina, all meals and diving. Call (800) 794-9767 or (415) 289-1760.


For well-heeled dive clients looking to experience an exceptionally diverse and still largely unexplored underwater world -- and willing to travel long distances to do so -- Ken Knezick, president of Island Dreams Travel in Houston, recommends Wakatobi Resort in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Island Dreams, which customizes most of the dive vacations it sells, will put together an air-inclusive dive vacation to Wakatobi that includes 11 nights at the eight-room dive resort, two boat dives daily, unlimited shore diving, overnights in Ujung Pandang and Singapore, air and ferry transfers within Indonesia, all meals and taxes. (Clients should be forewarned that ferry transfers are 14 hours long.)

Price: From $3,495 per person, including air travel in low season on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles. Call (800) 346-6116 or (713) 973-9300.


Thailand & Burma
Asia Transpacific Divers in Boulder, Colo., a division of Asia Transpacific Journeys that was launched in 1998, is promoting a live-aboard dive trip on the luxury nine-cabin M/Y Aqua One with a scheduled departure from Los Angeles on March 4, 2000. The trip features nine days of diving with as many as four or five dives daily on a sailing that begins and ends in Phuket.

Among dive destinations on the itinerary are the Similan Islands, the submerged rock pinnacles of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, Richelieu Rock, the Mergui Archipelago and the Burma Banks.

Price: From $3,795, including air travel from Los Angeles, internal flights, three nights' hotel accommodations in Bangkok, day tour of Bangkok, and transfers. Call (800) 642-2742 or (303) 443-6789.


The Red Sea
Adventure Express in San Francisco is offering a seven-night live-aboard dive trip in the Red Sea. The itinerary visits the newly reopened Marine National Park in the Red Sea, including the sites of Elphinstone, Sataya and St. John's Reefs.

The Adventure Express trips are aboard the Miss Nouran and the Royal Emperor, two luxury dive vessels operated by the British company Diving World.

Price: From $1,395. Call (800) 443-0799 or (415) 442-0799.

Dive Basics

Agents who are booking dive vacations are advised to keep these essential dive travel guidelines in mind.

C-Cards and log books. Dive clients should be reminded to bring along their C-Cards (short for certification card) and their log books when traveling. A C-Card provides proof to dive operators that an individual has been certified to dive, and a log book, a record of a diver's underwater experience, helps dive operators assess the diver's skill level.

Air travel limitations. Divers should be cautioned to wait 12 to 24 hours after diving before flying, since flying with residual nitrogen in the blood can cause physical problems. Travelers are free to dive immediately after flying.

Matching destinations and clients. Before sending dive travelers to destinations where underwater conditions make for challenging diving, make sure they have sufficient diving experience.

Excess baggage. Check with airlines regarding baggage surcharges and restrictions for dive clients who will be carrying their own gear and underwater photography equipment.

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