"You need something to wet your appetite while you’re learning, and the Maldives tick all the right boxes. I’d recommend Meeru Island on North Malé Atoll. The dive school is excellent, teaching in warm, gin-clear water before you head off to diving nirvana at nearby sites – for example ‘the Aquarium’ or ‘Manta Point’. Dolphins accompany the dhoni (boat) out to the dive sites; beneath lurk sharks, mantas, turtles, a veritable feast of fish and multi-coloured corals. Here, the undersea world is literally your oyster (or giant clam, perhaps?).
"The Red Sea is superb, and much closer to home, but there are as many divers as fish! The most idyllic spot on earth, Bora Bora, virtually guarantees manta encounters but it’s extremely expensive and, surprisingly, the diving is better in the Maldives."
– Andrew Morris, member of myWanderlust
"Learning to dive can be glorious but, as it takes several days, I’d look for a location that balances an exciting marine environment with fairly easy conditions. I first put my head underwater at the Gili Islands off Lombok, Bali’s neighbour. I’ve never forgotten that moment. If I was starting now, that’s where I’d go: soft, sandy beaches rimmed by warm seas and almost-guaranteed turtle encounters. Bali is just as good – maybe better, as a more sophisticated destination. You can even do your first open-water dive on one of the world’s most famous sites, the Tulamben Wreck.
"Closer to home it has to be the Red Sea, but I’d head for somewhere a little less crowded than Egypt. Aqaba in Jordan is a great alternative: the corals are colourful, the dives shallow and you can see Petra on your day off."
Learning to dive with a club is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to get into scuba – you can progress at your own pace while having the support and encouragement of fellow divers.
Taking the plunge in the UK is a revelation – we have dive sites to rival anywhere in the world. For a beginner there are plenty of interesting shallower sites, and it means you can dive regularly.
Among my first UK dives were wrecks: James Eagan Layne and the frigate HMS Scylla, off Plymouth. Both were alive with marine life – and I was hooked. Since then I’ve dived all over the UK, with seals in the Farnes and submarines near Weymouth.
– Alison Dando, communications manager for the British Sub-Aqua Club
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