Choosing a Dive Destination for the Underwater Photographer
By Ridlon Kiphart
There are several things to think about when choosing a SCUBA diving destination, especially for the underwater photographer. Make sure you first read part 1 of this article. In the second part of this series, we look at the following:
- Land based or Live Aboard
- What else Do I Want to Do on My Dive Vacation?
Is the Best Diving Land or Live aboard based?
The choice of diving by live aboard or using a land based operation is one answered best by asking yourself:
1. Do I get seasick? If so, live aboards are out.
2. Is my partner a diver? If so, then generally live aboards are out.
3. How many dives do I want to do per day? It’s easier to do more on a live aboard.
4. Do I just want to dive or do I want to see more of the destination topside? Live aboards generally focus on diving and trips ashore are limited during the cruise.
5. Is it possible to get to the best diving from a land based resort and photograph the subjects I want to?
For some locations like Cocos Island, Soccoro Islands and Galapagos (to photograph whale sharks) there is no choice. If you want to get there and see the wildlife you must take a live aboard. For some locations you can get to most of the best diving from a land based resort or live aboard. These include Fiji, Truk Lagoon, Belize and Palau. For other areas like Bonaire, there are no live aboard options because all the diving is easily accessible by land.
Whale shark in the Galapagos islands
Many people prefer to stick their toes in the sand at the end of the day, go check out more of the country or enjoy the spa at a resort. Some have non diving spouses who would not be happy “stuck” on a boat full of smelly wetsuits for a week or ten days. Some people just can’t handle a rocking boat.
For others, the more time in the water the better, especially for many underwater photographers. Ask yourself and your traveling partner these questions and see what works best for you.
Land-based resort in Sipadan
What else do I want to do while I am on my dive vacation?
Dive and/or see the Country. Ask yourself if you simply want to dive or if you want to experience the topside attractions of a destination as well. Often there are really cool photographic opportunities topside. In places like Belize, Borneo, Costa Rica, and Africa you can spend a lot of time doing other things such as bird watching, safaris, river tours, zip lining, rafting, wine tasting, mountain climbing etc.... And if you plan to travel 24 hours by plane to get there, consider making your trip what we call a “Surf and Turf” itinerary. If you have a non diving spouse/partner this can be a way for everyone to have their cake and eat it too. Spend a week diving at a location that offers fun things for your spouse while you dive, then take the second week to adventure and get to know the country and the people.
Fiji has a great local culture that really adds to it's appeal as a dive destination. The same can be said for Bali.
Financial Considerations - How Much Dinero Does it Cost?
Money, of course, is a factor in choosing a dive destination. Once you have your budget look at the various factors that you want in a vacation.
1. Would you rather have more luxury or more diving for your dollars? Or can you choose to have both?
2. How far can you go on what you’ve got?
3. How far do you WANT to go?
4. What destinations are currently good values?
It may surprise you where value lies. I’m not talking about picking up that “trade show special” for a cheaper price at a pricier resort because its during the crap dive season. I’m talking about countries that are good values. For example, I major league love French Polynesia and have been diving there since 1994 and lived there for two years running shark dives. But right now it is a lousy value. The CFP (Pacific French Franc) is tagged to the Euro and the dollar has depreciated significantly against the Euro. Add in the fact that French Polynesia is one of the costlier areas for a dive trip even when currencies are on par and you’ve got a double price whammy that makes it a poor value in my book. Fiji, on the other hand, is a great value. You can get some of the world’s best diving in Fiji for less than the price of a week in many areas of the Caribbean and airfares to match. Choosing a destination that is currently a good value can get you the best diving at the best time of year in the best accommodations and at a good price.
If you have always wanted to dive somewhere that is more expensive and always will be, think about waiting a year to take that vacation rather than taking a bunch of smaller, less satisfying ones, otherwise you’ll never get to those dream places – and capture those dream images.
Use This Resource
Bookmark this page and when you begin to look at planning your next SCUBA diving vacation think about these questions. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on an expedition and met divers who tell me, “Oh, I should have stayed longer … I should have come at a different time … I didn’t know it was going to be like this … I should have stayed on land/on a live aboard … I didn’t know there was nothing else to do/I didn’t know there was so much else to do …
You want to be that diver coming home and saying, “That was the most awesome trip ever.” And having the images to prove it.
Ridlon & Carin Kiphart
aka Sharkman & Mantagirl
About the Authors
As members of the prestigious Explorers Club, Sharkman and Mantagirl are founders of Global Dive Expeditions, a premium provider of SCUBA diving vacations and advice on dive travel & the adventure lifestyle. They are also founders of Ocean of Hope Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to restoring the health of the ocean through education.
“We believe in living an extraordinary life through adventure and share our experiences and knowledge so that others can do the same.”