The Deep-Sea Diver
Explore underwater worlds by adding scuba adventures
to your travel itinerary
By Brent Stoller
The Cousteau name is synonymous with underwater adventure. While building on the legacy left by his father, Jacques, eldest son Jean-Michel has forged his own path as a film producer, environmentalist and explorer. And as a special guest aboard select French Polynesian itineraries from Paul Gauguin Cruises, he welcomes passengers into his world through storytelling, video screenings and accompanied dives.
And what spectacular diving it is. Guests swim with dolphins off Rangiroa, snap photos among coral formations near Bora Bora and mingle with manta rays in the Garuae Pass in Fakarava, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Nearly every port offers at least one scuba excursion, and thanks to dive master-led classes in the ship's pool, travelers of all skill levels can take part.
Jean-Michel Cousteau will be on hand for four cruises this year. Per-person prices start at $3,495 for a 10-night island-hopper departing Tahiti on Feb. 4.
All-inclusives that truly include it all
With your room, meals and snacks, drinks, entertainment and other basics covered in one upfront fee, vacationing at an all-inclusive resort means your wallet often stays in your hotel room's safe. Scuba divers, however, find that their favorite sport generally comes at an additional cost.
Unless, of course, you're booked at one of Sandals Resorts' tropical properties. Options abound, with locations in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, Barbados and the Bahamas, and each features the lodging brand's complimentary diving program.
For scuba enthusiasts, the 500-acre Sandals Emerald Bay is not to be missed; guests take advantage of two dives daily to explore the Bahamian island of Great Exuma and its mysterious "blue holes," investigate the remains of an underwater shipwreck and dance with reef sharks in their natural habitat. Beginner-level dives acclimate novices to their subsurface surroundings in depths up to 130 feet, while nighttime outings afford veterans an up-close look at sea life by moonlight.
Experience the Great Barrier Reef
Nearly half the size of Texas and visible from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth. Its impossibly blue waters are home to about 600 forms of coral, some 30 iterations of whales and dolphins, 1,625 types of fish and more than 130 species of sharks and rays. In short, it's a bona fide bucket list spot for scuba divers.
Escorted tour company Contiki, which designs trips for the 18- to 35-year-old set, explores this natural wonder during its three-day "Dive to Adventure" departing Cairns, Australia. As the sun rises on your first morning, you'll board your host boat -- both your transportation and at-sea lodging for the trip -- and sail to the reef's outer edge. The rest of your time on (and in) the water will be spent making up to 11 dives at 16 distinct sites and swapping tales with fellow travelers. Prices start at $635 per person, without airfare.
This short jaunt serves as the ideal add-on to a longer Contiki expedition in Australia, like the "Island & Rainforest" tour, an eight-day road trip that works its way from Cairns to the Whitsunday Islands. Per-person prices start at $1,564.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in January/February 2015. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.