Tag Archives: mexico

Travel News: HAL cruises to Cuba

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Holland America Becomes Latest Cruise Line to Sail for Cuba

HAL just announced it will begin sailings from Ford Lauderdale to Cuba starting December 22, 2017, with a 12-day cruise on the Veendam. HAL will begin with nine 7-day itineraries calling at Havana, with three of these also calling at Cienfuegos. Other ports on the cruises will include Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos, Key West in Florida, Montego Bay in Jamaica, Belize, Dominican Republic. This follows the announcement of Royal Caribbean, Azamara Club Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, who will sail Cuba as well.

Royal Caribbean Adds Chief Meteorologist To Marine Ops Team

Royal Caribbean Cruises has added what may be the first-ever full-time cruise industry Chief Meteorologist to its operations team in Jim Van Fleet, who brings a broadcasting background to the position and has degrees in climatology and broadcast meteorology. Van Fleet joined the Miami-based company in January.

Port of Lisbon Wants Homeport Calls

A new cruise terminal will be inaugurated this summer, a new state-of-the-art building located downtown in the city center as port officials have their eyes on building Lisbon into a major home port. And of those, the port is expecting quite a few with maiden visits scheduled from the Viking Sky, Freedom of the Seas, TUI Discovery 2, Columbus, Silver Muse, Variety Voyager, Caribbean Princess, Ocean Diamond, Viking Sun and the new MSC Meraviglia. Lisbon cruise season is mainly spring and fall and the city wants cruise ship to call year round. In addition, one of the main strategic goals is to increase the turnaround segment and establish Lisbon as a big national and international homeport hub, which will induce growth and eventually reduce seasonality effects.

John Travolta Donates His Famous 707

Actor John Travolta has donated his famous Qantas Boeing 707-138 to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) based at Albion Park, approximately 90 miles south of the city of Sydney, Australia. In a statement Travolta said “The aircraft was originally delivered to Qantas Airways in 1964 and was converted for private use after it finished its life with “The Flying Kangaroo”. I was honored to have the 707 repainted in the original Qantas colors when I became the ambassador for the airline, and it’s so fitting that many of the volunteers at HARS are retired Qantas employees.  HARS is a not-for-profit organization and was formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of Australian aviation history. It has built up an impressive collection of over both flying and static aircraft including a Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-3 and DC-4. It is, without doubt, the most impressive aircraft museum in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Florence Mayor Aims To Keep Polluting Tourists At Bay

The mayor of Florence has told tourists they will “get wet” if they settle down for lunch on the steps of some of the city’s prized churches as he is turning to hosepipes to restore “decorum” among visitors to the Renaissance city. Dario Nardella wants to discourage people from ‘camping out’ by hosing down steps of Basilica of Santa Croce and other sites. The steps of the Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo, will be the first to be hosed down at lunchtime, in order to stop visitors from eating on them, followed by the Chiesa di Santo Spirito. “We have nothing against tourists. We know that they are a great resource for our city,” the mayor told The Guardian. “But there is a problem with respecting decorum. The majority of visitors are respectful and elegant. But there has been an increase among those who don’t respect our cultural heritage, who sit down on church steps, eat their food and leave rubbish strewn on them.” The streets of the city’s historic center, a Unesco World Heritage site, will also be hosed down as part of what will initially be an experiment to see if tourists can be discouraged from eating lunch on the steps. Concerned about the spread of fast-food outlets catering to backpackers, he introduced regulations in January last year stipulating that restaurants in the center use products that were typical of the city and the Tuscany region. He also blocked an application by McDonald’s to open an outlet in the historic Piazza del Duomo, prompting the US chain to seek €17.8m (£15.5m) in damages.

Family-centric getaways to Mexico offer something for all ages

On Mexico’s East and West coasts, Palladium Hotels and Resorts’ all-inclusive getaways emphasize privacy and wellness in the Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit. All hotels have tiered kids’ clubs — baby, mini and junior clubs — where children are entertained with kid-centric programs, designed to optimize both fun and education. The resorts’ Play at Palladium with Raggs program includes a group of 5 colorful TV characters as on-site ambassadors, hosting activities, poolside events, disco parties, a pirate show and on-property water sports. For older kids, cooking, science and magic classes are also available. 

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Filed under Airlines, Caribbean, Cruises, Cuba, Europe, Holland America Line, Italy, Mexico, portugal, Royal Caribbean

Travel News: Lights Up Down-Under

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Lights Up Down-Under
A round trip flight from New Zealand just for the view the Southern Lights. Otago Museum Director Ian Griffin came up with the idea. An astronomer, Griffin said he was inspired after seeing the Southern Lights while flying as a guest on a NASA observatory plane. A charter plane that left Dunedin, New Zealand, late Thursday flew close to the Antarctic Circle to give the eager passengers an up-close look at the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights. He says the 134 seats on the chartered Boeing 767 sold out within five days and one man traveled from Spain for the trip. He says he could have filled the plane several times over, although they were only selling window seats and seats immediately adjacent, leaving the middle of the aircraft empty.“I thought it was absolutely brilliant,” Griffin said. “We were right under it. There were beautiful streamers, auroral streamers. This green-colored stuff that moves quickly, it looks like you’re looking into a green, streaky river.”
 
Viking Cruises Launches New Resident Historian Program
Viking Cruises has announced the roll-out of its new onboard Viking Resident Historian program. Launching on Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky this month, a faculty of historians will provide an enhanced level of enrichment for guests onboard all of Viking’s ocean cruise ships,” said the company, in a statement. According to the cruise line, the Viking Resident Historians will provide guests with a high-level historical and cultural education that is specific to their journey, offering a framework for understanding the major chapters in world history. They will also conduct seminar-style roundtables.
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Large Sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Are Now Dead
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has long been one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders. But the reef, and the profusion of sea creatures living near it, are in profound trouble. Huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater. More southerly sections around the middle of the reef that barely escaped then are bleaching now, a potential precursor to another die-off that could rob some of the reef’s most visited areas of color and life. The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, is part of a global calamity that has been unfolding intermittently for nearly two decades and seems to be intensifying. The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change.Australia relies on the Great Barrier Reef for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue, and it is not yet clear how that economy will be affected by the reef’s deterioration. Even in hard-hit areas, large patches of the Great Barrier Reef survived, and guides will most likely take tourists there, avoiding the dead zones.
 
The new Berlin Welcome Card
The card covers admission to 30 attractions across the city as well as public transportation, and is commissionable. Among the highlights is access to selected national museums such as the Pergamon Museum and the Bode Museum, and private museums such as C/O Berlin, the Jewish Museum, and the DDR Museum. A hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat cruise are also included as is admission to Berlin’s TV Tower and Madame Tussaud’s. The city guide that comes with the pass provides insider tips and the city map points the way to all of the participating sites. The Berlin WelcomeCard is all-inclusive and is available for $84 for adults and $52 for children ages 3 to 14 and is available for three durations: 48 hours, 72 hours, and four calendar days. The Berlin WelcomeCard all inclusive includes public transport in the city of Berlin and the surrounding region. It will be sold at Berlin Tourist Information centers, at berlin-welcomecard.com, at turbopass.com, and by travel agents and tour operators. The Berlin WelcomeCard all inclusive is being offered in partnership with Turbopass. 
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New Orleans breaks tourism records
A new study says New Orleans has broken a tourism record set before Hurricane Katrina, with nearly 10.5 million visitors in 2016. The record had stood at 10.1 million since 2004, the year before the hurricane struck. University of New Orleans’ Hospitality Research Center says last year’s visitors spent US $7.41 billion dollars. That’s 51 percent more than the amount spent in 2004, and 5.1 percent above the spending record set in 2015. Mayor Mitch Landrieu says in a news release that he’s looking forward to 2017 being even bigger.
Museum Of Ice Cream Announces Its Opening In Los Angeles
Museum of Ice Cream opens its doors to the West Coast this April claiming sunny Los Angeles as its highly anticipated second location. Stationed in DTLA’s burgeoning art district, Museum of Ice Cream welcomes visitors to enjoy an experiential ice cream journey. Museum of Ice Cream captivated a global audience with its unprecedented 2016 launch in New York City, selling out in five days and attracting a waitlist of over 200,000. The Los Angeles location is four times larger than the New York City incarnation and showcases 10 completely reimagined installations. Interactive highlights include a “banana split” comprised of ten thousand “bananas”, a mint “grow house”, a room dedicated to California, a melted popsicle jungle and more. The iconic swimmable sprinkle pool returns filled with one hundred million sprinkles that were custom designed and produced by Museum of Ice Cream! Museum of Ice Cream is open from April 22 until May 29 from 11 am-10 pm, Wednesday-Monday. Tickets include two curated ice cream tastings and surprise edible treats!
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Off the beaten track in Mexico
Isla Holbox (pronounced “ole-bosh”) has just been added as a “hidden hotspot” among vacation destinations in Mexico. Part of the Yum Balam Natural Reserve, the island offers vacationers a pristine tropical haven away from the hustle and bustle of more well-travelled tourist hotspots.Comprised of sandy-white beaches and home to a diverse and protected ecosystem, Isla Holbox is a popular island destination for bird watchers, snorkelers and beach lovers. Along with a variety of land and water sports excursions available, travellers in the summer months can also opt to join a snorkeling or boat tour to view the annual migration of the whale sharks that takes place close to the island between the months of June and September. There are two quaint hotels on the island to appeal to a range of travelers. At both properties complimentary kayaks and bikes are available to enable independent explorations of the island and windsurfing, kite surfing and fishing are also offered for an additional fee. Villas HM Palapas Del Mar, is a small, oceanfront hotel where guests can watch romantic sunsets from their infinity pool overlooking the beach.Those looking to adopt a slower pace can opt for Villas HM Paraiso Del Mar, with a  large swimming pool surrounded by lush vegetation, buffet meals, and unlimited national drinks and cocktails. Offers include packages where guests can enjoy four nights on the peaceful Isla Holbox, and three nights in Riviera Maya at Reef Coco Beach or the cosmopolitan HM Playa del Carmen resort—both of which are quite close to shopping, nightlife, and the exciting attractions of Playa Del Carmen’s 5th Avenue. Call your travel agent to discuss week-long packages. 

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Filed under Europe, Mexico, New Zealand, North America, USA

Conscientious Traveler: Bruce Mate (& Uncruise Adventures)

Baja (142)Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler–our monthly series in which we showcase a fantastic travel organization that supports the environment and wildlife. This month is all about Bruce Mate!

Call to all Potential Sailors: Join Bruce Mate — February 24, 2018!

Every year, Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute Director Bruce Mate and his wife Mary Lou lead a natural history trip down to Baja California. In 2018, he’s sailing back down to this area with UnCruise Adventures, joined by a team of interested individuals (such as yourself? read on!). Bruce has conducted marine mammal research since 1967, including determining the migration routes of sea lions along the west coast of the United States. He started in the Baja region with whale tagging work way back in 1979, and knows the area and its wildlife intimately. 

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So what makes 2018 so special?

YOU TOO can join Bruce Mate, whale expert, on that year’s annual sail down to Baja. Learn all about gray whales and whale sharks from one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading experts, all in the comfort and accessibility of a small cruise ship. We have fourteen open spaces left–can you fill one of them? Bring a friend or loved one, and fill two spaces! 

We already have 34 passengers confirmed to join him–but we still have 14 open spaces left! That’s in a ship that carries a total of 84 passengers. Call us up to join this rare, once in a lifetime cruise! 503-224-1080 or email info@wittravel.com for the details. Check out the on sailing on UnCruise Adventure’s website

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Need to Hear a Firsthand Experience?

WIT Agents Barbara and Racheal are now cruising with Uncruise Adventures down in Baja. We’re super excited for them and happy to hear all about it when they get back!

Missed our previous post about it? Click here.

Starting next week—when Barb and Racheal are back, you’ll be able to hear all about the cruise from a firsthand perspective!

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Filed under Conscientious Traveler, Cruises, Europe, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise

Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

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Baja Caramba!

This week, WIT Agents Racheal & Barbara are going on an Uncruise Adventure to Baja. They’re joining UnCruise alumni for a week down to the Baja Peninsula to swim with the whale sharks and go island-hopping. The boat sails down to Mexico, cruising the Sea of Cortés UNESCO World Heritage Site. When they return, they’ll have to share their firsthand knowledge with you, our lovely clients, and give you pointers on what to expect on a cruise with reputable line UnCruise. We can’t wait to hear their stories!

The Sea of Cortés is a veritable natural aquarium. With bountiful marine life, from scores of dolphins and mobula rays, to sea lion pups and playful pelicans. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the august humpback whale. Dive into the thrill of exploration or relax on a warm beach. The coastline of Baja is bountiful with bird colonies, schools of dolphin and colorful reef fishes. Depending on the season you go, you’ll have the chance to see whale sharks in Bahía de La Paz (Nov to mid-Jan, Mar) or spot gray whales at Bahía Magdalena (mid-Jan to early-Mar).

Call your Willamette Intl Travel agent to find out more about UnCruise Adventures, what they offer and when. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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What is UnCruise?

UnCruise Adventures is a small ship experience devoted to sharing untraditional, intimate itineraries that really delve deep into the heart of a destination. Their cruises are a great opportunity for travelers who want to explore well-known places like Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska in a different and new perspective. Read more about Uncruise Adventures, their history-packed Oregon cruise, and our Alaska trip report.  Also be sure to check out the photos from our Clients’ the Dents, who sailed with UnCruise to Alaska

PLUS! There are themed departures available on certain dates.

  • Birding: Renowned bird experts – on March 25.
  • Chairman’s Cruise: Sail with the leaders and owners of the UnCruise Adventures! – on Jan 7.
  • Marine Biology: Learn all about the amazing aquatic world beneath the waves on excursions and onboard lectures. – Jan 21, Feb 18, Mar 18.
  • Photography: Join NatGeo travel photographer Christopher Baker to capture perfect shots on the boat and in the field – on January 28.

We love UnCruise Adventures! Let us tell you why. Call us up for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise

Mexico Feature: Pyramids and Ruins

Many tourists to Mexico visit the popular resort destinations of Cancun and Riviera Maya. Only some, however, venture away from their vacation sites to explore the Mexican inland—with its wild jungles, gorgeous cenotes and, most remarkable of all, its towering pyramids.

Scattered across the diverse lands of Mexico are hundreds of these impressive pyramids, masterfully fashioned exhibits of pre-Columbian, Meso-American architecture. These structures have lasted through weather and war and time, relics of old Mesoamerican empires. The largest pyramid in the world by volume is the Great Pyramid of Cholula—and it still stands today in the Mexican state of Puebla. Let’s take a quick look at some of these extraordinary edifices:

photo by Hector Garcia

Teotihuacan

The archaeological site of Teotihuacan is located just about thirty miles from Mexico City. The largest pre-Colombian city in the Americans, it lasted around 800 centuries or so, and housed nearly 150,000 people at its peak. One of the most impressive sites of Aztecs, you can climb the pyramids, and visit the Temples of the Moon, the Sun, and the Temple of Quetzacoatl with its serpent heads. Look for the magnificent colorful murals and the Avenue of the Dead. Visits to the site can be arranged as a day or half-day trip from the capital. We also offer hot-air balloon adventures that give you unique, aerial views of the pyramids.

photo by Gervasio Varela

Chichen Itza

Just a short ride from Cancun resorts (2 hours), Chichen Itza was once the capital of the Mayan Empire and now a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the 7th century to the 13th, it underwent several architectural renovations, and this is evident in the multitudes of styles and decorations. Explore the beautiful and ancient castle, observatory, cenotes, and temples with a personal guide. We can arrange a day trip from your Cancun hotel, with an optional buffet lunch and folk dance. There are also resorts available onsite, complete with bungalow suites and secluded swimming pools.

Tulum and Xel-Ha

Another fascinating wonder of old Mexican landscape not far from Cancun, the abandoned city of Tulum is situated on the gorgeous backdrop of the Caribbean Sea. Snorkel in the gorgeous waters of the Takbelum cenote, a pool of freshwater in an underground cave. Zipline through the jungle treetops of Yucatan or pedal across the treetops on a Skycycle, a cable bike suspended from the trees. Admire some of the peninsula’s amazing wildlife. Take a brief drive to Xel-Ha, a natural aquatic theme park that houses a variety of colorful fish, underground rivers, lagoons, and cenotes. Enjoy kayaking, biking and cliff diving. We can arrange this day trip from any Cancun resort.

photo by tslane888

Coba

A worthwhile excursion from Cancun or the Riviera Maya to the tallest pyramid (140 feet or 42 meters) in the Yucatan peninsula. Climb to the top of Nohoch Mul or bike around the ruins and the historical Mayan village. Enjoy lunch at an authentic restaurant and then a finish up with a swim in a freshwater sinkhole. Combine this tour with a biological and cultural tour of the Mayan traditions, wildlife, and history.

Uxmal

The unforgettable Uxmal archaeological site is home the Magician’s Pyramid, the Nun’s Quadrangle, the Palace of the Governor, and the impressive Great Pyramid. Just 62 km south of Merida, the buildings are famed for their ornate design—with decorative friezes, trapezoidal shapes, entwined snakes, and divine masks. This is a spectacular day trip from either Cancun or Riviera Maya.

Interested in adding more to your trip to Mexico? Want to book a vacation or destination wedding? Most of our agents at Willamette Intl Travel have had on the ground experience in Mexico, and we book clients there regularly. Call for more information 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com

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Vendor of the Month: Avanti Destinations

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Willamette Intl Travel uses Avanti Destinations as one of our main tour operators in Central America, Latin America and Europe. Avanti is world-renowned, a member of the United States Tour Operators Association, and have been in the business for over thirty years. Best of all, they are based in Portland, Ore., right around the corner from Willamette Intl Travel!

Avanti offers fully customizable tours in a range of destinations—from jungles and mountains to deserts and islands. Their established, creative itineraries are designed to make the most of your cultural jaunt abroad—and can even be tailored to the minute details to your interests and needs. They even offer theme journeys, focusing on ecology, adventure, food and wine, romance, etc.

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Avanti’s services extend to transfers, tours, lodgings, day trips and more. They keep a range of hand-picked accommodation on list—from lodges, villas, and condos—and every property has been inspected by an employee. These visits ensure the lodgings are of the highest quality, while maintaining a range sensitive of varying budgets. Avanti can arrange shared and private transfers to and from the airport/each destination. In some major ports, they can even arrange pre- or post-cruise itineraries for comprehensive land tour. Day tours are booked with local tour operators, keeping you always on schedule, and with local guides who have grown up in and around the region.

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On a recent itinerary to Costa Rica, we booked some of our clients on an adventurous tour through cloud forests and volcanoes. They spent a week traversing treetop walkways, river-boating, swimming in hot springs, and horse-riding on the beaches of Guanacaste. To quote one client, “This was the best vacation of my life!”

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Travelers on an Avanti booking have:
– Taken a bus through the Andes to Puerto Natales
– Cruised the channels of Tierra del Fuego from Ushuaia
– Caught glimpses of the leopard and cranes in the forests, lowlands and wetlands of the Pantanal
– Spent a night overlooking the Iguassu Falls
– Wandered the cobblestoned streets of the colonial city of Paraty
– Explored the boutiques and glitzy restaurants of Buzios on the charming Costa Verde
– Savored wine in the Loire valleys
– Hiked Chile’s spectacular Torres del Paine National Park and the Atacama Desert with its salt flats and dramatic volcanoes
– Zip-lined in the butterfly-rampant Cloud Forest of Monteverde
– Visited the Uros-Iruitos floating reed islands and the quaint village of Copacabana
– Traced the cultural journeys of the pre-Inca Chimu and Moche civilizations, climbed the pyramids of Tucume, and visited the tomb of the Lord of Sipan in Huaca Rajada

Ask us more about Avanti or call us to find more about destinations. We can be reached at 800.821.0401 or info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Central America, South America, Vendors, VOTM

Top Ten Destinations for Diving

photo by Paul Toogood

Did you know that today is World Oceans Day? Officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008, The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network have celebrated by promoting ecological awareness, community involvement, sustainable seafood events, and other ways to honor the world’s oceans.

Here at WIT, we are celebrating by taking a look at some of the best places to scuba dive around the world!

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, Paradise Reef, a series of interconnecting reefs full of shellfish, crustaceans, and colorful fish. It is also the site of “The Abyss,” a 3000-foot vertical drop that descends into darkness. Lucky divers can catch a sight of the Splendid Toad Fish, endemic to the region.

When to Go: September to May

What to See: orange ball anemones, file-fish, sea turtles, octopi, French angel, shipwrecks, file fish, trunkfish, stonefish, moray eels

Cayman Islands

The three Cayman Islands are great locales to dive around—there’s great visibility, very little runoff from the land, and ample amounts of Caribbean fish and invertebrates. Scuba diving is fantastic all year long on the leeward side of the Grand Cayman, where the waters are protected from wind and waves.

When to Go: All year round, water temperatures range from 80F in winter to 86F in summer.

What to See: Stingray City (a series of shallow sandbars with dozens of rays), Kittiwake Wreck, shallow reefs.

Tahiti

With temperatures between 79F and 84F in summer and visibility down to 120 feet, Tahiti is a great diving destination for the novice and seasoned expert alike. The island is known for its large marine life: from manta rays with meter-long wing spans, to Napoleon fish reaching over 35 kg. There are also several excellent training facilities to get your CMAS and PADI certifications.

When to Go: Year round.

What to See: gray shark, reef shark, sleeper shark, barracudas, dolphins, turtles, humpback whales (July-October), shipwrecks.

Galapagos, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands boast a marine life as diverse and wondrous as the one on land. The waters are rich in phytoplankton, casting them a deep green shade. But do make sure you are with experienced divers—those currents are not to be trifled with!

When to Go: February to April

What to See: whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, fur seals, creole wrasse, seahorses, batfish, frogfish—and out of the water, marine iguanas and penguins!

Fiji

The Fiji archipelago is encircled by a huge reef, making shallow lagoons and a plethora of amazing scuba sites. Diving is a major attraction here, with a visibility of 130 feet deep, and warm waters from 77F in winter and 86F in summer.

When to Go: Year Round.

What to See: Astrolabe Reef, Bega Lagoon, Rainbow Reef

photo by Paul Toogood

Bali, South Pacific

The incredible diving in Bali is due to the island’s currents and its rich marine life—with a list of over 600 coral species and 3000 reef fish species. The Indonesian Throughflow is a flow of water that exits from the Indonesian archipelago into the Indian Ocean, carrying organic nutrients, plankton, and larvae that provide a healthy diet for the area’s fish and mollusks.

When to Go: April to November

What to See: Big Bumphead parrotfish, ghost pipefish, cometfish, anemonefish, morays, ribbon eels, octopi, mola-mola, or the ocean sunfish. Tulamben Wall—its purple gorgonian sea fan that stretches over 2 meters in diameter.

Cocos and Malpelo Islands, Costa Rica and Colombia

The Caribbean is home to some incredible samples of sealife. Nowhere else in the world can divers swim with such a plethora of sharks and large fish. Cocos Island has around 20 dive sites, with both shallow to steep options available. Malpelo Island’s main attraction is the scalloped hammerhead shark, which can swim in schools of up to 300 sharks.

When to Go: September to March

What to See: hammerheads, silk sharks, Galapagos shark, whale shark

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

At 2,600 km, this gigantic coral reef system is the largest in the world. It runs along the Queensland coast of Australia, and is composed of around 2,900 reefs and 900 islands. Due to its size, it offers scuba challenges for both amateurs and professionals, and is home to a great diversity of sealife—sharks, dolphins, or a saltwater crocodile if you’re really fortunate!

When to Go: August to January

What to See: tiger sharks, whale sharks, pufferfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, hawkfish, 360 species of hard corals, sea snakes, 6 types of sea turtles, giant groupers, Caribbeam reef shark, nurse shark, saltwater crocodile (rare), humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs.

Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jacques Cousteau called this sea “The World’s Great Aquarium” due to its biodiversity. This is a great destination for North Americans due to its proximity and size. Also known as the Gulf of California, this strip of water separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland, and shares a coastline of around 2,500 miles.

When to Go: June to November

What to See: marlin, dorado, sea lions, whales, hammerhead sharks, barracudas, shipwrecks, devil rays, cow-nose ray, mola-molas, amber jacks, goatfish, turtles, moray eels, pufferfish, porcupine fish, flute fish, scorpionfish, lobsters, seahorses.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu in the South Pacific is a diver’s paradise—with a vast collection of caves, lava towers, coral mazes, grottoes and wrecks. A chain of 83 tropical islands, it’s a great spot to witness some great underwater sights—including the must-see SS “President Coolidge,” at 22,000 tons, the largest wreck dive in the world.

When to Go: April to October

What to See: SS “President Coolidge,” swordfish, marlins, barracuda, dolphins, unique starfish, dugongs, and Million Dollar Point (a stockpile of equipment dumped by the U.S. military).

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How to be a responsible, eco-friendly diver

  1. Maintain proper buoyancy: greater weight increases drag on your body, increasing the risk of damaging the reef or disturbing the floor
  2. Never touch a creature: touching can remove protective layers of oil or skin and possibly damage the animal. Watch out for the more delicate living coral.
  3. Be aware of your dimensions: Pay attention to what is around you and where you are going—divers operate in terms of front and back, sideways, and up and down. Make sure you keep aware of your surroundings.
  4. Secure your gear: firmly attaching your gear keeps it from banging around or potentially falling.
  5. Leave no trace: don’t leave anything, don’t take anything. Minimize your carbon diver’s footprint, and keep the reef intact.

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Willamette International Travel has worked with a variety of diving companies who tailor their services around your needs. We have sent clients on day excursions, shoretrips and multiday LiveAboard experiences alike in destinations such as Australia, Bahamas, Fiji, Christmas Island, Mexico, Hawaii, Egypt, and more!

Thinking about incorporating diving into your trip abroad? Ask us about some great scuba opportunities! Email our in-house certified diver at pamd@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Filed under Features, Travel by Scuba