Best locations for school diving holidays.
We have been very privileged over the years to work with a number of the UK’s top schools and take them on school diving holidays around the world.
During this time we have learnt a lot and this page goes in to some of the details you should consider for school diving trips.
School dive holidays are generally very safe, probably even safer than the annual school ski trip! Diving opens up a world that can be tied in with other subjects they are learning such as Geography, History and the Sciences.
Resort or Liveaboard
The main benefits of a resort based holiday is that it opens up many more options in terms of countries you can visit and the numbers you can bring. There tend to be more rooms available so it doesn’t matter if you wish to bring a group of 10 or 40. You can also combine more activities such as other sports and cultural trips. The main downside is that it does become a little more tricky to manage the group, how can you keep an eye on them all of the time. Most of the schools we work with tend to have children that are very well behaved and don’t wonder off. We can also minimise some of the risks by always having an activity to do when they are not diving such as water polo, and we can get wrist bands that don’t permit alcohol to be served to them.
The benefits of a liveaboard are that you can contain the children easier and you can dictate to the boat crew what the alcohol policy is. You can also visit some of the better dive sites that can’t always be reached from a resort. The biggest consideration is the number of cabins available, if they have twin or double beds and a more limited number of destinations. Dive crews tend to be really friendly and love having kids on board. Food is generally buffet style and to a very high standard. They can also cater for food allergies and other dietary requirements.
Traditionally the best place to take schools from the UK was the Egyptian Red Sea. The main reason for this is that there are a variety of dive sites for al levels, there are hundreds of hotels and dive boats to choose from, it is the nearest destination to the UK to experience coral reefs and it is excellent value. Following recent events and media coverage it has been more difficult to persuade schools and parents of the benefits of the Red Sea. While Sharm el Sheikh remains closed (as at 7th March 2017), Hurghada and Marsa Alam remain open as business as usual. I’m not a security expert but having lived and worked in Egypt I would say that these destinations are about as safe as a trip on the London Underground or a weekend in any major European capital city.
As there are substantially fewer tourists in the Red Sea many of the reefs have recovered back to pristine levels, there are fewer boats and therefore less crowded dive sites and marine life is returning that was once scared off by the sheer number of boats. For example it is not uncommon to find Manta Rays and Whale Sharks at certain times of the year.
In recent years this has become our most popular destination because it has a large number of resorts and liveaboards to choose from. We work with a number of liveaboards that have twin beds in each cabin and can cater from 12 to 26 guests.
There are hundreds of resorts available but the ones that tend to be the most o=popular for schools are the local islands that have guest houses. They tend to be a little bit more cultural, much cheaper and often do not serve alcohol – this isn’t always so good for the teachers though!
There are a number of 3 and 4 star resorts that have fantastic facilities but tend to be more expensive.
The best time to visit is November to May but during the UK summer holidays it is much cheaper than the winter months and generally availability is better. Does it really matter if it rains when you are underwater?
Like the Maldives, Mexico is based in the Northern hemisphere so does not a ridiculous travel time. Cozumel tends to have the best reef diving but if possible allow a day or two on the Yucatan Peninsula to dive the Cenotes.
Mexico has some of the best diving in the Caribbean and many of the resorts offer good value for money. There are plenty of flights from the UK and for the Caribbean are also not too expensive.
June to August is Whale Shark season which is always spectacular. Mexico doesn’t tend to be hit by too many hurricanes but tropical storms from June to October are possible – but this is reflected in the price. We ran a 10 trip in June 2016 and only had about 2 days of slightly dodgy weather.
Other locations worth considering:
Thailand – this is has some great diving, food and the locals are really friendly. There are a few liveaboards but they tend to be quite expensive or of poor quality and for more experienced divers. I always think that Khao Lak is a great place to take groups for its stunning scenery, less back packers and good diving for all levels.
Komodo – some of the world’s most stunning diving plus the chance to see the worlds largest lizard!
Philippines – Hundreds of islands to choose from and some of the reefs are some of the best in the world.
Malta – This is great for a cheap holiday that is only a few hours away from most UK airports. There are no liveaboards but there are lots of resorts and dive centres to choose from, many owned by Brists. There are no coral reefs, but the water visibility is gin clear, and there are plenty of interesting wrecks.
Other things to consider
Equipment hire – this is generally £100 to £200 per week per person. We often accompany groups and teach the courses on the boat. In exchange we provide all the equipment free of charge assumimg that the total amount is greater than the cost of kit hire.
Free spaces for teachers – Schools receive free courses when they have 6 or more students up to the corresponding course. We also offer free spaces for teachers which generally are 1 free space with 10 paying.
School video – When we accompany the school trip we include a free video that the school can use on its website and social media, and children can also get a free copy.
Diving courses – It sometimes makes logistics easier to have either a referral course such as the pool skills and theory completed before the travel date, or have all of the open water students get qualified before they travel. We can always build course dates around the school calendar.
If you are interested in running a school diving holiday then please get in touch with me on 07920 516006.