The waters around this remote Portuguese archipelago way out in the Atlantic Ocean are home to an amazing underwater world. The nine small volcanic islands of the Azores are surrounded by waters that are home to tuna, barracuda and manta rays, along with other species such as groupers, moray eels and stingrays. Some whales and dolphins are resident in the area, too, while others pass through on their migratory routes.
The overwhelming natural beauty and vast cultural heritage of the landscape of Croatia are equally apparent in the country's marine wealth. The unspoiled waters of the Adriatic are home to numerous wrecks from all different historical periods, from Roman ships to World War II battleships, making the 1,200 islets very popular with divers.
Malta is another place that has witnessed a long procession of cultures down through its history, and the waters of the archipelago also boast a variety of wrecks. Couple this with high visibility, a lack of tides and currents, as well as the spectacular caves and tunnels carved into the limestone, including the famous "Blue Hole", and its popularity as a diving destination is easy to understand.
The Middle East may sound dry, and travellers tend to focus on the cultural attractions and historical heritage of the area, but here, too, there are a wealth of diving options. Jacques Cousteau himself marvelled at the wonders of Egypt's Red Sea, while Israel also touches the Red Sea, at the northernmost tip of the eastern 'horn'. Here, at Eilat, on an inlet from the sea known as the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba, you can dive one of the world's most spectacular underwater preserves. Just across the border into Jordan, is Aqaba, which shares the same waters, boasting the additional attraction of the famous wreck of the Cedar Pride a little farther south along the coast towards Saudi Arabia.
Offering some of the best diving in Asia, the Philippines comprises over 7,000 islands and an almost infinite choice of destinations and dive sites. This is one of the planet's richest areas of biodiversity and the pristine reefs are home to a spectacular range of creatures from the smaller frogfish and nudibranchs to the larger whale sharks, mantas and turtles.
The Caribbean includes a whole host of exciting diving destinations, whether it's the Bahamas, where tiger and lemon sharks glide through waters scattered with the wrecks of Spanish galleons, or Cozumel, Mexico's largest inhabited island off the Yucatan Peninsula, famous for dive locations such as the Palancar reef with its wealth of underwater life, as well as for the mysterious freshwater caves known as cenotes which offer a different kind of diving experience. Then there's the islands and archipelagos of Cuba, whose waters offer a huge range of diving conditions including Maria la Gorda, Isla de la Juventud – the second largest of the islands, Santa Lucia – famed for the chance of diving with bull sharks, Cayo Largo, Santiago de Cuba with its spectacular wrecks dating from the Spanish-American war, and the marine reserve of Jardines de la Reina, a maze of mangroves that in recent years has appeared on plenty of top diving sites lists. And the Cayman Islands, the world-class tax haven, also offers world-class diving, with crystal waters offering visibility of up to 40 metres and a wide variety of diving conditions and experiences.