When you can dive back in… travel column

From Egypt to Indonesia, our world's oceans are full of magical creatures and corals, says Sarah Marshall. At a time when the world feels completely off kilter, we all yearn to be in remote corners where life tinkers along at a different pace. Although part of our planet, oceans present an exciting new universe; dip your head below the surface and troubles in the outside world feel a million miles away.

Scuba diving is the easiest way to access this utopia, and even if you're a novice, it's possible to book holidays with Open Water Dive courses combined. Although we've all had to temporarily press pause on travel plans, allow your thoughts to float to a future when our blue planet will once again be open, and we can all dive right in.

1. Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Best for... beginners Soft corals dress the deep blue in a rainbow of colours, and you'll find plenty in the waters around Egypt's Sinai Peninsula - a block of land bridging Asia and Africa. The area's premier resort, Sharm El Sheikh, is the ideal base for a dive holiday, with options to explore healthy house reefs or Unesco World Heritage marine parks.

A four-year dip in tourism, following terrorist activity, has allowed the underwater world to flourish, and experts say the Red Sea has never been healthier. Now the region has been given the all-clear, it's one of the best places to learn how to dive, according to industry body PADI. Stay at the Reef Oasis resort, which has it's own excellent learner pool, and venture on days trips to Ras Mohammed National Park, where sunken wrecks and (if you're lucky) hammerhead sharks can be seen.

How: PADI Travel (travel.padi.com) offers a seven-night all-inclusive stay at the Reef Oasis Beach Resort from GBP1,199pp, including a four-day Open Water Diver beginner course. Flights extra.

2. Walindi Plantation Resort, New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Best for... marine creatures It's a long, long way to travel, but efforts are rewarded with mesmerising sights at this aqua paradise on the other side of the world. Australian couple Max and Cecile Benjamin came to the island of New Britain in the 1960s and learned to dive in the clear waters of Kimbe Bay.

Fringed by rainforest and volcanic peaks, it sits in the Coral Triangle - home to 75% of the world's coral species. Struck by its beauty, the couple set up a resort on the grounds of a palm oil plantation, and now offer guests an opportunity to explore 40 different dive sites - home to sheer walls, coral gardens, enormous fans and bizarre creatures. Occasionally, pods of dolphins and pilot whales pass by.

Considered to be a world-class resort, the team is excellent and the scuba kit available for rent is impeccable, so expect to rub fins with pro divers and underwater photographers. How: Dive Worldwide (diveworldwide.com) offers a 20-day trip to Papua New Guinea, including a stay at Walindi, from GBP5,395pp, including all meals, 20 boat dives, tanks and weights, and flights.

3. Yucatan, Mexico

Best for... adventure If adventure appeals more than animals, this underwater playground could fit the bill. There's an opportunity to explore deep sinkholes known as Cenotes, geological features created by the collapse of limestone rocks.

Considered by the Mayan people as a sacred doorway to another world, some are caves and passages, while others look like vertical wells. Gaze up at ceilings covered in stalactites and swim through pools illuminated by shards of sunlight. Although a technical diving certificate is required to explore parts of the cave system, there are still plenty of options for recreational divers.

The eight-metre-deep Casa Cenote on the Yucatan is one of the easiest to explore and a great starting point. Situated beneath the jungle, it's accessed through mangroves. How: Regaldive (regal-diving.co.uk) offers seven nights all-inclusive at the Allegro Cozumel resort from GBP1,445, including flights.

Day trips to the Cenotes can be booked. Dive packages are extra.

4. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Best for... eco credibility There have been numerous reports of degradation along the world's largest barrier reef system, but there are still healthy spots where corals and marine life thrive. Lapped by cooler waters and sheltered from cyclones, the southern sector has fared remarkably well, with spots such as Lady Elliot Island still in fantastic condition.

A coral cay with its own landing strip, the award-winning, solar-powered eco resort can be visited on a day trip or overnight, with flights departing from several stops on the mainland. Snorkel along trails from the beach at any time of day, or choose from 20 dive sites accessed by boat. Glide over towering chimneys, alongside manta rays and turtles, and visit in winter (May to November) to hear humpback whales sing.

How: PADI Travel (travel.padi.com) offers seven nights half-board from GBP1,250pp, including a four-day Open Water Diver course. Flights extra.

5. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Best for... wow factor With more than 13,000 islands to explore, the Indonesian Republic is the grand daddy of dive destinations. Like Papua New Guinea, it's part of the Coral Triangle, exploding with vibrant-hued fish, staggering coral boulders and anemones whose tendrils flow like a mermaid's hair.

Raja Ampat, Alor and Komodo National Park are regarded as the best places to visit, although strong currents mean you'll need a bit of experience to fully take advantage of what's on offer.

How: Dive Worldwide (diveworldwide.com) offers a 14-day trip from GBP4,325pp, including flights and seven days of boat dives.

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