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THIS YEARS HOT TIP from the trade is for a cool destination. Teresa Bennett of Dive Worldwide offers upmarket diving holidays and she thinks that demand for high-quality coldwater experiences beyond UK shores is on the up, with Canada high on her customers wishlists.
We think places like Labrador and Newfoundland will do very well in 2006, because everybodys asking about them. Go in June and you can combine wreck-diving with whale-watching and enjoying being among beautiful icebergs.
Closer to home, weve also had a lot of interest in ice-diving in Austrian lakes and in the White Sea in Russia. But Teresa would prefer her own holiday to be somewhere rather more temperate: I would head for Palau or Yap.
We were persuaded that we were seeing the start of a trend when Teresas advice was echoed by Hedda Lyons of Crusader Travel. People like the idea of going somewhere exciting but at the same time not being a long flight away, she said. Thats the case with Canada - you can get to St Johns in Newfoundland in only five hours.
Hedda reckons that while Canadas east coast had not become particularly cheaper, more people were organising diving holidays there. Its not just the ice-diving - there is the chance to see whales and other wildlife. You get a pretty good summer there, too. Its worth remembering that the season is quite short, however.
Again like Teresa, Heddas personal choice was for warmer Micronesia, with Truk and Palau leading the way: Theyre incredible destinations and as a diver youll find everything you could want there. Were getting an awful lot of inquiries lately.
Five hours to Canada - not that much longer than it takes to fly to the Red Sea. Andreas Elia of Regaldive is backing new developments in that part of the world for 2006. Marsa Alam in southern Egypt seems to be a good bet for divers looking for a combination of liveaboard and land-based diving. It has really grown, and now that there are winter flights as well as summer, it will continue to develop.
But it is Lahmi Bay, a new southern resort area giving direct access to the highly regarded St Johns Reef, that gets his vote. You fly to Marsa Alam and its a two-hour transfer from there. There are only two hotels and two dive centres at the moment and they are really well-run.

Whale shark guarantee
Staying in the Middle East, Andreas also enthuses about Oman, which several operators started pushing last year. There are daily flights, and although its a bit further than the Red Sea it is fairly virgin diving. There is no mass tourism and divers are not secondary to the bucket-and-spaders.
He also wanted to squeeze in a plug for Djibouti: Its a place to get away from the crowd, and with whale shark sightings as near as dammit guaranteed.
As a father of young children, however, Andreas would take his own diving holiday in Egypt. I would head for Dahab or Hurghada, because they combine the diving and cultural sides of a holiday well. Sharm is a bit too bustly.
Phil Connor at Dive Sportif also sees the continued tourist colonisation of the southern Egyptian coast as significant for divers. He reckons Marsa Alam is continuing to gain ground, as well as new resorts spreading ever further south. Sharms flattened out - everyone loves it but its a bit too busy these days. Access routes are so good to Marsa Alam now.
But his hot tip is for the Atlantic island of Cape Verde, way off Senegal in west Africa. Previously it was thought of, if at all, as hard to get to and associated with exciting diving conditions and treasure wrecks. The diving is good and its not crazy money to get there, something like£750 for nine days, so its between Red Sea and Caribbean prices. The food and wine is really good and its excellent value for money.
Rob Brynings Worldwide Scuba Tours caters for the affluent diver. Premium sites such as Cocos and Galapagos will be in big demand in 2006, because people seem better able to afford the prices, he says. Often theyre fed up with promises of whale sharks and hammerheads that dont materialise at other destinations, and just decide to go for it.
It can be down to one diver who comes back and influences others in a club or group of friends. Were also seeing increased interest in Palau, because there are a lot of good operations there, its reasonably priced and the air links have got better. You can link the trip with diving somewhere like Truk or Yap.
If I had to choose anywhere, Id go to Cocos. An added attraction there is a three-man submersible with Sea Hunter that can take you down to 450m. It costs $1350 for a two to three-hour dive, but what an experience to go to those depths!
Rob also predicts that well be seeing jumbo liveaboards appearing in many parts of the world over the next few years - because of rising oil prices. Fuel for dive boats somewhere like the Maldives costs 63p a litre, whereas in the Red Sea, where its subsidised, it costs 4p. This is causing huge distortion of the market, and the only way to keep rates down will be to get more people aboard each vessel.
Stephanie Tester of Barefoot Traveller was lyrical about Playa del Carmen on Mexicos Caribbean coast, with its combination of cavern and reef diving. The Yucatan peninsula is the Red Sea of America, but PDC is a little different and more exciting, with everything right there - the sea, jungle and cenotes, she says.
Playa del Carmen escaped the ravages of Hurricane Wilma last year, though that is incidental. Its only a 45-minute transfer from Cancun as opposed to 90 minutes to Cozumel, and you dont have the skyrise resorts you get in Cancun.
People often think you have to be a certified cave-diver to dive the cenotes but you only have to be Open Water-qualified, and they take safety seriously, says Stephanie.
Its not that expensive, its easy diving and its good diving. People sometimes go thinking it will be very American, but they come back and say: ÔI really liked that. I think I would go there for my own diving holiday, or else to Honduras.
You can read our own divEr selection of places to go this year in the following pages. Mexico is certainly there, though were looking at the Pacific rather than the east coast, and our wild-card Caribbean suggestion is to visit a pair of the more obscure islands, St Thomas and St Croix.
Egypt and the Maldives are a given, being so popular. So we describe a Red Sea liveaboard trip and, in mid-Indian Ocean, diving from one of the most upscale resorts in the world.
Were also backing Indonesia big time on grounds of quality and accessible pricing, and bring the story of not one but two destinations there - Manado in the north and Bali in the south.
And while the Med may have fallen out of favour somewhat in recent years, we also have ideas for holidays closer to home, including a family diving holiday in Turkey and a reef and wreck jaunt to Spain.
All this, and our guide to medical precautions that can save a trip; your 2006 dive holiday planning starts here.