Where and How to Plan a Dive Trip in COVID-19 Times?
Planning a dive trip during COVID-19 times? With the pandemic dragging on, many scuba divers have had the longest surface interval ever. We can’t wait to put our scuba diving masks on!
Even though it might not be possible to travel right away with lock-downs, and/or family and financial obligations, nothing prevents you from planning your next dive trip right now!
Indeed, many trips from 2020 have already been rescheduled to 2021 and 2022, if you’d like to dive anytime soon, it’s better to plan ahead.
At the time we’re writing this article, some destinations are opened reopened to international tourism. This is the case of French Polynesia, Galápagos, Mexico, Egypt, Maldives and even some areas of Madagascar.
Dive operators have put for most of them incredible flexible conditions for booking and cancellation in these unprecedented times.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know to plan a safe trip, and what’s required for each of these destinations.
Are You Still Fit to Dive?
Remember to check-out with yourself before planning a dive trip if you’re still fit to dive. You can use DAN Europe Diver Medical questionnaire as a check-list to go through.
If any doubt, check with your local physician and make the necessary exams to make sure you can dive safely.
Which Safety Protocols Are in Place in Liveaboards & Eco-Resorts?
Most dive operators have now put in place comprehensive safety procedures.
Before departure, a good practice of a liveaboard in Socorro is to ask guests to take their temperature twice a day for one week before departure. If you ever get COVID-19 symptoms or a light fever, you can reschedule your trip with no fee.
Taking temperature everyday with a contactless thermometer during the trip is also a common practice.
Some liveaboards keep a cabin without any guest in case they would need to quarantine someone during the trip. Ask about these practices before booking.
Once on board, you’ll be expected to wear a protective face mask in enclosed areas, so bring enough face masks for the duration of your trip.
In the day to day, some areas might be restricted to guests, and the staff will implement measures to ensure social distancing - for instance, serving meals at the table vs. buffet style, or not ensuring daily cabin service.
Some guidelines regarding surfaces cleaning and dive equipment care have been written by DAN-Europe.
If you do not have invested in your own dive gear yet this might be a good time to so. Even if it’s possible to disinfect the equipment, you’ll reduce your level of anxiety if you have your own mask, snorkel and regulator.
Ask about who sets up the dive equipment on board, and once all geared, remember to do your buddy check without touching each other’s equipment.
When choosing a liveaboard, ensure there’s plenty of space inside and outside so that you can social distance easily.
If you prefer to social distance even more, an eco-resort is an ideal place to do so. Choose a small, responsible operation that supports local communities, they need it even more now!
How Flexible Are Booking and Cancellation Conditions?
Ask about the Special COVID-19 booking conditions. For instance, many liveaboards and eco-resorts accept a very small deposit at booking to secure your place, sometimes as low as 10%.
Conditions are also very flexible to get a refund or change dates in case of COVID-19 related causes, such as illness, borders lockdown, or cancellations of flights between the two countries.
In these times of great uncertainty, it is a good idea to ask a dive travel agent to help you out figure out which options are best for you. It might save you some headaches, and it will support small businesses you share the same passion with!
Galápagos Archipelago, Ecuador
Your dream might come true earlier than you ever thought!
If you’re looking forward to dive with some of the most dense pelagic marine life in the world, head to the Galápagos! 20% of its marine life is endemic, and two of the best dive sites in the world are located in the archipelago: Darwin’s Arch and Wolf Island.
To dive in Galápagos, you usually had to book years in advance. With COVID-19 generating so much uncertainty, there’re now last minute cabins available with incredible discounts, and flexible conditions.
SeaCrush Pick: 👉 this best-rated liveaboard in Galápagos (7 nights starting from ...) will take you to Darwin’s Arch and Wolf Island.
Galápagos COVID-19 entry requirements: you need to present an RT-PCR test negative result performed up to 96 hours before entering the Galápagos province
Rangiroa and Fakarava, French Polynesia
French Polynesia is in the South Pacific, and can be reached with a direct flight from San Francisco (SFO) or Los Angeles (LAX). While most people have heard of “Tahiti”, or “Bora Bora”, the best diving is in Rangiroa and Fakarava atolls. Expect to dive among plenty of sharks and barracudas, see healthy hard coral formations, and cross paths with mantas rays and dolphins!
SeaCrush Pick: 👉 this dive trip to French Polynesia (11 nights starting from ...) will take you to the top dive sites of the archipelago.
French Polynesia entry requirements: proof of a negative RT-PCR test carried out within 72 hours prior to international air departure. Register in the online Etis platform
Present the receipt of the Etis platform health registration at check-in.
Mexico hosts one of the best dive destinations in the world: Socorro! Good news is, trips have restarted in October, and some liveaboards have implemented comprehensive measures to ensure the safety of their guests.
As for the Galápagos, Socorro trips used to be filled at least a year in advance. You can now find a few spots available for the next weeks.
SeaCrush Pick: 👉 if you choose a Socorro liveaboard trip (8 nights starting from ...), expect to dive with oceanic manta rays, dolphins and up to 10 species of sharks. In February, humpback whales are migrating through, so you might even spot one while diving!
Mexico COVID-19 entry requirements: Health Declaration Form on arrival. No COVID-19 test required.
Nosy Komba, Madagascar
Another alternative far from the crowds, is to dive and stay in Nosy Komba. This small volcanic island that you can only discover by foot or with a pirogue, is part of Nosy Be Archipelago. Nosy Komba island hosts a handful of small size eco-resorts. The area is a hotspot for whale sharks. You can also dive on wrecks, and the Mozambican canal brings big pelagic life - sharks and rays. Finally, the macro life is rich and diverse. A good dive destination for both advanced and beginner divers.
SeaCrush Pick: 👉 dive and stay in Nosy Komba (6 nights starting from ...) in this amazing eco-resort part of National Geographic “Unique Lodges of the World” selection!
Madagascar COVID-19 entry requirements: some countries (mostly European) have recently been banned to enter Nosy Be - check with your local embassy. Nationalities who can still travel to Madagascar must present a negative RT-PCR test done at least 72 hours before departure.
South Ari Atoll, Maldives
If you prefer eco-resorts to liveaboards, the Maldives is a good place to go, and it has just reopened to international tourism. Choose an operation that is located on a “village-island” to support local communities.
SeaCrush Pick: 👉 in this Maldives dive trip (7 nights starting from ...) you’ll stay and dive in a boutique eco-resort designed by divers.
It is located on Dhigurah Island in South Ari atoll, near the best spots to see whale sharks in the Maldives!
Maldives COVID-19 entry requirements: a completed Traveler Health Declaration must be filled in and submitted by all visitors twice – 24 hours before your flight to the Maldives, and once more before you depart from the Maldives. A RT-PCR test must be taken not more than 72 hours prior to the scheduled time of departure from the first port of embarkation en route to Maldives.
The Red Sea, Egypt
The Red Sea also has recently reopened to international tourism. With plenty of different itinerary, it’s a classic for scuba divers who are looking for an affordable dive trip.
SeaCrush Pick: 👉 the southern routes going to “BDE”: Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone are the most popular trips. Contact SeaCrush if you’d like a quote for a liveaboard there!
Egypt COVID-19 entry requirements: all passengers travelling to Egypt must be in possession of negative PCR test certificate for COVID-19, maximum 72 hours before flight departure time. Passengers travelling from Japan, China, Thailand, North America, South America, Canada, London Heathrow, Paris and Frankfurt will be allowed to provide the test certificate performed up to 96 hours prior to flight time.