You’ll find a classic beach or island holiday at the top of almost everyone’s travel bucket list. But there can be so much more to a holiday at the beach than just relaxing or swimming.
If your bucket list is a bit more adventurous than the norm, we’re sure you’re excited to tick off a few unforgettable marine experiences in 2023, such as exploring underwater shipwrecks, observing beautiful whales and swimming with gigantic whale sharks.
Here’s what you need to know about where to go, when to go and how to make the most of these mesmerising encounters with the ocean’s many treasures.
Why? Known for its underwater activities and offering some of the best whale shark experiences in the world, Mozambique is a real gem for any traveller looking to make a dent in their bucket list. Plus, getting from South Africa to Mozambique is easy and affordable, with a variety of options to choose from.
When to go for diving: Visibility for diving and snorkelling in Mozambique is at its best when the current is weaker and there’s less rain, usually between May and September.
When to see whales: Humpback whales call the Mozambique coastline home from July until September, with most of them found in Bazaruto and Tofo. You’ll also have the chance to see Southern Right Whales in the southern portion of the Mozambique Channel from June toDecember.
When to swim with whale sharks: Great news – you’ll likely be able to get to know Mozambique’s resident whale sharks better at any time of the year, but they’re at their most abundant from October to March, particularly off the shore of Tofo. During this time, the whale sharks have been known to congregate in larger groups, oftentimes groups of over 50!
Travel tip: Tick multiple experiences off your bucket list by heading to the beaches ofZavora. About 6km off the shore is where you’ll find the once 160m long Klipfontein (though she split in two when sinking to the depths). This ship sank after hitting a reef in 1953. If you plan your dive between July and October, you’ll likely enjoy a close-up of the visiting humpback whales during your dive!
2. St Helena Island
Why? St Helena is one of the remotest islands in the world, promising a secluded, peaceful getaway, and plenty of space to explore beneath the surface (literally!). There are countless water adventures to look forward to here, from diving and whale watching to fishing, sailing and many more.
When to go for diving: Diving season runs from December to May, but visibility is decent year-round, usually extending 15 to 25 metres deep.
When to see whales: The best time to scope out humpback whales in St Helena is between June and December, which is when these marine marvels arrive to birth their calves.
When to swim with whale sharks: Whale sharks fill up the waters of St Helena between December and March each year.
Travel tip: Maritime history is extremely rich on St Helena Island – the small island is the final resting place for a whopping eight shipwrecks. If planning a diving getaway, be sure to hit them all! Beginner diver? The Papanui, an Australian passenger cargo vessel that sank in 1911 after catching fire, is a popular choice amongst divers of all levels as it lies in just 12 metres of water and is easy to spot thanks to the ship’s stern that protrudes just above the surface during low tide.
3. Holbox Island
Why? Mexico’s Holbox Island is a restful haven, located just a few hours north of Cancun. It’s a true hidden gem for sun worshippers, nature lovers and adrenalin junkies – particularly if you have your heart set on close-up encounters with gentle whale sharks. These marine creatures tend to frequent the shallow waters of the island’s lagoon, often in massive groups.
When to go for diving: The water is calm and at its clearest in the latter half of the year, from July to December.
When to see whales: Holbox Island is famous for its whale sharks, but it’s known to host its fair share of whales too, including the blue whale, the grey whale and the humpback whale. You’ll have the best chance of seeing them if you plan your visit between November and March.
When to swim with whale sharks: Holbox Island is the place to be in Mexico if swimming with whale sharks is at the top of your holiday agenda. The world’s largest fish swim here in hordes from June to September each year.
Travel tip: Nature lovers have more to look forward to than whale sharks when holidaying on Holbox Island. The island is also celebrated for its stunning flamingos, most of which gather on an isolated sandbank just off the beach near Las Nubes de Holbox hotel. You’ll need to walk for about an hour to get to the sandbank, but the view of these feathered beauties is well worth the effort.
There are so many wondrous experiences that await you in the water. If you’re ready to book your adventure of a lifetime, be sure to visit the Dana Tours website for a holiday to Mozambique, the St Helena Tourism website for a holiday in St Helena and Flight Centre for flights to Mexico to explore Holbox Island.