Go it Alone: All the Fun with No Strings Attached

By Tamara Collins

Spread your wings and fly! As an individual you are at your strongest. You will never feel more self-assured as when you are guided by your own whims and desires. When you’re traveling solo, your eyes are wide open to the world around you, the people in it and the adventure it offers.

At a certain time in life you learn that you don’t need the constant companionship of friends or lovers to be fulfilled. In fact, you may find that you are more open to the possibilities in life when you are alone. You are free to roam on an impulse. You will be more open to meeting people of different cultures, and the locals will be more willing to let you into their circle if they see you are open to their experiences. You can go where you want, when you want, without the need to compromise with a partner.

There are many reasons why divers travel alone. Whether it is because a spouse doesn’t dive, you’ve just been divorced, you’re extending a business trip or you’ve decided you want a little peace and solitude, people of all ages find themselves exploring the dive world by themselves. And it’s really an incredible experience—trust me, I’ve been there. It may seem a little daunting at first. You may wonder if you will feel lonely, if people will think you are friendless and whether you’ll make new friends. But, if you are open to the experience, the rewards will be rich and varied. And you’ll be surprised to find how many people are envious of your strength, independence and willingness to face the world as an individual.

In the Beginning

Planning, of course, is one of the first stages to going it alone. You may have a few more considerations than if you were with a partner. One is safety, especially if you are a woman, and the second is the dreaded single supplement, a surcharge tacked onto the price of the room to make up for the lost revenue of a second person. To avoid this extra expense, you can ask the dive resort or live-aboard to room you with another person; find out what their policy is ahead of time so there won’t be any surprises.

You may also want to find out what your dining experience will be like at the resort or live-aboard. Usually food is served family-style, where everyone sits at common tables swapping dive stories. But if dining takes place in a more private, intimate atmosphere, you may find yourself feeling a little left out. Dining alone can be one of the more uncomfortable components of solo travel.

Search Your Soul

What are you looking for? Solitude and tranquility? Wild nightlife and parties? It’s all out there, you just need to know how to find it. The Web is a good place to start. I did a search on “scuba diving” and Yahoo brought up myriad sites to explore. Skin Diver’s website, {ServerVariables.SERVER_NAME}, is also a great resource. If you need a little more personal interaction, call up a dive travel agency and they will be able to send you in the right direction. You can also call your local dive shop and find out what kind of trips they’re offering. They may also be able to hook you up with a dive club—one of the best sources for single divers looking to make new friends.

 

Let’s get back to your vision of the ideal dive getaway. Do you want to do nothing but dive, dive, dive; food and sleep a mere consequence of your physiology? Are you the type of person that likes to take long, quiet walks on a pristine beach; your footsteps the only imprint on its virgin sands? Or do you want nightlife, beer bongs, tequila shooters and chance encounters with a passionate stranger?

Solo Hotspots

Most of the single divers I have spoken to swear by the live-aboard dive experience, especially diehard divers. On a live-aboard you are surrounded by divers with a common purpose—stay wet from morning till night, get up the next day and do it all over again. People from all walks of life gather on live-aboards, but the camaraderie of the staff and passengers forces people to make friends quickly. Many groups arrange reunion trips each year, and more than a few marriages have resulted from chance meetings on a live-aboard.

If the hectic, nonstop pace of your life has drained you of your resources, then what you need is to unwind, feel the wind on your face and the sand between your toes. Maybe you don’t care if you speak to another person as long as you live. If you can relate, then your panacea will be a place of peaceful isolation.

There are many dive destinations left in the world that are still quiet, calm and underdeveloped. Most are on the outer edges of civilization, but still quite accessible. The South Pacific has some of the most dynamic diving in the world, and many of its islands have the infrastructure necessary for safe diving. From Tahiti to Fiji, the Solomons, Micronesia and Palau, you will find hundreds of palm-shaded, soul-soothing islands. Beware of honeymooners, though. This is a place of romance, so you may find yourself surrounded by the lovestruck.

Closer to home, the Caribbean and Bahamas still hold some lonely outposts. With a combined population of about 1,500 people, the Cayman Islands’ Cayman Brac and Little Cayman will offer solitude as well as incredible diving. The Out-Islands of the Bahamas are also sparsely populated, and as you travel down the Lesser Antilles, you’ll find the hiking trails and dive sites of Saba, Dominica and St. Lucia a welcome respite.

Maybe you want to get away from it all, but you’re in the mood to party. You want to be where people are shedding their inhibitions, lured by the heat of the tropics. A friend of mine extended a business trip and dropped in on Thailand. Not only was he adopted by a group of young women, he experienced one of the most exhilarating shark dives in the world at Burma Banks.

In the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is a popular place for backpackers exploring the world. Many come for the meditation and open-air yoga, but I’ve heard that anything goes at the Full Moon parties, where bodies twist and turn to the beat of pulsing rhythms from dusk till dawn.

Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, is reported to have its own hedonistic Full Moon party. I didn’t have a chance to experience it first hand, but I can vouch for the island’s beautiful diving.

Another friend swears by Australia. Of course, the Great Barrier Reef is every diver’s dream destination, but the Queensland coast, from Cairns to Brisbane, is also a magnet for young, friendly Europeans, open to all that life has to offer.

There are many parties and festivals around the world where divers go to socialize. Cabo San Lucas, Baja, is a party town on its own, but when the Dive Fiesta hits in September, there are divers roaming the streets looking for a good time. Florida has a slew of great dive events, including Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s Ocean Fest and Skin Diver’s Scuba Trek, where divers gather on a quest for the best diving in the Keys.

Dominica, a small rainbow-drenched Caribbean island, has a Dive Fest every July, and Grand Cayman’s Cayman Madness is in full swing this time of year. The island’s Seven Mile Beach also has its fair share of bars, and while you’re bar hopping, check out Cozumel and Cancun for their wild nightlife.

Learn Something New

Have you dreamed of diving beneath the deep blue sea but never found the time? Maybe it’s an advanced certification or underwater photography that tugs at you during rush hour traffic. There is no better place or time to pursue these aspirations than while basking in the comfort of a dive resort or live-aboard. You will be surrounded by supportive, like-minded people who are striving toward a common goal.

Scuba diving attracts people from all aspects of society. There are around 12 million of us traveling the world in search of the ultimate underwater experience. It’s a big family and a wide open world, and if you strike out on your own, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for.