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Dive headfirst into the world’s most luxe ocean adventures

From scuba diving in the Arctic, to dining more than five metres below the Atlantic, these incredible ocean adventures around the globe will have you pulling out your travel to-do list. The only question is, where to go first?

Sleep in an igloo at sea

When Lindblad Expeditions founder, Sven Lindblad, saw see-through igloos in Finland, he immediately began to plan how to get them on his own ships. Today, two purpose-built polar ships in the Lindblad fleet have the only igloos you can find at sea. After days exploring the polar regions, curl up and gaze at a starry sky on a cosy bed with a hot water bottle tucked by your side. Come daylight, leave your private pod to slip into the adjacent infinity-edged hot tub and watch icebergs bob below.

Read: 18 of the best bubble hotels for a night of romance

Wakatobi Resort is Indonesia’s most spectacular snorkelling and diving destination

Wakatobi Resort sits on a small island in southeast Sulawesi offering exclusive access to some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world. It’s renowned amongst divers and snorkelers, as it is considered one of the planet’s premier coral preserves. The reefs surrounding the resort are home to thousands of species of unique marine life and more than 400 varieties of colourful coral growth. Marine biologists have referred to it as a haven for marine biodiversity.

Out of the ocean, enjoy five-star service, gourmet dining, and opulent accommodations. The resort’s oceanfront villas up the wow factor with panoramic waterfront decks delivering sunset views, Asian-style outdoor showers and plunge pools. Indulge in added perks such as personal butler services, private boats for diving and snorkelling, on-site spa treatments, and private guides.

A stay at the luxury tropical resort is not only a treat for yourself, it also gives back to the planet. The Collaborative Reef Conservation Program has a “no-take” agreement on the marine preserve with local communities  in exchange for a direct monthly income and other benefits from Wakatobi. Area fishermen understand that the notake zones serve as nurseries that boost fish populations in areas adjacent to the sanctuary. This evolution into a sustainable model for harvesting has turned these same fishermen into some of the strongest advocates for reef protection. Wakatobi’s conservation program is a true success story in marine conservation.

Read: Everything you need to know about Wakatobi Resort

Take an overnight cruise through Halong Bay

Vietnam

Discover a captivating world of emerald waters and lush green limestone islands that date back thousands of years in Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in Vietnam. Capella Cruise takes explorers on journeys through the region, touring land and sea by boat, bike and foot. Visit the ancient village of Viet Hai on Cat Ba Island, or marvel at the geological magic of Trung Trang Cave, before returning to the comfort of an ultra-luxury ship with all the bells and whistles.

Read: This overnight Ha Long Bay cruise is Vietnam’s best

Explore Croatia’s coastline with a Michelin-star chef

Pelegrini is a Michelin-starred fine dining establishment in the Croatian city of Šibenik. The ever-changing menu presents the Dalmatian way of life, and you can now take this culinary experience on a scenic sojourn of the Croatian coast. Rent a Pelegrini boat with a Michelin-star chef as your skipper who will guide you through the sights of Šibenik’s archipelago. After a dip in the ocean, your gourmet chaperone will serve up a treat – along with wine pairings – aboard your private charter.

Read: Explore the Michelin-starred restaurants on Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Rent a Pelegrini boat with a Michelin-star chef as your skipper
Rent a Pelegrini boat with a Michelin-star chef as your skipper

Charter Aman’s yacht in Indonesia

Charter Aman Resort’s private flagship yacht, Amandira, on a seven-night Komodo Expedition. You’ll be able to visit the only two islands in the world where the Komodo dragons are found. You’ll also be treated to the Nusa Tenggara Archipelago and Raja Ampat for diving and snorkelling experiences, which are amongst the world’s most biologically diverse and acclaimed underwater sites. Enjoy the onboard perks of a private chef, waitstaff, PADI-certified instructor, massage therapist and five luxury cabins.

Dine at an underwater restaurant

Norway

Under is submerged more than five metres below the icy waves of the North Atlantic. The unique ocean-floor dining concept is accessed from Lindesnes in the traditional Sørlandet region. Under dedicates equal focus to marine research, architecture and gastronomy. The Immersion Menu takes guests on a journey through 18 Norwegian seafood delicacies, while the massive acrylic windows provide a rare view of the seabed’s ecosystem. Developed in collaboration with architects Snøhetta, the concrete shell of the restaurant is built to withstand harsh environmental conditions while providing a new habitat for kelp and limpets on which to thrive.

Read: 17 incredible underwater hotels and restaurants

Under is one of the most incredible dining experiences in Norway
L: Under's dining room © Ivar Kvaal | R: © Inger Marie Grini

Support the Great Barrier Reef

Tropical North Queensland is blessed with one of the world’s most stunning natural wonders. The colossal living organism spans more than 2,300 kilometres and is renowned for its vibrant coral formations, exotic marine life and crystal-clear waters. The thriving ecosystem is not only for marvelling at (although there is that too), but visitors can actively contribute to its preservation.

Explore the reef with one of many operators engaged in coral restoration projects and dive into hands-on activities, such as conducting reef surveys or coral planting. For those who prefer observation, hop on a glass-bottom boat stars learn about coral stabilisation and its role in the reef’s regeneration. To deepen your understanding of the reef, turn to certified Master Reef Guides who offer an expert and enriching experience with storytelling and interpretation skills honed through rigorous training. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, contributing to the protection of Australian sea turtles, with tour proceeds supporting their care.

Read: Eco certified tour operators are helping regenerate the Great Barrier Reef

Explore under-the-radar parts of France by barge

Step aboard your luxury barge on the Canal de Bourgogne in Burgundy and spend seven days gliding along canals, visiting 12th-century winery Clos de Vougeot; wandering the cobbled township of Beaune, with its 15th-century Hospices de Beaune; and soaking up spectacular views from the medieval hilltop village of Châteauneufen-Auxois. This is life aboard Savoir Vivre, your luxury floating barge handpicked by Hotels Afloat. With more than 50 years of experience, European-based Hotels Afloat’s team custom-creates cruises to suit your needs, whether it’s a self-drive experience for your entire extended family, a gorgeous hotel barge or a small-ship cruise. Each journey takes you to private wine tastings in vineyards in exceptional Domaines; visits to cheese farms, historic chateaux, markets, monuments and museums combine to make an unforgettable week of discovery. Then, return to your floating luxury barge, where you’ll be treated to three- and four-course meals matched with local wines. The carefully chosen barges also float along the rivers of Provence, Bordeaux, Alsace, the Loire and the Champagne region of France.

Dive in world’s largest underwater cave

Mexico

The world’s largest underwater cave is a natural limestone sinkhole found just outside Tulum, Mexico. El Pit Cenote has been explored to a depth of 119 metres and has become famous for the ethereal blue beams of light that penetrate deep into the chamber. It’s this phenomenon of dancing light, plus a spooky hydrogen sulphide cloud at 30 metres deep, that draws underwater photography enthusiasts from all around the world to this jungle dive in the Mayan Riviera. But you do need to be an advanced diver to scuba to its depths.

Surf in the Maldives

The Maldives has some of the best waves in the world. Crystal clear waters and high wave density create the perfect environment for both pro surfers and enthusiasts alike. Elevate the experience with private surf charter Luex. Board a luxury boat with gourmet culinary encounters, jet skis, personal yoga coaches and heli-drops at unbelievable surf spots. Luex also ensures wave riders catch the most impressive barrels across the five regions.

Kayak in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

Kayak on glassy waters among a misty mountainous landscape in New Zealand’s deep south. Doubtful Sound (dubbed the ‘Sound of Silence’) is the deepest and second longest of the South Island’s fjords. You’ll be immersed in some of the world’s most beautiful nature. Tumbling waterfalls, mirror-like water and mountains that are nothing short of humbling. This serene environment is also home to myriad wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and penguins.

Kayaking into the incredible natural scenery and pristine waters of the fjord is an amazing experience at Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand, South Island
Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound © Adobe Stock

Cruise the Amazon on a luxury riverboat

Aqua Nera was dubbed the most innovative and luxurious riverboat in the Peruvian Amazon and Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Aqua Nera took her design cues from the mystical black water lagoons of the Amazon. Sprawling suites have floor-to-ceiling windows – making it easy to peruse the otherworldly landscape. To unwind after days of exploration, soak in the plunge pool, watch a movie in the cinema screening room, or laze on the many spacious decks.

Underwater spa treatments

Maldives

An ocean experience needn’t be limited to water sports and cruises. Hidden eight metres below the gently undulating waters of the Maldives is Huvafen Spa. The underwater wellness retreat has views of bioluminescent coral and marine life. It’s the first and only underwater spa treatment room in the world, and you’ll find it at Huvafen Fushi Resort. Opt for the Signature Underwater massage offerings by acclaimed massage expert Beata Aleksandrowicz, which translate the serenity of the ocean into blissful rejuvenation therapies. It’s a spaquarium experience that allows guests to sip champagne and nibble upon delicate bites while observing the underwater wonders of the reef.

Feast on Oysters

NSW, Australia

Have a shucking good time as you slurp delicious, slippery oysters during an exclusive ‘in-water’ dining experience with Sydney Oyster Farm Tours. Learn about the complex business of oyster farming from a boat before donning bib-and-brace waders and stepping out into the thigh-high waters of the Hawkesbury River, where a row of partially submerged white-clothed tables awaits, replete with silver platters of oysters ready to be shucked. This fun, immersive tour is made all the more enticing when paired with a glass of champagne, or perhaps a shot of smoky Glenglassaugh whisky to best complement the briny flavour of the oysters plucked straight from ‘lease-to table’.

Feast on Oysters with Sydney Oyster Farm Tours
Sydney Oyster Farm Tours on the Hawkesbury River

Sleep in the Great Barrier Reef

Wake to kaleidoscopic marine life floating through aqua waters mere metres from your bed. This is Reefsuites – Australia’s first underwater accommodation. Moored offshore at Hardy Reef in Queensland, there are just two suites, both with floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the incredible underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll begin your unique experience with a cruise through Australia’s beautiful Whitsunday Islands, along with water activities and an onboard chef who serves up meals made with seasonal, local produce.

Drive the Atlantic Road in Norway

A narrow eight-kilometre road with eight bridges weaving its way through the ocean via a series of small islets – it’s little wonder The Atlantic Road in Norway is referred to as one of the most beautiful road trips in the world. Popularised through its starring role in the James Bond movie No Time To Die, it has no shortage of jaw-dropping sights. However, make sure to stop at Eldhusøya, on an islet with a rest area that is circled by a floating footpath. Then stroll the 700-metre path and you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree ocean views.

Drive the Atlantic Road in Norway
The Atlantic Road in Norway © Svein Erik Knoff

Heli-fishing in New Zealand

Take your love of fishing to the next level with heli-fishing. And access some of the best fishing spots in the world by air. Heletranz Helicopters specialises in luxury expeditions across New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf and surrounding islands, including Great Barrier, which is rich with diverse marine life. With an expert guide, scenic flights, a fisherman’s lunch and all equipment supplied, these tours are a unique opportunity to experience the ocean in total solitude.

Diving in the Arctic

Those who are prepared to brave the cold will be rewarded with unbelievable sights, sounds, and animal encounters with Aurora Expeditions. A dive beneath an ice-topped sea is an eerie yet colourful marine excursion attended by urchins, starfish and glittering jellyfish. Icebergs are seen from a fresh perspective, and a lucky few may even meet a graceful beluga whale, orca or an elusive narwhal on their descent. Aurora Expeditions facilitates this experience aboard its Arctic voyages, but it’s reserved especially for those holding Advanced Open Water Diving credentials with a minimum of 30 logged dives.

Swimming with horses in Jamaica

Horse riding along the beach is one thing, but swimming with horses is something entirely different. On the idyllic white sand shores of Montego Bay in Jamaica, the palm-lined bay is also home to Half Moon Equestrian Centre, which specialises in oceanfront horse riding experiences. While rookies can enjoy a leisurely ride along the coastal shallows of Sunrise Beach, those more familiar with equine interactions can remove the saddles and take their steed into the Caribbean Sea for a bareback frolic within the waves.

Half Moon Equestrian Centre's horses swimming in the water is an epic ocean adventure
Half Moon Equestrian Centre © Holger Leue

Antarctica by tall ship

You’ll need the hardiest of sea legs to set sail on this 20-plus day adventure, where learning the ropes takes on a whole new meaning. The only triple-masted tall ship to sail to Antarctica, Bark Europa is a hands-on experience where you’ll climb the rig, hoist the sails and help with maintenance – but you’ll be rewarded with endless ice shelves, dramatic turquoise blue ocean, glaciers, and extraordinary wildlife encounters, including whales, penguins, seals and all manner of birdlife.

ocean adventures include visiting Antarctica by tall ship
Bark Europa is the only triple-masted tall ship to sail to Antarctica

Get standard on a private Maldivian island

A Bedouin-style tent with a bathroom, a candlelit dinner for two and breakfast hand-delivered by private attendants – who knew being stranded on a desert island could be so delightful? Soneva Fushi orchestrates private overnight sandbank experiences for guests, gifting couples 12 uninterrupted hours of romantic bliss camping beneath the Maldivian skies. With nothing but the sound of waves gently lapping at the shore and the soft illumination of a pink sunset, this exclusive Robinson Crusoeesque escape is an island immersion like no other.

Soneva Fushi's private overnight sandbank sleep
Soneva Fushi's private overnight sandbank sleep

Be awed by Palawan

Philippines

El Nido is the gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago, a dreamlike paradise of white sand beaches, turquoise waters, coral reefs and spectacular limestone formations. Located on the northern tip of Palawan Island, El Nido is one of the most beautiful destinations in the Philippines and a known nesting ground for Olive Ridley, Green and Hawksbill sea turtles. The best way to see the region is an island-hopping tour on board a private catamaran yacht, exploring lagoons and jungle isles with El Nido Yachting Club.

Aerial of cliff landscape with crystal clear water In El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. Beautiful Tropical Island In Philippines
Crystal clear water In El Nido © Adobe Stock

Ocean adventures with humpbacks

Western Australia

From July to October each year, 40,000 humpback whales embark upon an annual migration along Western Australia’s coastline. While a whale-watching cruise is the most popular way to witness the journey of these majestic animals, it’s possible to swim (at a safe distance) among the gentle giants in the Ningaloo Marine Park. Growing up to 19 metres long and weighing up to 40 tonnes, the humpback whales set the terms for these intimate and exhilarating swim tours. As a result, encounters with the whales are authentic and ethical. Swimmers who visit early in the season may even see whale sharks and manta rays, too. The humpback whale swim tours operate from Coral Bay and Exmouth.

Ocean adventures with humpbacks in Western Australia
Swim with humpbacks in Western Australia © Brooke Pyke

Submarine journeys with Scenic

Aboard six-star Scenic Eclipse II you’ll get a unique underwater glimpse via a state-of-the-art submersible. There are options to venture into the depths of the ocean in the Arctic, Antarctica, Caribbean, Mediterranean and Greenland. Prefer to be above the water? The luxury cruise liner has helicopters, zodiacs, kayaks and stand-up paddleboard excursions. And with awarded chefs and butlers, you’ll be left wanting for nothing.

This article originally appeared in volume 46 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue today.