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A seaside sojourn needn’t leave you blistered and bored after a day lying on the sand. The waves are an exciting playmate, abounding in adventures great and small.
From underwater safaris along coral highways shimmering with tropical fish to kayaking past the relics of an ancient empire – here are our top 5 sea adventure holidays.
Sea the World
The bright, bumblebee yellow of the kayak should be your first warning: Turkey’s Lycian Coast is all about colour. The Mediterranean sun is as bright as the vessel, thrown up in the air like a chandelier by the glint of the sea, a fluid sapphire and turquoise scarf laid over a bed of soft yellow-white sand.
To one side, a scruffy-looking cliff face with tufts of squat bushes being gnarled by sure-footed goats is overthrown by the severe silhouette of an Ottoman fort: atmospheric, proud ruins that rise out like a sentinel turret from the landscape. To the other, the sea stretches out, waves embellished with jewel-like dancing silverfish until it hits a clean blue horizon.
Skimming the waves with a paddle in hand, a sea breeze and a slightly salty tang on your lips – this is the kind of joy to be savoured.
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“The Dragon Descends” – the drama is embedded even in the name. Halong Bay is Vietnam’s crucible for the theatricality of nature, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of three thousand jagged limestone karsts spearing out of the water with tumbling tangles of jungle vines clinging to the rocks like seaweed.
Weave between these towering monoliths on a tour of the bay on board an unmistakable Vietnamese junk, beautiful vessels crowned with fan-like sails in orange and red hues. Share the stage with fishing boats engraved in homage to the dragon with ornate figureheads and floating markets where women peddle their wares – audience participation is up to you.
Head backstage to quieter quarters for swimming and a seafood tasting session surrounded by the humbling scenery.
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Usually, having to share precious beach space is considered a negative: not so here. These are the best-dressed beach bums you’ll ever meet; tuxedoed African Penguins have made this South African shore their home, one of the few species to be land-based.
Hulking granite boulders create a protective barrier around the cove but also give it its name: Boulders Beach. These (sadly endangered) black and white beauties are not the only lure; this is where the waters of the Atlantic and the Indian oceans collide, creating a marine diversity exciting enough to tantalise even the most dedicated landlubber.
When the waters mingle, the temperature flows merge creating currents and flows that stimulate a multitude of marine beasts, including the majestic Southern Right whales. Aim for August and September to spy these migratory mammals frolicking in the shallows where they come to breed. Often, you’ll spot calves alongside their mothers.
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Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Laid-back charm is Belize’ssignature mode, with a Caribbean cool that is hard to resist. Subaquatic life is no exception; the barrier reef here is the second-longest on the planet and teems with a dizzying array of species, from kaleidoscopic shoals of fish, the lazy lilt of the manatee, checkerboard shells of sea turtles and inquisitive dolphins.
There are many chances to dip into salt waters on this adventure, but one, in particular, stands out. Float along on a relaxed snorkel safari of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a tranquil and beautiful way to travel the jewel-like coral seabed.
For a little more of a thrill, ‘Shark Ray Alley’ will supply all the adrenalin rush – set your spine tingling amidst the Nurse sharks that congregate in this area. This unobtrusive and ecologically sound way to navigate the nautical underworld makes this safari something truly unforgettable.
The Dead Sea
The saltiest sea of them all, the Dead Sea is surprisingly beautiful for something so devoid of life. Drive through the Jordan Rift Valley, an undulating, writhing mass of rock wrapped in dusty ochre ribbons, arriving 423 below normal sea level to the saltiest lake in the world.
The saline waters boast buoyancy unrivalled by normal oceans where a person can bob along for hours without a single stroke. This surreal sensation is surprisingly pleasant, especially given the view – sparkling blue-grey waters stretching to a hazy horizon, where the waters brush against the orange hills of neighbouring Israel.
The medicinal properties of the Dead Sea minerals are world-renowned, and those with a penchant for spa treatments can enjoy the benefits of Dead Sea mud mask. Afterwards, lie in the Middle Eastern sun and let the white crystals encrust your body, or sluice off the salty waters in the showers and take a cold dip in the swimming pool – either way, silky smooth skin awaits.
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