Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Diving was never like this

By Jane Stokes

(NC)-The coral reefs of Turks & Caicos are legendary in the world of underwater exploration. Now, however, divers and snorkelers are taking their passion to even more exciting heights.

This winter, Club Med is partnering with Beautiful Oceans - an organization that teaches tropical travelers about the coral reef environment. Calling it a "blue tourism" program, instructors take participants on underwater-guided tours with strict adherence to environmental protections. So now, if you're a guest at Club Med-in either Turks & Caicos, or nearby in San Salvador, Bahamas - you're invited to uncover the mysteries of the coral reef in a very special way.

"The Beautiful Oceans program revolutionizes scuba diving and snorkeling," says Xavier Mufraggi, CEO of Club Med North America. "Now, participants are invited to explore the coral reef ecosystem with a certified science instructor, trained by Beautiful Oceans."

Simply turquoise

Just south of Bahamas, the island-chains that comprise Turks & Caicos, dot a sea of turquoise so intense, the colour has an influence on every-day life. A resort name like "Club Med Turkoise" is but one example.

Ideal for divers, Turks & Caicos are perched atop a shallow bank, separated by a trench-like channel. The depths approach 1,800 metres (6,000 feet) and this meeting place of deep and shallow produces dense concentrations of sea life in a captivating, three-dimensional world. Visibility is often as clear as 45 metres (150 feet).

Nearby, you may remember that San Salvador was the first New World discovery of Christopher Columbus. Today, these Bahamian waters fascinate with long-lost shipwrecks amidst countless coral gardens of radiant tropical fish. Here, the all-inclusive, Club Med Columbus Isle specializes in adult recreation and activities, including the Beautiful Oceans program.

Instruction is three-tiered, beginning at home with online tutorials, followed by resort lessons, then culminating in the underwater tours. Participants receive full-colour maps marked with dive and snorkel routes, plus a list of the key species inhabiting each reef. Upon completion of the program, you're invited to share your observations and ideas with online communities.

This winter, charter flights from Toronto and Montreal deliver us directly to both islands in just three hours, courtesy of Club Med (http://www.clubmed.ca/).

- News Canada

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