Never go anywhere without your wetsuit? You're sure to love these water-based adventures to suit every budget
A few minutes into my first scuba dive at sea, I'm already wide-eyed as a shoal of electric-blue and yellow fish swim past. Then a Finding Nemo clownfish peeps out from among the vivid coral. As I try to get my diving buddy's attention, a giant clam snaps shut by my flipper. It's amazing - or would be if I weren't quite so nervous. As mesmerising as this topsy-turvy underwater world is, I still have one eye on our boat. A 'learn to scuba dive' holiday sounded like a great antidote to sun-lounger fatigue. Where better to try it out than in the warm - and relatively still - Indian Ocean? Staying in Mauritius, at the four-star Les Pavillons Hotel, makes it even more idyllic. The hotel has luxury in spades, plus its own diving centre, complete with a lagoon and several diving sites suitable for both beginners looking to complete a PADI course, to more advanced divers. It feels a bit odd to be in full, sea-going regalia in this heat but, nonetheless, I waddle past the sun-loungers to the infinity pool for my introduction. Half an hour later, teeth clamped on the respirator, I suck in oxygen, knowing my life depends on it, and manage to cross a length. But my brain is still in fight or flight mode. I'm suppressing my rising panic by repeating the instructions: breathe through your mouth, not your nose! Don't guzzle all your oxygen! After the morning's training, I'm ready to head out to sea. We go out by speedboat, around the palm-fringed peninsula and past the dramatic Le Morne mountain. I chat happily to Emanuele, my instructor, on the way, but my stomach lurches when we stop. Do I really have to fall backwards into the water? Emanuele gives me confidence, however, and I sit on the side and give in to gravity - it feels a real achievement. We find the line attached to the anchor, and descend. You can't 'swim' with a tank on your back, but instead you use your flippers to move forward. Compared with the exotic fish slowly gliding through the water, I feel horribly clumsy. But their serenity is infectious and I soon calm down, using my flippers more efficiently and even daring to briefly let go of Emanuele's hand. I use the hand signals we practised as he points out trumpet fish, Moorish idols, box fish and a rare baby emperor angel fish. The aquatic landscape is thrilling, with anemones and starfish dotted around the coral and multicoloured fish darting out from ravines and crevices at every turn. What frightened me earlier in the day now gives me a sense of freedom. Back on the boat, Emanuele says wistfully that he's jealous of first-timers like me - you can only experience the awe of your first dive once.
Facts Les Pavillons' lagoon Christine prepares to meet the clownfish (right) The calm waters of Mauritius Travel facts Seven nights in a superior room at Les Pavillons, Mauritius, starts at £1,675 per person, half-board, flights included. Book with If Only (www.ifonly.net, 0141 9554040). For more information on Naïade Resorts, visit www.naiaderesorts.com or call 020 7348 4880. The Discover Diving Day Course, plus dive, is run by Easydive and costs from £80, www.easydivemauritius.com
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