Best diving destinations for vaccinated travellers in 2021

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With the COVID-19 vaccination programs rolling now at full steam across many countries, some diving destinations have started easing the conditions of entry in their territories, especially for fully vaccinated travellers. If you recently got vaccinated and are looking for diving holidays ideas for the second half of 2021, follow the guide!

As a scuba diver who decided to stop all international trips until vaccination would be available, you can imagine how I am currently scrutinizing every new information regarding international travels. If many countries have reopened their borders, the majority still request PCR tests and/or quarantine even to vaccinated travellers. And let’s face the reality, quarantines are prohibitively expensive, and PCR tests bring stressing uncertainty. When a few European countries started in spring 2021 to say they would accept vaccinated travellers without any quarantine or PCR tests, I knew it was the signal I was waiting for.

I had my second Pfizer injection two weeks ago, so I’m now happily equipped with an EU Digital Covid Certificate. I let you imagine how excited I am to return abroad, even if it’s not going to be on the other side of the world for the moment. As a bit of teasing, my next diving destination is among the six I listed below.

These destinations accept international travellers with full vaccination certificates without the need for PCR tests or quarantine. As the situation is far from being stable, please make sure you check relevant and up-to-date travel restrictions before travelling. I indicated the best I could reliable websites where you can obtain the latest information. Last but not least, check the return conditions to your country of residence too. In my case, I don’t have to go through additional testing or quarantine upon return from any of these destinations at the moment.

By the way, have you recently checked your travel and diving insurance covers?

1 – Canary Islands, Spain

Gran Canaria

As the southernmost most location in Europe, actually off the shore of northern Africa, the Canary Islands offer mild to warm conditions all year long. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, you won’t find colourful coral reefs but volcanic underwater landscapes. The marine biodiversity is exceptional, with many cetaceans visiting the waters of the seven Canary Islands such as the pilot whales. The favourite marine species for scuba divers got to be the angel shark that loves hiding in the sand. The best islands for scuba diving are Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and El Hierro. The latter is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Belonging to Spain, the conditions of entry to the Canary Islands are the same for all the Spanish territories. However, the social distancing and curfew rules are managed by the local government of the Canary Islands. There are currently 4 levels of restriction which evolve depending on the latest figures. Finally, make sure to fill the health control form before flying to the Canary Islands.

Where to find up-to-date information?

2 – Malta

wreck diving Malta

The famous wreck diving destination of the southern Mediterranean Sea is often considered the European capital of scuba diving. The main island of Malta is surrounded by a collection of historical and artificial shipwrecks in its clear waters. Near the Blue Grotto, on the island’s south shore, the Um El Faroud shipwreck is a 110 m long tanker that is not to be missed. Diving in Malta also includes the island of Gozo, way more charming and easily reachable with a 20-minute ferry ride. The island is known for its geological dive sites of sea caverns and underwater arches, including its famous Gozo Blue Hole. Good to know, the large majority of the dive sites in Malta and Gozo are shore dives.

While Malta claims to be the first European country to reach herd immunity, be careful, the authorities only accepted certain types of vaccination certificates to enter the country without testing or quarantine. For instance, they don’t accept certificates of recovery from COVID-19 or vaccine certificates for only 1 dose of a vaccine requiring 2 doses. Before flying to Malta, you need to fill the Passenger Locator Form.

Where to find up-to-date information?

3 – Croatia

Adriatic Sea islands Croatia

Still surprisingly out of the beaten track among scuba diving destinations, Croatia has a lot to offer with the pristine islands of the Adriatic Sea. The southern region of Dalmatia has several national and natural parks scuba divers can explore, such as the Kornati Islands, Mljet Island and Lastovo Island. If Vis Island is a tech diver paradise, recreational divers will love Hvar Island and its Pakleni Archipelago just a stone thrown away from its scenic harbour.

Many types of certificates are currently accepted to enter the territory of Croatia, but a Covid certificate with complete vaccination definitely eases the process. Before flying to Croatia, don’t forget to fill their Travel Form.

Where to find up-to-date information?

4 – Azores Islands, Portugal

Scuba diving sharks Azores Islands Portugal

If you are looking for a quiet diving holiday away from the crowd with lots of green spaces, the Azores might be the place to go scuba diving for you. Belonging to Portugal, the islands are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and are famous for their pelagic encounters, including whale sharks, blue sharks and manta rays. It is also an incredible whale watching destination with frequent sightings of sperm whales in summer and even blue whales in winter.

For the moment, official Portuguese websites only mention the EU Covid Certificate to enter the territory of the islands without additional testing. Please note Portugal handles the situation differently for the mainland, Madeira Island, and the Azores’ Archipelago. A travel form is required before flying to the Azores Islands.

Where to find up-to-date information?

5 – Red Sea, Egypt

scuba diving Red Sea Egypt

While the security situation of Egypt is still an issue, especially in the Sinai Peninsula (foreign offices of most countries still advise against travelling there), you can safely fly directly to famous diving spots of the Red Sea such as Sharm-el-Sheikh, Hurghada and Marsa Alam. All three are departures points of the best Red Sea liveaboards famous for shark sightings. Even if you decide to stay onshore, the coral reefs of the Red Sea boasting with colours and marine life never disappoint. A good option for those who want to be away from the crowd is the dive camps with unlimited shore diving in Marsa Alam.

Egypt now accepts most international travellers carrying a vaccination certification for all vaccines approved by the WHO, 14 days after the second dose. However, passengers from a few countries, such as Brazil or India, will have to go through additional testing on arrival. All formalities can be managed while applying for an Egypt e-visa, but don’t forget the Health Declaration Form.

Where to find up-to-date information?

6 – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

In case you weren’t yet aware, the Galapagos Islands are the paradise of biodiversity on Earth… and underwater! Scuba divers travelling to these remote islands in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Ecuador, South America, can enjoy some of the greatest dives with multiple sightings of hammerhead sharks, whale sharks and manta rays. Beyond these well-known species, the Galapagos Islands host unique wildlife you won’t see anywhere else such as the Galapagos Marine Iguana. Seeing one underwater must feel like scuba diving in Jurassic Park! You can also snorkel or scuba dive with sea lions, which is always great fun. Just be aware that the sea temperature might not be as warm as you would expect for a country located on the Equator. With sea temperatures from 21 to 24°C, a 7mm wetsuit is not a bad choice.

As of the 1st of July this year, Ecuador welcomes international travellers in possession of a vaccination certificate, 14 days after the second dose, without additional testing or quarantine (except for travellers from Brazil or India). The population of the Galapagos Islands got 100% vaccinated earlier this month which helped to ease the entry rules. The only special rule requested by the local Galapagos government is to fill a Traffic Control Card: you can buy it at Quito or Guayaquil Airports during your stopover, or fill it in online (in Spanish only).

Update: Since the 11th of September 2021, a PCR test is required again to enter the Galapagos Islands (but not the rest of the Ecuadorian territory) even for vaccinated travellers.

Where to find up-to-date information?

So, will you guess where I am heading to?

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Photo credits: iStock


best diving destinations for vaccinated travellers
best diving destinations for vaccinated travellers

Posted by Florine

  1. Good article Florine but Egypt and Ecuador are red listed countries for UK travellers at the moment unfortunately!


    1. Hi Henry, thanks for your comment. I know it can still be frustrating; this is why I insisted on checking on each country return rules. In my case, I was surprised to discover that even for red and amber countries, I don’t have any further requirements anymore now I’m vaccinated. I reckon though the situation is one of the strictest in the UK.


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