Diving Travel Guide

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Diving Tourism

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Three dive operations are based in Dadonghai, the most popular beach near Sanya. Two as yet have no formal creden¬tials. The main one, PADI, NALTI and CMAS-certified, is the South Sea Inter¬national Ocean Club (SSIOC), run by a Hong Kong Chinese, Mr Chan, who speaks fluent English, and is also a qualified PADI instructor.

SSIOC has been operating for three years and has eight regular dive sites ranging from beach dives to boat dives that include visits to reefs around offshore islands. One of the sites lies above an underwater hot spring. Others include large rocks and some swim-throughs. Fish arc usually seen only around the predomi¬nantly soft corals found in the area. The visibility is normally good, however, dy¬namite fishing, local souvenir collectors and vendors and insensitive divers have contributed to the needless destruction of the reefs, though fresh, unspoilt sites await discovery.

Chan dreams of the day when diving on the “Seven Pearls”, the reefs surround¬ing the Xisha Islands, 290km to the south, will be authorized.

A basic one-day course at SSIOC, starting in a pool, costs US$49; a full three-day NAUI course costs US$490. A group of experienced divers can rent a boat and Visit the dive of their choice for US$70 per person per day. The island dives in¬clude beach barbecues.

Mountain bikes arc available for hire from some of the bigger hotels, but it’s much better to bring your own. You could base yourself somewhere such as Tongzha, and make day trips to minority villages in the surrounding countryside, away from the tourist hordes. From Xinlong Xinlong coffee is famous throughout China you can choose between endless trails into the hills and short cuts to the beaches some 10km away. On your return you can soak away the saddle soreness in one of the many hot springs which arc on offer at even the cheapest hotels.

An alternative is to set off on a full-blown tour of the island. Development of a new highway around Hainan has taken heavy traffic off the old road, which has reverted to being a pleasant Country by¬way through rice paddies and shambolic towns. You can camp on deserted beaches and strike off into the interior when the mood takes you. Another good ride is through spectacular tropical rainforest to Jian Fcng Ling Mountain in the island’s southwest corner, where the wood is so highly rated it was used for Mao’s coffin, as well as the number one national flag pole in Tiananmen square.

Although it is still very early days for wind-driven water sports in Hainan, SSIOC in Dadonghai and the Gloria Re¬sort in )(along Bay have a couple of Hobic cats apiece. By December, Gloria also expects to have eight brand-new sailboards. Out of five Hi Fly boards, SSIOC can still put one together with a selection of sails. Apart from the typhoon season in August and September, these are hardly short-board seas, although afternoon thermals do generally push sea-level winds past a four on the Beaufort scale. The all-China long-board champi¬onships are held at Haikou every year in January or February.

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