If you've ever read one of those lists of things you simply must do before you die, you'll know that scuba diving comes highly recommended.
It certainly made it onto my list of 'Things I absolutely must do as soon as is humanly possible' which is how I ended up in the Bahamas at the couples resort Sandals Emerald Bay joining a trip to try out their PADI certified scuba course.
Holidays with the Sandals chain are billed as 'Luxury Included' and it's a claim the hotels take seriously. The rooms ranged from luxurious to very luxurious to beachfront villa luxurious plus butler service.
The butlers themselves were incredibly attentive – occasionally to the point of being too much so. I actually left my butler phone (yes, there's a butler phone) in my room for the majority of the time to avoid the phone calls asking whether I needed anything but a fellow guest's butler proved invaluable as she came to the on-site restaurant we were dining at to let him know he'd left his safe unlocked and she'd put his valuables away safely for him.
I digress. So Emerald Bay's Luxury Included policy means that not only is every drink, snack and meal included in the price of the room, but the majority of the activities are too.
These range from the fairly standard use of the pool, through to sports activities and tutorial sessions (wind surfing, sailing, kayaking...), fitness classes like yoga and water aerobics and, for PADI certified divers, scuba diving.
If you aren't a PADI certified diver you won't be able to jump straight into the ocean. But for $80 - around £50 - you can take the resort certification course which covers your diving for a year at all Sandals resorts and can be used towards your full PADI certification.
Before you start roaming the reefs there's an instructional video to explain the basics, a short Q&A, and a session in the nearby practice pool to get you safely accustomed to breathing, clearing your mask and air regulator of water and equalising the pressure in your ears.
After the dive instructor is satisfied you've got the hang of all of that you're good to go (and by 'go' we mean 'be driven on a rather nice boat to one of the fish-packed reefs for your first trip into the open ocean').
Just before you hop into the water the dive leader will remind you of all the hand signals, as well as the safety check you will be performing while underwater. This is the only point where I experienced any seasickness - if you're worried that might happen to you, staying in the middle of the boat and staring resolutely at the horizon are good ways to deal with the nausea.
Now, a word to the wise: diving in the open ocean after the practice pool is like standing at the foot of a mountain having previously only scaled the heady heights of the climbing wall at the local youth centre. Do not be surprised if you feel a little overwhelmed, just take everything slowly and you should be fine.
The world underwater was simply stunning. The instructor was on hand to point out interesting and unusual fish, enormous lobsters and weird rock formations via the tried and tested undersea communication method of charades. The fish themselves were beautiful, bright and apparently uninterested in their human visitors, swimming right past your nose through crystal clear water.
Here are three things I learned from my trip which might help you out:
1. You will be absolutely ravenous after a dive!
2. Salt water and diving suits aren't kind to sun protection so choose a waterproof sunscreen and reapply often.
3. Don't forget that if you're diving on holiday you'll usually need to add in some kind of extreme sports cover to your travel insurance.
So that's the scuba part of the trip but what else can you expect to find at Sandals Emerald Bay?
The resort offers a variety of different eateries (including an English-type pub, complete with karaoke nights and fish and chips), a host of activity options as mentioned above, a Red Lane Spa (although the treatments are not covered in the all-inclusive package), several pools and a stretch of beautiful white sand beach (beware the sand flies). Golfing and fishing are also available and the resort offers a variety of themed party nights.
Swimming pigs in the Exuma Cays. Photo: Philippa Warr
Additional excursions such as the 007 Thunderball Luxury Tour (from $375) are also available via a booking desk within Sandals main reception area although if you're expecting a wall-to-wall James Bond experience I should point out that although the tour does feature a snorkelling visit to the Thunderball grotto, the majority of time is spent exploring the delights the Exuma Cays have to offer - walking a sand bar, swimming with pigs and sharks and feeding wild iguanas as well as finding out which celebrities own which islands and eating a lot of homemade rum cake.
At the time of writing: Seven nights staying at Sandals Emerald Bay on a Luxury Included (all-inclusive) basis costs from £2,069 per person. Return flights with British Airways and resort transfers are included in the price.
For further information just visit www.sandals.co.uk.