The world’s most epic scuba diving destinations

(CNN) — If solely salt water — sweat, tears and the ocean — actually was the treatment for all the pieces, as Danish creator Isak Dinesen as soon as stated. Then scuba diving can be simply the antidote the world wanted proper now.

Until it is lastly protected to get out exploring the world once more, nevertheless, you’ll be able to dream of the place to dive beneath the floor of the ocean for the most wonder-inducing views on the planet.

“There are so many aspects of scuba diving that may be beneficial in directing our minds away from worries, stresses and daily demands,” says medical psychologist and PADI scuba diving teacher Laura Walton, who has dived all over the place from the South Pacific to Scotland.

“In modern life, we are constantly pulled into the past, present and future through our ability to think,” she says. “But when we dive beneath the water, our attention is captivated by absorbing experiences of entering another world.”

Depending the place you descend, that may imply finning by a “Christmas tree forest” of child corals off the Florida Keys, coming head to head with a wall of sharks on a French Polynesia atoll or having a stare-down with an enormous Pacific octopus within the chilly waters of British Columbia.

The world’s most intriguing dive destinations take intrepid to the subsequent stage.

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Raja Ampat is residence to a number of the highest marine biodiversity on this planet.


Bali brings the touring lots to Indonesia. But intrepid scuba divers know to hop one other flight east within the archipelago to West Papua, the place a number of the perfect diving on the planet awaits in Raja Ampat.

This archipelago of 4 primary islands (and over 1,500 smaller ones) sits within the Coral Triangle, on the bullseye of the planet’s marine biodiversity, with sheer partitions, fields of wholesome coral gardens and an amazing number of microhabitats for divers to discover. Divers can base on land at properties like Misool Eco Resort or journey the area by way of a stay aboard dive vessel such because the Damai II or the brand new Aqua Blu.
“Raja Ampat is best appreciated by somebody who is truly interested in the sheer variety of marine life,” says underwater photographer Brandon Cole, who has visited the distant area many occasions to dive.

The clear heat waters of the marine protected areas listed here are residence to over 1,300 species of reef fish and veritable fields of corals which can be among the many most pristine on this planet.

“You can come back and say you saw nine species of anthias, five species of pygmy seahorses,” says Cole, “Indonesia overall has continued to over-impress fish and coral geeks. But Raja Ampat deserves its position at the top.”

Tuamotu Atolls, French Polynesia

A blacktip reef shark swims alongside a college of one-spot snappers in French Polynesia.

Photo © Brandon Cole

Leave Bora Bora to the honeymooning, overwater bungalow crowd and hop a flight northeast from Papeete in Tahiti to get to the Tuamotu Atolls as a substitute — a sequence of 80 islands and atolls that look, from the air, like coral ring life preservers tossed throughout an expanse of water that might blanket most of Western Europe
When you enter the water on the incoming tide to dive by the passages on atolls like Rangiroa and Fakarava (the latter is designated a UNESCO Biosphere reserve), a really sharky expertise unfolds.
“The adrenalin kicks in as soon as you jump from the boat into the clear, warm water,” says Bali-based underwater photographer Mike Veitch. “Some 75 feet down on the reef, hundreds of grey reef sharks surround you. And you can enjoy their incredible grace and power as they glide through the water, ignoring the divers around them.”

After admiring one of many most spectacular and dependable shark aggregations on this planet, let the present push you into the atoll’s calm, turquoise lagoon, the place you may spot a manta ray winging its method throughout the pristine coral beds.

Palau, Micronesia

Palau's aerial view is a showstopper. Its underwater world is equally engaging.

Palau’s aerial view is a showstopper. Its underwater world is equally participating.


You’ve seemingly seen Palau and its iconic mushroom-shaped karst limestone islands on a display saver or two, so staggering are the aerial views. And the newly reopened Jellyfish Lake is one other traditional Palau calling card.

But till you’ve got submerged underwater on this marine wonderland positioned some 500 miles east of the Philippines in Micronesia, you have not seen Palau in any respect.

The most well-known Palau dive website, Blue Corner, is a reef that juts out into the open ocean, with huge upwellings that appeal to passing pelagic fish, reef sharks and education clouds of pyramid butterfly fish, amongst many different species.

Local Palau wildlife information, marine biologist and diver Ron Leidich has known as Blue Corner an “underwater Serengeti,” so riveting is the expertise of diving in such an ample confluence of marine life.

Divers use a “reef hook” at websites like Blue Corner to tether themselves to rocks to look at the spectacle of passing reef sharks and clouds of tropical fish in what are sometimes sturdy currents.

“Palau is hands down the best place we’ve ever been diving,” says diver Frances Gulick, of Dallas, Texas, who normally takes a number of dive journeys a yr along with her husband. “Nothing compares to watching sharks hunting in front of you while a resident Napoleon wrasse photobombs like a puppy dog of the sea.”


Get able to see coral reefs in colours you did not think about existed exterior of “Finding Nemo” while you plan a dive journey to the islands of Fiji, a South Pacific wonderland of 333 islands recognized amongst divers for being the comfortable coral capital of the world.

“There’s something about that Fiji blue water and the yellow, red, purple, green and pink background of the coral reefs and walls that makes the whole scene look like it was painted by an impressionist master,” says Cole, “With anthias and fairy basslets schooling on many of the reefs, it’s as close to diving in a kaleidoscope as you can get. A truly fractal experience.”

Famed dive websites like Beqa Lagoon on Viti Levu, Fiji’s primary island, draw shark divers to mingle with shark wranglers and eights specie of sharks, with common tiger and bull shark sightings.

But you would be remiss to not spend most of your backside time in Fiji exploring the technicolor reefs and partitions inside the Namena Marine Reserve, between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, the place the colourful corals are actually like no place else on Earth.

Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia

Machinery is seen inside the bridge of the Nippo Maru shipwreck, one of the famous dive sites in this Graveyard of the Pacific.

Machinery is seen contained in the bridge of the Nippo Maru shipwreck, one of many well-known dive websites on this Graveyard of the Pacific.

Photo © Brandon Cole

One of the world’s prime destinations for eager wreck divers is Chuuk Lagoon (beforehand known as Truk Lagoon) in Micronesia, the place over 60 Japanese warships have been sunk throughout World War II by the US Navy in Operation Hailstone of 1944.

Tightly packed into the roughly 35-square-mile Chuuk Lagoon, the large sunken wrecks appeal to divers to fin by veritable underwater museums of conflict graves, tanks, torpedoes, Japanese Zero planes and winding inside passages greatest explored alongside a neighborhood information who is aware of all of the nooks and crannies (liveaboard dive operators like Odyssey Adventures can prepare that).

The violence that rained down on this stunning nook of the world is palpable even below water, the place the bones of Japanese victims can nonetheless be seen fused to the metal wrecks. But the profusion of coral life carpeting cargo holds and crawling up the sunken masts and the clouds of tropical fish swirling throughout you drive residence the message that life, certainly, goes on.

If you dive only one wreck, make it the 500-foot-long Shinkoku Maru, a former Japanese gas provide ship lined with a rainbow profusion of sponges, comfortable corals and anemones.

Key Largo, Florida Keys

The Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo has offshore coral nurseries for reef restoration.

The Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo has offshore coral nurseries for reef restoration.

Courtesy of Coral Restoration Foundation

Shipwrecks just like the 510-foot-long Spiegel Grove and shallow spur and groove coral reefs frequented by sea turtles in heat clear waters — all only a quick drive from Miami — are among the many attracts that make Key Largo probably the greatest and most accessible spots within the United States to dive.
But for one thing completely different throughout your go to to this a part of the Florida Keys, be a part of an out-planting tour with the Coral Restoration Foundation to be a part of the biggest coral reef restoration effort on this planet. You’ll discover ways to harvest coral from the group’s offshore coral nurseries throughout a dive, adopted by the prospect to plant it in a brand new place on a residing reef.

The group’s largest coral tree nursery covers 1.5 acres of sea ground and has greater than 500 coral timber holding 60 to 100 corals every.

“Corals are critical for creating habitat for all the marine life we like to see,” says Alice Grainger, communications director for the CRF. “All our genotypes were originally collected in the wild, so they’re very hardy. The corals we’re returning to the reef are thriving.”

And diving by a coral nursery, says Grainger, is a singular expertise. “It’s like swimming through a forest of coral Christmas trees.”

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

At about 110 pounds, the giant Pacific octopus is the world's largest.

At about 110 kilos, the large Pacific octopus is the world’s largest.

Photo © Brandon Cole

One of the world’s greatest chilly water diving experiences is discovered within the waters off Vancouver Island. And the bracing water temperatures are value braving to see what underwater photographer Brandon Cole, who has logged over 3,000 dives within the Pacific Northwest, deems “hot colors in cold water.”

“If it wasn’t for that 45 to 50 degree Fahrenheit water, you could easily trick yourself into thinking you’re seeing the colors of the tropics here,” he says, “The invertebrates — soft corals, anemones and sea sponges — are particularly colorful.”

The greatest dive websites are on the japanese flank of the 300-mile-long island simply west of Vancouver metropolis, with year-round entry to famed shipwrecks off Nanaimo, together with the HMCS Saskatchewan (a 366-foot lengthy destroyer escort), in addition to sheltered dive websites off Port Hardy within the Queen Charlotte Strait.

Two bucket listing chilly water critters divers come right here to see are wolf eels and the large Pacific octopus — the biggest octopus on this planet that averages about 110 kilos and 16 toes throughout.

“So much of the area is swept by strong currents that act as a conveyor belt for the nutrients and oxygen that supercharge marine life,” says Cole, “Learning how to dive the tides is key to enjoying what Vancouver Island has to offer.”

Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico

The Sea of Cortez is home to giant manta rays.

The Sea of Cortez is residence to large manta rays.


It’s inconceivable to speak about diving within the Sea of Cortez (also referred to as the Gulf of California) with out name-dropping a legend. After all, it was Jacques Cousteau himself who referred to the wealthy waters between the Baja California Peninsula and Mexico’s mainland as “the world’s aquarium.”

Encounters with pleasant California sea lions (the juveniles tend to playfully nip at divers’ fins) are the most widespread lure on the subject of in-water interactions. But the greater than 800 species of fish and animals that decision these waters residence additionally embrace manta rays, whale sharks, education hammerheads and megapods of dolphins.

Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Diving by liveaboard dive boats is the one technique to entry Cocos Island, a distant Pacific Ocean island that belongs to Costa Rica and lies some 330 miles off the mainland.

“Enchanting is a word that gets kicked around a lot in travel, but if a jungle island ringed with waterfalls right out of Jurassic Park where every dive is a shark dive doesn’t do it for you, I don’t know what will,” says Mary Frances Emmons, editor-in-chief of Scuba Diving journal.

Cocos Island is an japanese Pacific method station for each sort of creature, she says, from Galapagos and hammerhead sharks to parrot fish, squirrel fish, rays and jacks by the hundreds.

‘We obtained the total monty on the dive website known as Submerged Rock, a small underwater mountain with a big, fish-filled arch at 65 toes,” says Emmons, recalling a visit aboard the Okeanos Aggressor II that delivered all types of fish together with barnacle blennies, juvenile Pacific creolefish and colleges of Moorish idols.

“We obtained fortunate close to the top of our dive after we discovered a pack of white tip sharks in a searching frenzy not removed from the floor,” she recalls, “An uncommon daytime glimpse at a prime nighttime attraction in Cocos.”


The Bahamas, too, is all about sharks — however what units the Caribbean archipelago other than different prime shark diving destinations on this planet is how accessible it’s and the sheer abundance of species that may be seen.
“This is the up shut and private shark diving expertise,” says Cole. “Long earlier than there was Sharknado on TV, there have been sharknadoes within the Bahamas.”

Divers kneel on the sandy backside on the dive website known as Tiger Beach, the place tiger sharks are available in shut off the western finish of Grand Bahama throughout one of many Bahamas’ most legendary dives. And Cole says there is no higher place than right here to see the striped apex predators.

But many different apex sharks might be repeatedly seen and dived with within the mouthwash-clear waters of the Bahamas, too, he says, together with nice hammerheads, lemon sharks, bull sharks and oceanic whitetips.

Add to that adrenalin rush the Bahamas’ many shipwrecks, plunging partitions and the prospect to repeatedly snorkel with wild dolphins off islands like Bimini and you have got the all makings for an epic journey a brief jaunt from the US.

Solomon Islands

Sunken ships lure divers to the Solomon Islands.

Sunken ships lure divers to the Solomon Islands.


The world’s most fascinating dive destinations blow you away beneath the water after which once more while you floor, too.

Case in level, the Solomon Islands, a distant South Pacific nation of 992 islands and coral reefs greatest recognized greatest for Guadalcanal and for being a serious battleground within the Pacific Theater throughout World War II.

A cultural mixture of Melanesian, Polynesian and Papuan influences swirl on land. And for divers, there are countless shipwrecks, downed airplanes and even sunken submarines to discover throughout expeditions by way of liveaboard dive boats or from land-based eco resorts.

Add to that ample fish life, pristine pastures of laborious coral and genuine village visits, and you will find tradition, historical past and marine biology intertwined at each flip.

“The Bonegi II is accessible from Honiara and is a superb shore dive,” says Florida-based underwater photographer Tanya Burnett about one of the Solomons’ most famous WWII wrecks, located in Iron Bottom Sound. “It breaks the floor so snorkelers can take pleasure in it as properly. On a peaceful day, it may be actually spectacular, with visibility from prime to backside and coral progress overlaying the wreck.”

National Park Revillagigedo, Mexico

Another Pacific vacation spot that you’re going to must e book a berth on a liveaboard dive boat to entry, National Park Revillagigedo lies some 250 miles southwest of the Baja California Peninsula and is taken into account the biggest absolutely protected marine reserve in North America.
“There’s a outstanding abundance of huge pelagic species resembling large oceanic mantas, humpback whales, dolphins and sharks,” says Mexican wildlife movie maker and underwater photographer, Erick Higuera, who has been diving the waters across the park’s 4 volcanic islands since 2006.
Sites across the islands of Socorro, San Benedicto and Rosa Partida, particularly, ship underwater views like no place else, he says. And divers can usually see massive aggregations of yellowfin tuna, trevallies and jacks in addition to a number of shark species (silvertips, hammerheads, silkies and extra) on a single dive.

Most divers, nevertheless, are drawn to the realm for intimate encounters with large oceanic manta rays, which generally have wingspans of 23 toes. “But interactions with wild bottlenose dolphins within the water right here have turn out to be simply pretty much as good,” says Higuera.

Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand

Sunrays shine on fish and kelp near New Zealand's Poor Knights Islands.

Sunrays shine on fish and kelp close to New Zealand’s Poor Knights Islands.


New Zealand’s topside views (most from the South Island) get the lion’s share of the Hollywood love.

But divers who blow bubbles underwater on the Poor Knights Islands — a set of volcanic pinnacles jutting up from the seafloor off the North Island — have an entire completely different tackle the nation’s legendary surroundings.

Home to thick kelp forests, the waters right here do not precisely beckon like Bali (throughout the southern hemisphere summer time, water temperatures common about 72 levels). But it is exactly the combination of New Zealand’s cooler ocean waters mixing with heat currents swept south from the Coral Sea that make for the weird denizens that cruise the Poor Knights.

“Biologically it is neat as a result of it is a mixing of chilly and heat water critters,” says Cole, which suggests you may see parrot fish, moorish idols and sea turtles alongside cool water critters like scorpion fish and the ever-present blue and pink maomaos (colourful fish that are inclined to congregate in arches and shadowy grottoes).

“Folks go to New Zealand for inexperienced journey and to be exterior, however only a few go beneath the water line,” says Cole, “And the water within the Poor Knights is actually tropical blue.”

Red Sea, Egypt

If North America divers have the Caribbean at a stone’s throw, then the comparable yard diving Mecca for Europeans is the Red Sea.

Here, off the tip of the Sinai Peninsula between Africa and the Middle East at Egypt’s Ras Mohammed National Park, you will discover a number of the clearest seas on the planet for scuba diving (there’s virtually no pure runoff from the Sinai to cloud the encircling waters).

Extraordinary partitions of wholesome laborious corals abound. And round Dahab and Sharm al Sheikh you’ll be able to entry many dive websites proper from the shore, with no boat required.

“Orange anthias are all over the place and never shy with divers, who might also discover themselves surrounded by angelfish, butterflyfish and colourful broadtail and Napoleon wrasse,” says Emmons.

Wreck divers enjoyment of descending on the well-known British Navy ship SS Thistlegorm, the Red Sea’s most in style wreck. Emmons says so as to add the previous cargo ship, the Giannis D, to your wreck wishlist, too.

“it is a playfully disorienting jungle fitness center that implies diving in an M.C. Escher drawing, come to life,” she says.


A rough fileclam mesmerizes in the waters off Dominica.

A tough fileclam mesmerizes within the waters off Dominica.

Photo © Brandon Cole

Out-of-the-way Dominica has by no means caught on with visiting divers the best way extra trodden Caribbean dive destinations like Grand Cayman and the Bahamas have.

But along with its coral-clad partitions and reefs, Dominica affords one thing many Caribbean islands cannot — the prospect to swim with resident sperm whales that frequent the waters throughout specifically permitted boat journeys.

Even for those who come to the Caribbean’s Nature Island simply to dive the reefs, nevertheless, you will not depart disenchanted. And the place to see the corals and fish life at their greatest is inside the protected Soufriere-Scotts Head Marine Reserve on the island’s southwest tip.

“The diving in Dominica has surprisingly lush reefs. I sort of consider it because the Indonesia of the Caribbean,” says Cole. “It’s not a spot to see huge fish on the reefs, however it’s an ideal spot for stunning sponges, feather stars and peculiar little fish.”


Divers needn’t enterprise far past Lisbon for a few of mainland Europe’s most dazzling underwater views.

Some 40 minutes south of town, simply offshore from Portugal’s diving capital in Sesimbra, you will discover your self ogling octopus and calm reefs carpeted with waving followers and anemones.
Descend deeper right here to dive certainly one of Europe’s most thrilling shipwrecks. The River Gurara MV, a Nigerian cargo ship, break up within the center when it wrecked throughout a fierce storm in 1989. The propeller continues to be intact and conger eels, morays, squid and wrasse all take shelter inside the ship’s flooded nooks and crannies.

Much farther offshore, the volcanic archipelago of the Azores delivers with open ocean dives and sightings of the resident sperm whales. At the submerged seamount known as Princess Alice Banks within the Azores, shoals of mobula rays swim in circles across the pinnacle at a depth of round 90 toes in what can solely be described as a vortex of marvel.

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