Above is a beautiful reef in Australia along the Great Barrier.
Amateur diving is an activity which can be pursued anywhere in the world, but some destinations offer unique experiences found nowhere else on the planet. In this article, we bring you the top ten diving destinations in the world. From the Great Barrier Reef to Monterey Bay in California to the spectacular Blue Hole of Belize, these locations are sure to be on the bucket list of any diving aficionado. Let’s take a look at the top ten diving destinations across the world:
The Great Blue Hole of Belize – Central America
One of the greatest diving sites in the world is the Great Blue Hole of Belize, located on the Lighthouse Reef off the coast of Belize in Central America. Situated smack in the middle of a shallow coral atoll, the Great Blue Hole appears as a dark blue hole with no apparent bottom. Considered as one of the best diving spots in the world due to the crystal clear blue waters, this marvel with a diameter of 984 feet and depth of 410 feet was rated one of the ‘Ten Most Amazing Places on Earth’ by Discovery Channel. Visibility extends beyond 150 feet, making it easy to enjoy the varied marine life found in its clear waters. Divers can get a visual treat of a variety of sharks such as the Hammerhead, nurse and Caribbean reef shark, along with groupers, angel fish, parrotfish and sea turtles. Other captivating sights include myriad corals, reef and limestone stalactites. The Great Blue Hole is a busy dive spot, and a number of dive centres from Belize City and San Pedro run daily boats to the site.
Blue Hole (Red Sea) - Egypt
Despite being witness to innumerable diving accidents, this is one of the popular diving sites in the world. Situated on the coast of the Red Sea in Egypt, it is 130 metres deep with a six metre opening into the sea. The Blue Hole features a twenty six metre long tunnel with a roof at a depth of fifty six metres. The tunnel, referred to as the ‘Arch’, is one of the most dangerous spots in the world for adventurous divers. The light is extremely dim and even experienced divers get misled at times. Often referred to as the world’s most dangerous diving site, it is also known as the Diver’s Cemetery. Divers need to be extremely well trained and well equipped to attempt a dive through the arch, which otherwise could serve as a potential death-bed.
The Blue Hole experiences a shift in temperatures varying from 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the month of January to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during summer. The spot arouses the curiosity of many divers as it is a resting place of the British vessel Thistlegorm, sunk in 1941 and considered one of the best and most complete shipwrecks in the world, featuring guns and military vehicles and motorbikes. Marine life includes a large number of whale sharks with almost eleven hundred species of fish, of which two hundred are unique to this spot.
The Great Barrier Reef - Australia
The Great Barrier Reef, 2300 km in length, is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living object on earth visible from space. It has many diving sites for both novices as well as professional divers.
A natural wonder of the world, the Great Barrier Reef has innumerable underwater attractions which include a variety of different corals, coral sponges, rays, dolphins, more than fifteen hundred species of tropical fish and more than twenty different reptiles, noteworthy amongst which are the sea turtles and giant clams. In 1981, the Great Barrier Reef was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. More than eight hundred and fifty dive operators and almost fifteen hundred vessels including aircraft offer convenient access to the well known spots in the region. In addition to tours and cruises, the Reef is rife with snorkelling and diving opportunities. Pontoons, nets and other safety platforms are utilized to ensure the safety of divers. The Reef has many jump-points with maximum depths of about 60 feet.
The diving options here are liveboard diving trips at the Great Barrier Reef, which extend from two or three days to up to one week. These consist of luxury boats, dive research boats and personalized vessels to explore remote diving sites. Other options include diving straight from the beach, for which the most famous spot is Cod Hole, where divers can hand-feed two hundred pound giant potato cods. The average visibility varies from eighty to a hundred and fifty feet; a spectacular way to observe nearly fifteen hundred species of fish, three hundred and eighty species of coral, four thousand species of molluscs, five hundred species of seaweed and six out of the seven of the world’s sea turtles!
Sipadan Island, Malaysia
Located in the Celebes Sea off the island of Borneo, Sipadan is considered one of the best diving sites in the world. Now a protected site, the island has implemented strict rules for diving, permitting only 120 divers to dive between 8 AM and 3 PM each day. Sipadan boasts of extremely rich reef life. Its diverse marine life includes about three thousand species of fish and countless species of coral. The waters are a haven for barracuda, jackfish, sea turtles, Angelfish, Moray eels, Triggerfish, Gobies and Manta rays and Hammerhead sharks.
Sipadan has twelve distinct diving sites; the better known ones are Turtle Patch, Hanging Gardens, North Point, West Ridge, Coral Gardens, Lobster Lair, White-Tip Avenue and Staghorn Crest.Divers can find an abundance of Reef sharks at White-Tip Avenue and a plethora of soft corals at the Hanging Gardens; however, the most attractive sites are the Sipadan Jetty, Turtle Cavern, Barracuda Point, South Point and Mid-Reef. The Sipadan Jetty ‘Drop-off’ offers a sudden plunge six hundred metres to the sea floor along with a plethora of wildlife like Mackerel, Batfish, Leopard sharks and a variety of soft corals.
A rather unique sight is Turtle Cavern, a cave full of turtle skeletons.Barracuda Point offers a breathtaking view of hundreds of barracuda swimming in a spiral formation.Also on offer are Black Tip sharks,Triggerfish and Eagle rays.South Point, known for its strong currents, is home to rare sharks like the Hammerhead and Thresher, which can be spotted at a depth of forty meters. Mid-Reef is a veritable painter’s paradise, showcasing beautiful corals with many anemone fish and green turtles.The best time to visit Sipadan is between the months of March and October when visibility levels extend to almost fifty meters.
Monterey Bay, California
Monterey Bay in California is reputed for being one of the best sites in California for cold water dives. Cold currents flowing from the 10,600 feet deep Submarine Canyon spill over into this bay. This cold water is rich in nutrients and triggers immense marine growth. Spots like Carmel, Cannery Row and Pacific Grove have exclusive diving sites with options for all kinds of divers. The Breakwater dive is a man-made site best suited to divers making their first dive in the Bay.
The dive is a rich experience featuring abundant kelp beds, seal and a variety of anemones. The Outer Chase Reef and Hopkins Reef are two diving spots ideal for first-timers. The Outer Chase Reef includes dives to depths varying between forty and eighty feet. This extremely picturesque reef is full of colourful anemones, ochre starfish and the sunflower sea star (complete with twenty two arms!).
Diving at the Hopkins Reef is an exciting and challenging experience especially when the weather gets windy. One of the most welcome sights for divers is the many friendly harbour seals. The diving site at the San Carlos Beach is one of the more popular ones, offering incredible insights into the exceptional marine wildlife of Monterey. McAbee Beach, situated on Cannery Row, offers dive spots which extend to depths of about fifty feet. The diving sites at Lovers Point have an abundance of kelp and lush plants, making diving more desirable during winter when visibility levels are better. Point Lobos is also a hub for diving, with interested divers required to make advance reservations for the weekends.
The cold currents make it imperative for divers to come equipped with cold water diving apparatus. The average visibility ranges between thirty and forty feet, but once autumn sets in, visibility extends to almost sixty feet. Despite the absence of coral fans and reef sharks, the underwater beauty at Monterey bay is unique and incomparable with any other diving spot in the world.
A thinly populated island in Ecuador, Malpelo was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2006. The marine life is diverse and includes White Tip sharks, Whale sharks, Humpback whales, Silkies and the Monster shark. Malpelo plays host to the largest Hammerhead shark population across the world. It is also home to a variety of fish like the Giant manta as well as the Sting ray. Malpelo has twenty diving spots, each offering divers a diverse experience in marine wildlife. The ‘Castaway’ method brings divers in close contact with Hammerheads. The ‘Virginia Alther’ diving site is famous for Barracudas and the ‘Freezer’ is famous for Whale sharks, Mantas and Hammerheads.
Diving in Malpelo is only open to those who have prior experience of diving to depths of 130 feet and also are in possession of Advanced Open Water certification. These pre-requisites are present due to the capricious nature of the waters here. Water temperatures fluctuate tremendously at different depths; surface water temperature varies between twenty-nine and thirty degrees centigrade, which falls to less than 18 degrees centigrade at a depth of forty feet. The best time to enjoy diving here is during the months of January and February. Divers require prior permission from the National Natural Park offices of Bogota to set foot on the island. For wildlife enthusiasts, the wide-ranging marine life including geckos, crabs, Masked Boobies and Alcatrazes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Better known as the Island of the Gods, Bali’s waters feature fourteen noteworthy diving spots like Kubu, Padang Bai, Nusa Penida, Tulamben, Tepekong, Amed, Manta Point, Sanur and Gilli Biaha. The underwater visibility across these diving spots varies between five and twenty meters. Divers can swim with colourful tropical fish, sponges, soft corals, Hawksbill turtles, Manta rays and sharks. Reef fish, Morays, eels, spotted Sting ray and the very large Titan triggerfish are also a common sight.
The diving site at Kubu, which lies to the north east of Bali, features a depth of twenty seven metres and offers sightings of turtles, Pygmy seahorses, sharks, barracuda and exotic reef formations. The water currents are quite hostile and volatile at Nusa Penida and only highly professional divers are allowed to dive here. Diving at Tulamben is a particularly interesting experience because of the 1942 shipwreck of the USAT Liberty, which is covered with a wide variety of corals and is home to almost four hundred species of fish. Exploring the shipwreck during a full-moon night is a particularly recommended experience. Manta Point, situated at the south of the island, is named after the Giant Manta Ray, which is a frequent visitor to its waters.
Palau, Pacific Ocean
Palau, an island country in the Western Pacific Ocean, is part of the larger group of islands known as Micronesia. Rated as one of the world’s best diving destinations, Palau offers several unique experiences found nowhere else in the world - blue holes, shipwrecks dating back to the Second World War, freshwater jellyfish and spelunking. An unimaginably rich tropical paradise, it possesses rich marine life and miles of coral.
Palau boasts of a coral lagoon which extends ninety miles across and features more than a thousand varieties of fish. Most of the well known diving spots in Palau are along the west and southwest regions of the island. While most dives descend to a depth of sixty feet, experienced divers can undertake dives up to a depth of one hundred feet to sight rare marine wildlife. Underwater visibility almost always extends beyond ninety feet. Though Palau does not feature opportunities for technical diving, it continues to be one of the most sought after diving spots in the Pacific Ocean because of its shallow waters and large array of marine life.
Better known as the Island of Swallows, Cozumel lies at a distance of ten kilometres from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. A small island by all standards, Cozumel is a sought-after diving destination in the Caribbean. Spread across a hundred and ninety square miles, it has nineteen reefs, with most of the diving sites lying within the periphery of the Cozumel Reef National Marine Park. The Marine Park encompasses the Meso-American reef system, which stretches across twenty-nine thousand acres, making it the second largest barrier reef system in the world.
Divers have the opportunity to observe twenty-six different corals and more than five hundred species of fish, along with Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Green turtles. The Punta Sur Reef site features a depth of almost ninety feet and a maze of vibrant coral tunnels and caverns. Devil’s Throat, at a depth of about hundred and thirty feet, is an extremely large underwater cavern and makes for mind-boggling passageways open for exploration only to experienced divers. The Palancar Garden dive site is seventy feet deep and showcases black coral, parrot fish and damsel fish. The visibility range for all the diving spots in the region is between eighty and hundred feet.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Diving in the Galapagos Islands is an unmatched and adventurous journey to the depths of the blue waters of Darwin, Isabela, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Wolf Islands. The strong currents, challenging diving sites and fluctuating temperatures are certainly not for novices. The temperatures vary between eighteen and thirty degrees centigrade, making the months between February and April most ideal for diving.
Most of the diving spots in the vicinity have a visibility ranging between fifty and eighty feet. Night, deep and drift diving are possible here. While deep and drift diving allows divers a glimpse of sea lions, reef fish, sting rays, invertebrates, morays, phytoplankton and a host of other species of marine life, night diving is particularly delightful with rare sightings of nocturnal crabs, starfish, fur seals, sea cucumbers and turtles. In 1996, CEDAM officially declared these islands as one of the seven underwater wonders of the world and in 2001 they were declared a Natural Heritage site.