IF YOU REALLY WANT TO SEE AND EXPERIENCE THE WORLD, YOU HAVE TO DIVE.
Water covers three quarters of the earth’s surface, 50 to 80 percent of all the plant’s life is found in the ocean, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that 95 percent of underwater locations have not yet been explored. In addition to marveling at the brilliant and unadulterated world that lies under the surface of the waves, diving allows you to experience the complete freedom of gliding weightlessly through crystal waters as local residents engulf you in an explosion of brilliant color rivaling the most brilliant of rainbows.
If the diving bug has bitten, consider a trip to any one of the world’s top 10 diving destinations listed below. It may be just what the SCUBA doctor ordered.
The crystal clear waters off Grand Bahama Island are considered some of the best in the world for recreational diving, and one of the only places you can be guaranteed to dive with the dolphins in the wild. Located on Grand Bahama Island, one of the world’s premier dive centers, and a pioneer in the dive industry, The Underwater Explorers’ Society (UNEXSO) boasts the “Dolphin Dive” program, a rare and unforgettable opportunity to experience some of nature’s most exciting marine life in their natural environment.
For over 50 years, UNEXSO has offered full-service dives in an underwater paradise, including more than 30 years of amazing shark feeding experiences (where divers can be safely surrounded by swirling Caribbean reef sharks). If dolphins and sharks are not your thing, Grand Bahama Island also features miles of pristine reefs initially made famous by the 1950s and 60s television show Sea Hunt.
The tropical waters feature dives for all skill levels with shallow dives among brilliant multi-hued coral and swarms of dazziling, colored fish, mid-depth dives with stunning coral and sandy bottoms, and deep water dives boasting high-profile coral, wrecks, advanced cave systems, sharks,and large pelagic life.
For decades, the Maldives have been known for their beaches, but more and more divers have discovered that the best parts of these islands are under the surface of the water. While colorful coral reefs, brilliant sponges, and gorgonian fans provide excellent experiences during shallow water dives, the luxury that sets the island chain apart from other top destinations are the sweeping currents that allow you to drift along through throngs of parrotfish and other exotic sea life as the gentle giant Napoleon wrasse, a favorite of divers due to their love of tactile contact and approachability, seek out your attention.
Filled with caves and caverns to thrill advanced divers, the island’s deeper dives bring encounters with local pelagics such as a variety of rays and sharks, including reef sharks and hammerheads. When the mighty whale shark shows up, divers who have taken the time to explore the islands’ wonders are treated to the dive of a lifetime.
Of special interest for advanced divers are the clear, warm water of Gangehi Kandu on the north side of Ari Atoll. While the currents can be an issue, the site is one of the best places to encounter a variety of sharks, including white tips, reef sharks, and leopard sharks. The corals are especially brilliant, and divers can expect to see moray eels and larger pelagic life.
Made famous by arguably the greatest diver of all time, Jacques Cousteau, Sipadan is among the most envied dive locations in the world. The Malaysain Island is home to Barracuda Point, The Dropoff, The Hanging Gardens, Whitetip Avenue, and Turtle Cavern. These locations are home to an astounding array of brilliant sea life and feature a plethora of unique citizens like gient sea turtles and hammerhead sharks;and, if it is big fish
The only drawback to the legendary island is that diving permits are required: Only 120 permits are given out each day, and none are given out in advance. On the days you don’t get to dive on Sipadan Island itself, never fear;Mabul offers some of the best muck divingin the world, especially at Paradise, and is home to an amazing variety of smaller, yet brilliantly colored, sea life. Nearby Kapalai is also fantastic, as it plays host to millions of neon cuttlefish and other dazzling shallow-water citizens.
Truk Lagoon in Chuuk, Micronesia, boasts outstanding reefs with glorious arrays of colorful reef dwellers and pelagic encounters. It is not the reefs that place Truk Lagoon at the top of many dive lists, however; it is the vast array of wrecks. In fact, the lagoon is arguably the greatest wreck diving site on the planet, with over 100 wrecks – the result of a victorious Unites States military campaign over a large Japanese naval force during World War II. Eighty of the hulks have now become monstrous shipreefs bursting forth with brilliant sea life.
It is said that there is no place else in the world where divers find so many wrecks in such close proximity to each other. It’s not just military ships, either. Discover and explore airplanes, cargo ships, and even armament. The water in Truk Lagoon is so clear that many of the wrecks can be viewed by snorkelers.
Declared an underwater museum, the only thing you are allowed to take from Truk are pictures and memories. Granted, there will be plenty of those, as your historic surroundings are set in a blaze of color that has enveloped the gigantic relics, turning a once dreary graveyard into a spectacular testament to life.
The Belize Barrier Reef System is the second largest coral reef in the world, second only to the Great Barrier Reef near Australia. Perhaps the best known, and most photographed, part of Belize’s aquatic environment is “The Great Blue Hole” near the center of Belize’s Lighthouse Reef. The blue hole is another site which owes its fame to the great marine researcher, diver, and television personality, Jacques Cousteau. Cousteau named the location one of the ten best diving locations in the world, back in the 1970s, and it has remained among the top spots ever since.
The Great Blue Hole is a submarine sinkhole with depths recorded at over 400 feet. Divers love the warm, crystal clear water and the plethora of colorful marine life, which includes an abundance of parrotfish and reefsharks, with real opportunities to encounter bull sharks and hammerheads.
Of course, the Belize Barrier Reef System has more to offer than The Great Blue Hole. It is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, with dozens of coral varieties and hundreds of different species of fish. The vast majority of the immense ecosystem has not even been explored, with up to 90 percent of the reef still housing yet undiscovered, ancient secrets.
Grand Cayman Islands
If there was a perfect dive location for divers of all ability levels, the Grand Cayman Islands may be that location. From exceptional wall dives and amazing shipwrecks and caves for the more experienced divers, to shallow-water dives with sea turtles and stingrays,the Caymans offer much more than a place
to shelter your money from taxes.
It boasts warm water,nearly infinite visibili ty, brilliant weather, and an unparalleled variety of common sea life, including sea turtles, stingrays, parrotfish, butterfly fish,angelfish, and yellowtail snappers, along with eagle rays, barracuda, and moray eels.
With sites like the world-famous Stingray City, Devil’s Grotto, and Wilderness Wall, it’s no wonder that the Grand Caymans are frequently voted among the top 5 dive sites in the world by such reputable publications as Scuba Diving Magazine, Travel and Leisure, and Frommer’s Travel Guide.
Different than the other dive sites in almost every way imaginable, Silfra Fissure in Iceland may not be as well-known as some of the other dive locations by the uninitiated, but, if you go there, it will definitely rank high among your most memorable. Those in the know rank Silfra as one of the top dive locales on the planet, for a number of very specific reasons.Initially,the Silfra Fissure is the only place on earth where you can dive between the crack of two conti nental plates (the fissure is the place where the Eurasian and North American continental shelves meet). Second, the water is some of the clearest in existence. The water is filtered by underground lava for hundreds of years before it reaches Thingvellir Lake. It is said that the water is so clean you can safely drink it while diving.
The landscape of Silfra is as close to another planet as you will get without leaving earth. With 100m of visibility in all directions, the lava rock and sand formations off-set bybrilliant algae make this an ethereal experience you will never forget. Typical dives will feature Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and Silfra Lagoon.
Most top-rated dive locations are warm water/no suit sites; Silfra is an exception to this rule, with water temperatures barely above freezing throughout the year. The dives require the use of a dry suit and may only be made under the supervision of a local guide.
Located In the Mexican Caribbean off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula near Cancun, the tiny island of Cozumel is about as far removed from Silfra fissure as you can get.Cozumel offers warm water, low-technicality dives that transport divers into a brilliant marine world exploding with color. More experienced divers will love the walls and coral tunnels, and day trips to deeper water offer drift dives and larger pelagic sightings. In fact, Cozumel is one of the best places to have a chance to swim with the gentle giant of the ocean: the great whale shark
The Tahitian paradise of Rangiroa is the second largest atoll In the world, with the second largest, and many say most beautiful, lagoon on Earth. The waters rush in and out as they pass from the ocean to the lagoon and back again. Those who venture in between to brave the surge are said to “shoot the pass” in what has been called one of the world‘s top adrenaline rushes..
In addition to the warm, surging waters, are brilliantly colored oceanic walls, more eagle rays than you can fathom, and schools of shark and barracuda to contrast with the millions of colorful fish. coral, and sponges. Divers can dive with the dolphins, frolic with the Napoleon Masse, swim with the turtles, and hang with the rays. While the visibility is spectacular and the marine life amazing, the real thrill is seeing the sharks, including the elusive hammerhead. If you want a variety of sharks, then Rangiroa is truly the place to go.
Times are Interesting in the Middle East, but, politics aside, you cannot have a diving top ten list without mentioning the waters along the coast of Egypt’s Red Sea. In addition to the diverse marine life and warm water, the region provides spectacular diving that boasts brilliant coral, rays. butterfly fish, and ashounding rock formations. Plus, you never know when you may make an archaeological discovery of Biblical proportions, pun intended.
Diving the Red Sea has many different options, depending on your experience, style of adventure. and comfort level- From the
posh resort of Sharm El Sheikh to the less crowded, but every bit as amazing, Hurghada. the coastal areas boast luxury resorts as well as small dive outfits. For a dwange of pace. serious divers may choose a Red Sea live-aboard which oflers the best chance of encountering whale sharks, hammerheads. and positioning yourself in the midst of the manta rays or turtles, should you be there 0during the summer algae bloom.
From crystal-clear waters, to sharks, dolphins, gorgonian fans, and easily accessible wrecks, it is not surprising that the brilliant waters of the Red Sea have been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Underwater World.
While every diver has their bucket list, and there are many other worthwhile mentions, such as the Azores, Grenada, Australia, and the Galapagos, any diver who has visited the top 10 locations above is certainly to be listed among the world’s most fortunate individuals. From UNEXSO dolphin dives to the crystal clear waters of Silfra and the wrecks of Truk, the only bad dive is the one not taken.