If you’re reading this article, we’re guessing you love diving and you’re happiest exploring the wonders of the underwater world. But what makes a great dive site? Is it warm waters, frolicking fish, spooky shipwrecks, or diving at a site where most people haven’t even heard of?
If you’re looking for inspiration for your next dive trip, some of these great destinations should give you new bragging rights.
Blue Corner Wall, Palau, Micronesia
Palau as a whole is known for its wonderful diving. It’s consistently warm waters make for pleasant diving year round. There are plenty of liveaboard boat options where you can relax with like minded people after a day’s diving. Blue Corner Wall is a vertical reef that runs south to north, parallel to Ngemelis Island, and is a stand out attraction that’s usually top of the list for any diver.
The sheer quantity and variety of sea life at this dive spot makes diving here unforgettable. There are plenty of bucket list animals to see, including hawksbill sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, manta rays and whale sharks! If that’s not enough, when the reef drops and you descend along the wall’s face, you’ll discover that it is teaming with lots of smaller treasures.
All this wonder is a result of the meeting of currents rich in nutrients, which does make for slightly challenging diving. Some of the sites have dive hooks to grab, making it easier to take it all in while preserving the ecology.
Prior to diving, make sure you talk to the dive operator about your experience and comfort levels to make sure you get the best and safest experience.
Green Lake, Tragöss, Austria
Scuba diving can often feel like flying. It has something to do with the wonderful ability to glide, spin and even hover. Now imagine how amazing it would be floating through mountain walking trails and amongst fully-grown trees, in an Austrian mountain lake.
Each year the snow melts and the near freezing water floods the Grüner See (Green Lake), which swells from its usual one meter to 12 meters. You can get lost in the wonders of following a submerged mountain path, floating over a little walk bridge, or even gliding amongst the branches of tall trees. You can even retire to a local ski chalet for “après dive” relaxation.
The experience can only be described as surreal, but you’ll need to plan your trip well because the lake only lasts for a few weeks each spring and you’ll need to be certified to use a dry suit because the water is near freezing.
Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia
If you’re looking for big pelagic fish, this is the spot for you. Just drop in over the sheer vertical wall of the reef that plummets to 40+ meters and ride the strong current around to Barracuda Point. As you’re swept along the wall you can find all manner of small wonders in the form of nudibranchs, ferns, coral and the splendour of the micro world.
There’s a good chance you’ll pass turtles as they chomp on the sponges. This is considered the capital of big fish so there are also plenty of large fish, such as the green humphead parrotfish, napoleon wrasse and yellowmargin triggerfish, to name a few.
The highlight comes when you make it to the point and you’re confronted with tornados of barracudas. It’s easy to find yourself surrounded by a streaking blur of speeding fish. The strong currents attract plenty of larger predators, including coral sharks, whitetip sharks and even hammerheads! After you’re had a chance to recover from the intensity of life on the wall, you can while away the rest of your time exploring the warm lagoons and soaking up the sun.
Vanuatu Million Dollar Point & President Coolidge, Vanuatu
Santo Island in Vanuatu seems stuck in time with WWII hangers and crashed warplanes scattered throughout its tropical jungles. The beaches are idyllic and the people friendly.
It’s a perfect place for a relaxing island holiday, but it’s also a wreck diver’s paradise and the SS President Coolidge is its crown jewel. This 187-meter luxury liner-turned military ship hit two mines while entering the harbor in 1942. The captain managed to ground the ship on a coral reef and evacuate all but two of the 5,000+ people aboard before the ship slipped back down the reef. It now rests below and offers tip to stern diving from depths of 20 to 40+ meters.
Because the ship went down fully loaded, it is teaming with artifacts. There are guided tours that take you to see the jeeps and artillery shells in the hold, and the medical supplies in the infirmary. You can visit the captain’s cabin and ship library, or check out the incredible skylights and mosaic artwork. There’s even a swimming pool you can practice your laps in.
If you’re not so keen to enter the ship there is an incredible flyover dive that, at only 12 meters, offers a view of the length of the ship and gives a good perspective of the bulk of this retired leviathan. Always make sure you are qualified for the depth and type of diving you are doing, or that you are being trained by and are with a certified dive instructor.
Great Blue Hole, Belize
This dive is much more than just a look around a big hole, it’s a geological rarity that keeps on giving. The dive starts in the shallows of Lighthouse Reef, in warm Caribbean waters that are teeming with life. The hole is 300 meters wide and 124 meters deep. It’s an attraction for all types of marine animals so you will usually encounter giant grouper, turtles and rays, as well as nurse, reef and bull sharks.
Because the reef was actually formed on dry land during the last ice age, it has a few unique features. At 15 meters the water takes on an oily shimmer as the salt water mixes with deeper fresh water. It’s a strange sensation if you take out your regulator for a quick taste of the fresh water.
At 25 meters there are stalagmites and stalactites that allude to the origin of this sinkhole on dry land. The incredibly clear waters give you a great view, which makes looking back up the sheer walls of this great blue hole to the bright blue sky above a real highlight.
The Mantra Resort, Zanzibar, Tanzania
If you’re looking for a dive inspired destination but don’t want to don the scuba gear, an underwater hotel room is a great option. There are rooms with glass bottom lounges and even hotels that are partly submerged.
The top pick must be the underwater room at the Mantra Resort. You can spend your time snorkeling in the warm 12-meter water or lounging on the private sun deck. There’s no TV to distract you and it’s so secluded from the main resort that meals are delivered by boat.
When you have had enough of playing in the sun you can retire to the underwater bedroom and simply gaze out the windows as schools of inquisitive fish swim by.
A few final tips
- Check with the dive shop for any compulsory equipment you may need, such as your own dive computer.
- Remember to take your divers certification card and log book.
- To avoid damaging any diving equipment you plan to take with you, carry high value items such as your regulator and torch in your carry-on luggage.
- Make sure you use dive-safe malaria tablets. Some tablets have the same side effects as decompression sickness (DCS), which can mask more serious problems.
- Don't fly for 24 hours after your last dive because of the increased risk of getting the bends.
- Check with the dive shop about local facilities, such as a decompression chamber, otherwise evacuation may be necessary should anything unexpected happen.
- Make a list of the gear you take with you and check that you have it with you after each dive.
- Make sure you have an open water dive certification or are diving with a qualified instructor otherwise we won’t be able to cover you.