Our planet is 70 percent water, and with such a vast coverage the possibilities of exploring these underwater living rooms are endless.
Two millimeters of neoprene was all that separated me from the deep blue depths as I floated along the coral wall, pulled by the current as if on some underwater moving sidewalk.
I could hear the rhythmic hissing of packaged air being sucked into my compressed lungs and then expelled, a derby of bubbles racing to the surface, tickling my face on their way.
There was a sense of weightlessness—not like when I run and can feel the shifting tonnage of my lagging back end. I was complete, self-contained, underwater, and breathing, while in an apparatus. I was SCUBA, “SCUBA-DOO,” to be exact, as my diving instructor referred to me because for a beginner, he said, I wasn’t afraid of snooping around.
Funny, since I am not a good swimmer and afraid of water—and sharks for that matter. Who isn’t? But despite that fear, after passing my exam only a few years ago, I have been eager to display my official passport to the underwater world and get in as much diving as possible. I have since realized that the only danger in diving is missing out on it all.
You can come face-to-face with whale sharks or the other kind—meat-eating sharks–off the shores of Micronesia. Dive the barrier reef, where the term “great” is an understatement. Leave the dry suit at home for the crystalline warm waters off the Caribbean, and open your eyes to the unique blueness of the Red Sea.
We made it easy for you by narrowing down the endless amount of dives. We selected the top spots of the East, consisting of the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and surrounding waters. We’ve also covered the best of the West, including the Pacific and Indian Oceans and their surrounding seas.
So grab that BCD and tank. With our top ten not-to-be-missed dives, do a back roll off the boat and discover these underwater extravaganzas for yourself!
Jewel of the Caribbean: The Cayman Islands, Caribbean
Sparkling like rubies and sapphires in any diver’s tiara are the Cayman Islands. They are the most popular dive destination in the Caribbean, and despite it feeling like the Disney Land of diving, there are few better dive locales in the Northern Hemisphere.
Leave the wet suit at home for the warm waters and world-class wall diving. Around the Grand Cayman island visibility up to 150 feet is the best in the central Caribbean, and the opportunity to dive with stingrays in Stingray City is an experience of a lifetime.
If crowds deflate your interest, head to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. These are less crowded than Grand Cayman, although you would miss out on Grand Cayman’s famed North Wall. It starts fairly deep, at 70 feet, so you must monitor your dive time carefully. With all there is to see—including hundreds of fish and coral species—it is difficult to focus on logistics. You will most certainly lose yourself in this underwater paradise.
Unlock an Underwater Paradise: Florida Keys, USA
Besides being the source of inspiration for songwriter Jimmy Buffet and displaying portraits of sunsets that surpass any Picasso, the Florida Keys host the longest living reef in the western hemisphere, making diving and snorkeling here unforgettable. It is an ideal and easily accessible place for beginners or those who want to get their certification.
There are more than 500 wrecks to explore, including Civil War wrecks and Spanish galleons, the world’s first underwater hotel, more dive shops per square mile than anywhere else in the world, and crystal-clear waters that allow you to see what seems like the other side of the Atlantic.
And the mood? Funky and fun. Activity outside of the water offers quite a unique mix of experiences as well, from airboat rides through the swamps of Everglades National Park to a tour of Hemingway’s home in Key West. So bring along the cut-offs and flip flops and your best rendition of Margaritaville, then dive into all the Keys have to offer.
A Diving Evolution: Galapagos, Ecuador
The water can be chilly and the visibility less than ideal, but the Galapagos Islands offer aquatic attractions that can’t be found anywhere else. There really isn’t a real reef here, but the unique experience this destination offers deserves inclusion into any top tens.
It was in these remote islands, 600 miles west of Ecuador, that Charles Darwin found inspiration for his theory of evolution. And the waters are a fantasy world for divers accustomed to nothing but small fish. Along with thick schools of tropicals, there are numerous sea turtles, sea lions, and large pelagics. Various dive sites have their own special attractions—sharks, penguins, or even the marine iguanas, remarkable creatures found nowhere else on earth.
Nothing can prepare you for your first underwater encounter with an iguana. With their humanlike limbs, they look like small green frogmen. Unafraid and largely uninterested in humans, they permit divers to approach very closely as they bottom-feed. It’s tough diving, however, as the iguanas stick to shallow waters with lots of surge.
The Galapagos’ wilderness preserve status keeps the water free of commercial fishing and the land immune to resorts. Thus, all diving is done on a liveaboard basis.
A Perfect Dive Vacation: Fiji, the South Pacific
There are numerous great diving spots throughout the world, and to any diver who may have been fortunate enough to tackle most of them, Fiji would be considered the perfect dive vacation. It incorporates the best of diving in a true Polynesian way—clear visibility, warm water temperatures, a virginal quality and uncrowded experience, plus the full spectrum of color and shape in the coral.
The ever-present currents are to thank for the brilliant coral display. The flowing water carries nutrients that keep marine life healthy and the reefs enriched. The northern island group is top-tier diving and most easily accessible in Fiji. Just off the southern side of Kadavu, the Great Astrolabe Reef is the world’s fourth largest barrier reef. Diving here has been called the best in Fiji, particularly for those who want to get away from the more frequented dive spots up north.
No matter which submerged sites you choose to explore, you are guaranteed a dazzling show. Just be sure to enjoy some quality time on land as well—the onshore attractions and relaxed island vibe rate pretty high, too.
An Underwater Eden: Palau, Micronesia
If Adam and Eve were swimmers they most certainly would have plucked a sea anemone from the underwater Eden that is Palau. This biodiverse corner of Micronesia has it all. Take a bath in the 84-degree waters that house white tip reef sharks, venomous sea krates, and World War II wrecks. From Rock Islands, jungle-tufted outcroppings popping up like mushrooms over world-class dive sites, to the challenging and unpredictable currents that can sweep you over the protective reef to kingdom come, Palau will not disappoint.
Few other diving destinations come close to Palau’s cutting-edge diving and unique experience. The ones that do, however, are in the general neighborhood of the Indo-Pacific Ocean. The variety of dive sites in such a concentrated area is head spinning, with 60 great drop-offs to nearly 1,000 feet, dozens of blue holes, and a famed five-chambered cave system. Come face-to-face with 1,000-pound clams, thick schools of reef fish, and the ever-exciting large pelagics.
Despite currents that require expert skills to battle, beginners can still enjoy the waters by using a reef hook. Loiter amongst the sea activity without worry!
West: Ring of Fire: Sipidan, Borneo
Where the waters of Indonesia kiss the waters of Malaysia, is called the Ring of Fire. And within this underwater circus lies one of the world’s hottest dive destinations—Borneo’s Sipidan Island. “I have seen other places like Sipidan, 45 years ago, but now we have found again an untouched piece of art,” said famed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. If you measured the attractions of underwater Sipidan it would come unmatched just about anywhere else in the world—more fish, more turtles, more coral, and more diversity. Seeing 10 turtles in one dive is not uncommon, nor is seeing a school of about 300 barracuda.
Another to-die-for feature is the close proximity of dives to shore. Two thousand food drop-offs are just yards from the beach. Simply gear up, swim out a few yards, and get the best diving of your life—not to mention greet a huge amount of large pelagics passing by.
Tips: Always use best quality underwater Digital Cameras for Diving to save your golden memories.