4 Amazing Diving Destinations around the World
Scuba diving enables humans to explore Earth’s final frontier: the world’s oceans. Though they cover 71 percent of the planet, 80 percent of our oceans remain unexplored. In 2014 Egyptian diver Ahmed Gabr made history by reaching depths of more than 1,090 feet, diving deeper than any person before.
From sunken ships in the Red Sea to swimming with shark species in the Great Barrier Reef, we explore four of the world’s top diving destinations.
1. Great Blue Hole — Belize
A giant marine sinkhole located at the heart of the Lighthouse Reef Atoll off the coast of Belize, the Great Blue Hole is almost perfectly circular, stretching 984 feet across and plunging to depths of 410 feet. Despite the Great Blue Hole’s incredible depth, visibility is usually excellent, enabling divers to observe its fascinating cave formations and the marine wildlife that lurk within.
Consistently ranked as one of the best dive sites in the world, the Blue Hole does present unique dangers, even for those under the supervision of a certified Divemaster. For experienced divers who want to test their skills, the Blue Hole can be an otherworldly experience, beginning with its 40-foot descent to a sandy limestone shelf.
Touted as one of the most breathtaking dive sites on the planet, the Great Blue Hole is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The second-largest barrier reef after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, it is home to 106 species of coral and 500 fish species, including neon gobies, angelfish, and giant groupers. It’s also home to shark species such as hammerhead, black tip, and nurse sharks.
2. Shark and Yolanda Reefs — Egypt
Staying on a liveaboard is a popular way to reach these iconic underwater playgrounds. Located in Ras Mohammed National Park, Shark and Yolanda Reefs are two separate dive sites. However, they are commonly referred to as a single-dive area and can be dived in one dive.
The wreck of the Yolanda, a sunken cargo vessel, provides safe shelter to a variety of species. Its currents make it an ideal spot for drift dives and observing pelagic fish species. The Yolanda was carrying cargo primarily consisting of toilets, bathtubs, and sanitary fixtures, as well as an old BMW. Today, its cargo remains scattered across the seabed, which, along with the remnants of the ship itself, culminates in a fascinating place for divers to explore.
Shark Reef offers some breathtaking sights, including colorful coral reefs and fauna. Divers should ideally visit in summer, when hundreds of schooling barracuda, batfish, and jackfish put on an unforgettable show. Other species commonly encountered in the area include crocodile fish, stonefish, emperor fish, snappers, and Napoleon fish.
3. Richelieu Rock — Thailand
Consisting of a horseshoe of rocky pinnacles that only just breach the ocean surface at low tide, Richelieu Rock is famous for its whale shark sightings and being home to vast schools of pelagic species like batfish, jacks, and barracuda. Mantas can also be sighted at Richelieu Rock from time to time.
The area is an ideal spot for macro photography, as it presents the opportunity to capture images of elusive beauties like seahorses, harlequin shrimp, and ghost pipefish.
Widely recognized as Thailand’s best dive site, Richelieu Rock is reachable by boat. Popular with day trippers, the expansive rock formation is suitable for Open Water Divers, although to explore the full depth of the site, divers must have Advanced or Deep Diver certification.
4. Great Barrier Reef — Australia
The Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies along 1,400 miles of Australia’s east coast. With 600 islands and 2,900 individual reefs, it is the world’s largest reef system. Divers love it for its explosion of color — clownfish dart in and out of anemones and schools of yellow snapper and electric purple anthias swim in all directions. Manta rays, sea snakes, turtles, giant potato cod, and bumphead parrotfish are all frequent visitors as well.
The Great Barrier Reef is a prime location to observe sharks, with white tip, leopard, and black tip reef sharks commonly spotted and epaulette and wobbegong sharks occasionally. Despite their fearsome reputation, sharks are generally harmless to humans unless provoked, for example by divers attempting to feed them or spearfishing when they are around.
The larger tiger shark is more of a threat to humans, but it is rarely seen on the Great Barrier Reef. Humans have also encountered oceanic white tips, bull sharks, and bronze whalers, the latter of which is known to be very inquisitive. However, interactions between these species and humans are rare, with just a handful of attacks reported on the Great Barrier Reef and mostly provoked by human activities like spearfishing. Meanwhile, great whites have only been spotted twice on the Great Barrier Reef in more than 25 years.