1. VOLCANOES The Ring of Fire — a horseshoeshaped string of volcanic hot spots that stretches from Peru north to Alaska and down to New Zealand— is directly responsible for many of our favorite Pacific destinations, whether active or not.
2. IDYLLIC ISLANDS Tropical islands capture the imagination of traveling divers like no other terrestrial environment. Perhaps it’s the promise of languid living, warm water and beautiful natives. Maybe it’s the fantastic diving that typically comes with the package. From Palau’s Rock Islands to Hawaii, French Polynesia, Fiji and beyond, there are thousands in the Pacific — take your pick.
3. SOFT CORALS As delicate as they are beautiful, soft corals of the order Alcyonacea exist without producing a hard skeleton like their stony cousins. They’re a signature sight at top Pacific dive destinations including Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysian Borneo and Palau.
4. ABUNDANCE With more than 63 million square miles of salt water in which to thrive, the countless species of marine life lucky enough to live in the Pacific Ocean have room to grow large and multiply, creating an astounding biomass — and endless opportunities for divers.
5. SEA LIONS Few oceangoing creatures are more fun to encounter underwater than sea lions and their pinniped cousins. Encountered most frequently by divers in California, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and the Galapagos Islands, the mammals’ incredible agility, strong curiosity and ability to hold their breath for amazingly long periods of time make them one of the most adept — and entertaining— critters in the Pacific.
6. GIANT PACIFIC OCTOPUS Largest of the octopods, the giant Pacific octopus is also one of the most intelligent creatures in the ocean, documented in scientific tests to solve mazes and open screw-top jars to retrieve food. A coveted sight for divers, these masters of disguise can change color and pattern at will in order to hide from curious eyes, or ambush unwitting prey.
7. OVER-WATER BUNGA LOWS It’s a fantasy-turnedreality situation for certain. Sleeping mere feet above the beautiful blue Pacific and watching tropical fish color your front yard from a lazy lounge chair are things every diver dreams of experiencing. And at destinations like Fiji, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, and Malaysian Borneo, all you have to do is make a reservation.
8. GALAPAGOS GIANT TORTOISE They’re slow, unattractive and downright irascible, but as the unofficial mascot of Ecuador’s amazing archipelago, these tremendous reptiles are a must-see when visiting the Galapagos Islands.
9. WILD RIDES Drift diving takes on a whole new meaning in the Pacific, with more radical tidal changes, stronger currents and greater overall magnitude at such noteworthy destinations as British Columbia, Fiji, Palau and the islands of French Polynesia.
10. KELP FORESTS Most commonly found in nutrient-rich and temperate to cold oceanic environments, kelp forests create the perfect habitat for all manner of critters that divers dig. And swimming through a thick expanse of the fast-growing plant — which thrives in British Columbia, California and New Zealand — is an experience like none other.
11. BLUE-RINGED OCTOPUS The deadliest octopus sports iridescent blue rings that pulse when agitated, and a potent neromuscular venom that can paralyze. Spot them in coastal reefs in the Western Pacific: northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Philippines and Indonesia.
12. ELEGANT SQUAT LOBSTER Outfitted in racing stripes to match its colorful crinoid host, this tiny crustacean can be found hiding among the branches. Spot them in coastal areas and outer reefs in the Western Pacific: northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Fiji and Japan.
13. ORNATE GHOST PIPEFISH Evolved with exquisite camouflage, this close relative of the seahorse ranges in color from black to red, yellow and orange. Spot them in coastal and outer reefs in Western and South Pacific: eastern Australia, Indonesia, Phillipines, Micronesia, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.
14. STAGGERING VISIBILITY Some of the Pacific’s top dive havens, such as Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tahiti and many popular destinations in Indonesia, boast water clarity that can reach 150 feet or more — consistently. Close your eyes and visualize— we do on a regular basis.
15. PEARLS There’s no better souvenir from a trip to the South Pacific than a shiny pearl. And it’s deliciously ironic that something so prized is really just the byproduct of an uncomfortable oyster.
16. NEW DISCOVERIES It seems that whenever we learn of amazing new dive sites being pioneered, they’re located in the Pacific. With so much unexplored territory on the marine charts in places like Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, it’s no wonder that our most intrepid dive kin are scoring there.
17. WHALES Haunting songs, spontaneous breaching and unexpected underwater swim-bys — there are myriad reasons why divers have an affection for whales. In the Pacific, there are so many to love: minkes on the Great Barrier Reef, Bryde’s off Baja California and humpbacks in Hawaii. But be advised, there are serious rules governing in-water encounters with whales in most parts of the region.
18. AMAZING UNDERWATER STRUCTURES Divers enjoy great benefits from the the Pacific’s Ring of Fire — caverns, tunnels, arches, swim-throughs and all other manner of compelling underwater structures. From Lanai’s First Cathedral, to Palau’s Saies Tunnel and beyond, the region’s volcanic heritage has created some of the world’s most intriguing dives.
19. ASTOUNDING COLOR For some reason, everything seems more vibrant, rich and dramatic in the Pacific — fish, crabs, corals, flowers, sunsets— everything. We’re not sure if it’s the quality of the visibility, a special hue of the water or just the dreamy state of mind that often occurs when we’re there. And it really doesn’t matter why.
20. BLACKTIP REEF SHARKS The athletic predator is quick, agile and hugely entertaining to watch zipping through shallow tidal lagoons chasing prey in places like Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and elsewhere in the South Pacific.
21. WHALE SHARKS The Pacific’s largest fish — which sport one of nature’s coolest paint jobs — are mysterious, massive and encountered in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Galapagos.
22. SCALLOPED HAMMERHEADS Sometimes schooling in the hundreds in the Galapagos, Costa Rica’s Cocos Island and the Hawaiian island of Molokai, the scalloped hammerhead is the Pacific’s most distinctive shark.
23. TIGER SHARKS Few sharks carry the same intense visual impact as the tiger shark. With their distinguishing stripes and intimidating girth, they’re a main attraction in Hawaii, Fiji and other Pacific hot spots.
24. BIODIVERSITY Often described as the “Heart of the Coral Triangle,” the remote Sulawesi islands of northern Indonesia offer a staggering diversity of marine species beneath the surface of the Pacific, with hot spots like Bunaken National Park, Lembeh Strait, Wakatobi, Raja Ampat and Bangka Strait.
25. KONA COFFEE The magical combination of ultrarich volcanic soil, powerful Hawaiian sunshine and abundant, clean rain water enable Big Island coffee growers to produce some of the world’s best beans.
26. RICH CULTURES The heart of Polynesia beats strong in the Hawaiian hula, the Fijian meke, the Tahitian otea and the Yapese stick dance (below). As traveling divers, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to experience these traditional forms of human expression, cultural reverence and exuberant celebration.
27. WORLD WAR II WRECKS The sunken legacy of World War II is evident in many of the Pacific’s top dive destinations. Palau has the Helmet Wreck, 370-foot Bichu Maru and others. Chuuk’s Truk Lagoon is packed with more than 40 submerged warships and aircraft, including the 433-foot Fujikawa Maru. And there are other rusting relics on the bottom in the Philippines, Malaysian Borneo, Papua New Guinea and beyond.
28. KAVA Fiji’s homebrew of choice is a hit at parties, family events and just about any other festive occasion. Made from ground kava root, it looks and tastes like mud, but intoxicates nonetheless.
29. PERFECT WAVES Even if you’ve never set foot on a board, simply witnessing huge, powerful waves crashing over shallow reefs into flawless, cylindrical tubes that hiss and spit spray is a moving experience. And the Pacific is home to many of the planet’s best surf spots, from Hawaii to Fiji, Tahiti, Australia and Micronesia.
30. GIANT MANTA RAYS Graceful and elusive, the giant manta is the largest of all its cousins in the ray family, and a perennial favorite of divers for impressive aerobatic manuevering and sheer majesty — they can grow up to 25 feet from wing tip to wing tip. Preferring nutrient-rich waters where plankton are plentiful, the filter feeders can be most commonly encountered in the Galapagos, Costa Rica’s Cocos Island, Mexico’s Revillagigedos Islands, Hawaii, Yap, Fiji and Palau.
31. GREAT BARRIER REEF Consider the numbers: 135,000 square miles of total surface area, 1,600 miles long, 2,900 individual reefs, 900 islands, 400 kinds of coral, 4,000 varieties of mollusks and 1,500 types of fish. With statistics like those, it’s no wonder Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and — with such famous sites as Steve’s Bommie, Cod Hole, Osprey Reef, Heron Island Bommie, SS Yongala and more — the object of desire of divers across the planet.
32. BLUE WATER DIVES With vast stretches of open ocean to cruise, the pelagic creatures of the Pacific are as varied as they are exciting. From mola mola to bluefin tuna, humpback whales and other far-reaching travelers, sometimes if you hang there long enough, an amazing creature will swim by.
33. ANEMONEFISH Quite possibly the most famous of all Pacific marine life thanks to that animated blockbuster, this species captures the imagination of divers not only for its bizarre choice of favorite habitat — inside deadly poisonous sea anemones — but because they are beautifully colored and just flat out fun to watch.
34. HEAVENLY BEACHES From the stormlashed coast of Northern California to the golden shores of Central America, black sands of Hawaii, palmfringed strands of Tahiti and beyond, the Pacific has created some of the most memorable beaches on planet Earth. And chances are good that you can still find an amazing one all to yourself.
35. SEA TURTLES Whether it’s a green sea turtle munching on a reef in Hawaii, a hawksbill motoring by during a serene safety stop in Fiji or frantic olive ridley babies crawling from their sandy nest on a beach in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province, sea turtles are one of the Pacific’s most endearing sea creatures.
36. JELLYFISH LAKE The unique geography of Palau’s Rock Islands — famed for their mushroom shapes — makes this curious biological anomaly possible: an isolated marine lake filled with millions of virtually stingless jellies adapted to survive through a symbiotic relationship with algae that compels them to migrate around the lake following the sun. Swimming in this singular environment is truly an otherworldly experience.
37. GREAT WHITE SHARK CAGE DIVING There’s nothing like a face-toface encounter with a massive white shark to get your adrenaline pumping. And Isla Guadalupe — an isolated rock 150 miles off the coast of Baja California — is the place to do it, thanks to consistently great visibility and a dependable supply of big predators migrating through the area from July to December.
38. ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES There are heaps more things we love in the Pacific, so we’re adding to the list at sportdiver.com/pacificlove. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line “pacificlove”) to join in.