50 Best Dive Sites in the World | Sport Diver

50 Best Dive Sites in the World

Reefs, Wrecks and Really Big Animals

If you were given one week to dive and could choose any scuba diving sites in the world with which to fill your logbook, where would you go? We asked a number of underwater photographers, writers and our readers, and got a remarkable sampling of dives that cover just about everything this planet has to offer. From the remarkable macro of Lembeh Strait to the shark dives of the Bahamas, magical reefs in Fiji and wrecks in the Red Sea, there are plenty of sites you’d expect to see, but an even greater number of surprises. Here are the 50 Best Scuba Diving Sites in the World:


Want more of the world's best diving? See our picks for the 50 best wrecks and 50 ways to play underwater!


Blue Heron Bridge — Riviera Beach, Florida, USA

Blue Heron Bridge —Riviera Beach, Florida, USA

Blue Heron Bridge

Keri Wilk

If you’re a fan of the Cantina — the fictional bar from Star Wars — and its freakish alien patrons, you’ll love the weird marine life lurking in the shallows of Riviera Beach’s Blue Heron Bridge. Flying gurnards, bandtail sea robins and striated frogfish commonly populate this South Florida site, a critter hunter’s paradise in only 12 feet of water. Time the dive for high tide, and when you’re finished, head to the Riviera Beach Marina and order the catch of the day. — Patricia Wuest
sportdiver.com/florida

Dive This Now: Blue Heron Bridge - Jupiter Dive Center


Kona Mantas — Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Kona Mantas — Hawaii, USA

Kona's nighttime manta experience

Rodger Klein

It’s only appropriate that divers, come to see one of nature’s wonders, kneel on the shallow bottom off Keahole Point, neoprene supplicants pointing their dive lights up to attract plankton. The mantas glide in from the darkness — some with wingspans of 16 feet — a phantasmagoric morph of fish and bird, inhaling the plankton in great swooping arcs. They approach mouths agape, often scraping, like downy sandpaper, across the top of your head. On a good night there might be a dozen or more, a languorous melee of looping, banking and inhaling, their mushroom-white undersides pinioned, briefly, in your dive light. Kona’s manta dives are famous and thus often crowded, and it doesn’t matter one whit. — Ken McAlpine
sportdiver.com/hawaii

Dive This Now: Kona Aggressor


Nakwakto Rapids — British Columbia, Canada

Nakwakto Rapids — British Columbia, Canada

A colorful population of gooseneck barnacles at Nakwakto Rapids

Brandon Cole

Few sites offer the possibility of waterskiing while being tied to tree. It’s possible at Turret Rock, aka Nakwakto Rapids, a legendary dive in British Columbia’s backcountry, which boasts some of the world’s fastest ocean currents, clocked at a blistering 16 knots. This is the realm of giant gooseneck barnacles, an oversize crustacean found few other places, which grow in mounds 30 to 50 feet deep here. Time the tides with Swiss precision — the safety window between tidal exchanges lasts 15 to 30 minutes. Sharing real estate with the barnacles are sure-footed crabs, painted greenlings, sculpins and a colorful palette of anemones. — Brandon Cole


USS Vandenberg — Key West, Florida Keys, USA

USS Vandenberg — Florida Keys, USA

USS Vandenberg

Tanya G. Burnett

Keel down in 140 feet of water just six miles off Key West, Florida, the USS Vandenberg is a thrilling bookend to the Florida Keys Wreck Trek. At 523-feet-long, the former missile-tracking ship deserves more than a single dive (no seeing end-to-end on this beauty). “All the pillows are fluffier,” jokes Joe Weatherby, project manager during the 2009 scuttling, referring to the superstructure’s growth. Hulking barracuda, here from the start, still lurk. Look for enormous goliath grouper near the bow, and baitballs of scad, which attract schools of hunting wahoo and jacks. A swim through the satellite dish remains the obligatory rite of passage. — Terry Ward

Dive This Now: Vandenberg – FL Keys


Point Lobos — Carmel, California

Point Lobos — Carmel, California

Point Lobos

Jim Patterson

Northern Californians are a lucky bunch. Just a couple of hours from San Francisco are Tahoe’s ski slopes, Santa Cruz’s surf breaks and the town of Monterey, where new divers go for their open-water certification. While the diving is excellent at shore sites such as Lover’s Point and Breakwater, the best diving is 15 minutes away in Point Lobos National Park. Only 15 scuba-diving buddy groups are allowed into the park each day, ensuring the reefs remain pristine and the marine life unmolested. Steps from the parking lot, divers immerse under a canopy of thick kelp forests where light and shadow battle for supremacy. Look closely in the fronds for kelp crabs and minuscule snails. Lingcod patrol the reef edges, and nudibranchs flaunt their colors openly. A harbor seal — there are dozens lining the sandy shore — might pop by for a visit, if you’re lucky. But you’re diving Point Lobos — you’re lucky already. — David Espinosa


Whale Sharks — Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Whale Sharks — Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Whale sharks off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Martin Strmiska

If there’s a way to experience more joy in the water with only a snorkel, we don’t know about it. Every June to September, the waters off Isla Mujeres churn with the fins from hundreds of whale sharks, migrating up the Yucatan coast in search of food (not you). Operators in Cancun and Isla Mujeres will take you for a half-day in the water with the giants. Look left as one approaches with mouth agape; look right as a gigantic tail disappears into the deep. — Rebecca Strauss


Palancar Horseshoe — Cozumel, Mexico

Palancar Horseshoe — Cozumel, Mexico

Palancar Horseshoe

Chris Guglielmo

For many divers, Cozumel is like an old friend, one they visit every year. Part of the enormous Palancar reef system, Palancar Horseshoe remains a perennial favorite — and why not? Dense, colorful corals cover the structure, and divers drop directly into the large, horseshoe-shaped amphitheater from which the site gets its name, greeting the resident green moray eel along the way. Depending on the current — sometimes strong — dives can also begin farther south. Drift north with the current, exploring the dense, rocky formation’s tunnels and crevices in around 80 feet, among the schools of blue tangs, jacks, parrotfish and turtles that call them home. — Rebecca Strauss

sportdiver.com/cozumel-mexico


Cabo Pulmo — Baja California, Mexico

Cabo Pulmo — Baja California, Mexico

Cabo Pulmo

Turner Forte

Getting to Cabo Pulmo, in Baja, California Sur, takes some doing, but diving here is as easy as a backward roll off the boat. Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park features one of the world’s healthiest coral reefs, and sites mere yards from shore mean you can sleep late and still make two morning dives. Hard corals and sea fans cover long basaltic dykes populated by endless schools of rays and jacks, parrotfish, groupers and angelfish, eels, octopuses, and the occasional sea turtle or shark. And you’ll be back in time to enjoy fish tacos and a cold beer at a beachside restaurant, crash in your casita, and do it again the next day. — Melissa Gaskill


Mary’s Place — Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

Mary’s Place — Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

Mary’s Place

Edward Herreno

Those who have dived Mary’s Place know that it’s truly a magical place, like something out of Lord of the Rings. Good buoyancy is a must to descend and traverse the sheer-walled crevasse, lined with fans of black coral. (Beginners can still soar over the top.) A crevice takes you to a stunning wall at 70 feet, where you can make a 90-degree turn and take in the wall, or take another crevice back in the opposite direction. Beautiful corals in all colors might reveal anemones, seahorses as big as your hand, juvenile spotted drums, huge rainbow parrotfish or white-spotted filefish that change colors before your eyes. — Mary Frances Emmons
sportdiver.com/honduras


Darwin’s Arch — Galapagos, Ecuador

Darwin’s Arch — Galapagos, Ecuador

Darwin’s Arch

Jonathan Bird

Is Darwin’s Arch the best dive in the world? If it’s big animals you crave, then yes, Darwin’s Arch is the best dive in the world. It’s got everything, really (except for macro and reefs): massive whale sharks that patrol the blue, so many turtles you’ll experience burnout, burly Galapagos sharks, tiger sharks on the safety stop, free-swimming moray eels, eagle rays and — lest we forget the stars of the show — schooling hammerheads that blot out the sun. This isn’t a list from a single destination; it’s a list from a single dive. A dive you’ll soon declare is the very best in the world. — David Espinosa
sportdiver.com/galapagos


Gran Cenote — Riviera Maya, Mexico

Gran Cenote — Riviera Maya, Mexico

Gran Cenote

Reinhard Dirscherl

There are a number of great cave and cavern dives in the world’s capital for cave and cavern dives, but the best is Gran Cenote. It’s not deep like the Pit, spooky like Temple of Doom or just plain weird like Angelita; no, Gran Cenote is the first stop for many snorkelers and divers because the water is clear, shallow, and it’s an easy introduction to what you can expect from the cenotes that dot Riviera Maya. Water lilies near the entry ladder add a touch of color to the cerulean pool that quickly leads you to a main chamber, where you’ll surface deep inside the rock. There’s always a guide ahead, a guideline below and a gaggle of snorkelers — taking advantage of the open-air — following your every fin kick from above. — David Espinosa


Blackish Point — Utila, Bay Islands

Blackish Point — Utila, Bay Islands

Blackish Point

Tanya G. Burnett

If you’ve come to the Bay Islands to dive, there’s a good chance you’ve come to Utila: Diving is in this tiny mangrove island’s DNA. On the north side of the island, you’ll find less-frequented sites like Blackish Point, which gets its name from the volcanic rock that forms the wall paralleling shore. The upper section of reef starts at around 25 feet, and is covered with healthy hard and soft corals. Around 65 feet, a light current makes for a relaxing drift dive; a series of caverns shelter everything from goliath grouper to huge lobsters. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for “Old Tom,” Utila’s resident legendary whale shark and unofficial mascot. — Rebecca Strauss
sportdiver.com/honduras


Pedras Secas — Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Pedras Secas  — Fernando De Noronha, Brazil

Pedras Secas

Kadu Pinheiro

Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha is an off-the-radar paradise for travelers and divers. Perched at the top of a volcanic submarine mountain, the 18-island archipelago lies 224 miles from mainland Brazil, and that isolation translates directly to many pristine dive sites. Pedras Secas in the Mar de Fora, or the Outer Sea, is a warren of tunnels and canyons, featuring a rocky bottom covered with sea life. Rock formations rise to the surface, constantly punished by the undulations of the persistent waves. A 55-foot tunnel, lined with sponges and corals, gives way to a canyon filled with schools of grunts, black margates, squirrelfish and big trevally. — Kadu Pinheiro


Alcyone — Cocos, Costa Rica

Alcyone — Cocos, Costa Rica

Alcyone

Edwar Herreño

In 1987, the Cousteau Society’s expedition ship Alcyone first visited Cocos, discovering a seamount that would eventually become the legendary site. Because it’s so far offshore, Alcyone offers incredible pelagic action. A quick descent to the top, which lies at 85 feet, is an unforgettable experience, with scalloped hammerhead sharks schooling above. Whale sharks, dolphins, tuna, giant mantas, mobula rays, eagle rays and marble rays swim by. The reef also provides plenty of action courtesy of critters like octopuses, eels and the endemic Cocos blenny. — Edwar Herreño sportdiver.com/costa-rica


Half Moon Caye — Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize

Half Moon Caye — Belize

Half Moon Caye Wall

Dan Callister

Half Moon Caye Wall in Belize is exactly what you’d expect from a wall dive — and much more. Start with the vertiginous feeling of peering down into the abyss. Visibility extends to impossible depths, so not an eagle ray, loggerhead turtle or tarpon will pass by unnoticed. Course through the warren of caves and swim-throughs that shelter groupers, barracudas and moray eels. Spend the safety-stop daydreaming among a field of rosy razorfish, conch and garden eels. — Brooke Morton sportdiver.com/belize


Tiger Beach — Bahamas

Tiger Beach — Bahamas

Tiger Beach

Brandon Cole

Tiger Beach is unlike any dive you’ve ever made. For starters, it’s in the middle of nowhere; and no, there isn’t any beach. What’s more, the site is less than 20 feet deep, meaning you’ll likely make the longest dive of your life. And oh what a dive it will be. The stars of the show are the 12- to 14-foot-long tiger sharks, some with the vivid trademark stripes, which come in after the bait box is placed on the white-sand seabed. One of the oceans’ fiercest predators, the tigers are slow and methodical, in direct contrast to the hordes of ever-present, hyperactive lemon sharks. If the action gets slow, and it rarely does, hop over to one of the rarely dived walls only 15 minutes away, then head on back to Tiger Beach for another two-hour thrill-a-minute dive. — David Espinosa

Dive This Now: Tiger Beach – Stuart Cove


Critter Corner — St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Critter Corner — St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Critter Corner

Jonathan Bird

With a tagline like Muck Diving Capital of the Caribbean, you can bet St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a hallmark muck dive. That would be Critter Corner. The nutrient-rich freshwater runoff here supercharges micro-marine life to the point of near absurdity. You’ll find corals, sea grass, silt and boulder-strewn sand flats lousy with blennies, flying gurnards, and short-tail and spoon-nose eels. Pistol shrimp and longsnout seahorses are uncommonly common, but hunt too for camouflaged treasures — spotted porcelain crabs, squat and sponge anemone shrimp, and scores of other wonders. — Ted Alan Stedman
sportdiver.com/st-vincent-grenadines


Bloody Bay Wall — Little Cayman, Cayman Islands

Bloody Bay Wall — Little Cayman, Cayman Islands

Bloody Bay Wall

Alex Mustard

It might be the smallest of the Cayman Islands, but Little Cayman’s dramatic wall is surely one of the world’s biggest diving thrills. In places it’s not just precipitously vertical, it actually curves back under itself. Famed for rich reef life, such as lobsters, turtles and reef sharks, the most indelible memory belongs to the Nassau groupers. They are plentiful on every dive site and so friendly that some divers even cuddle them. When one of these large, curious fish stares into your mask and joins you on your dive, you can’t help but fall in love. — Alex Mustard

Dive This Now: Reef Divers at Little Cayman Beach Resort

For More Info: Bloody Bay Wall – Cayman Islands


RMS Rhone — British Virgin Islands

RMS Rhone — British Virgin Islands

RMS Rhone

Steve Simonsen

As every dive briefing mentions, the Rhone was featured in the 1977 film The Deep, but even without Jacqueline Bisset and shark attacks, there’s plenty of adventure awaiting divers on the former Royal Mail Steamer that was wrecked off Salt Island in 1867 during a fierce hurricane. Most dive operators offer it as a two-tank excursion, starting on the relatively intact bow and making the second dive on the scattered remnants of the stern. After more than 140 years on the bottom, the Rhone is beautifully decorated; don’t miss a night dive to see orange cup corals opened and feeding. And afterward, stop at the Soggy Dollar on Jost Van Dyke, best known for inventing the Painkiller, a delicious — and potent — cocktail that lives up to its name. — Patricia Wuest


Something Special — Bonaire

Something Special — Bonaire

Something Special

Andre De Molenaar

Fishermen started the nickname: At this site just outside the Kralendijk harbor, they would compare catches while swilling a cheap brand of rum called Something Special. Once divers took to these waters, the name stuck — but not because of the rum. Out of Bonaire’s 89 named sites, this reef is among the top spots for finding frogfish — both in record numbers and rarely seen colors. Though the site is best reached by boat, shore divers will swim over sand and rubble piles, home to garden eels and a variety of macro life. Something Special also consistently delivers squid, turtles and eagle rays. With so much variety, this is just the sort of dive you’ll want to recount at happy hour — do yourself a favor and skip the low-grade rum. — Brooke Morton
sportdiver.com/bonaire

Dive This Now: Bonaire


Charlie Brown — St. Eustatius (Statia)

Charlie Brown — St. Eustatius (Statia)

The Charlie Brown

Alex Mustard

The current is slight, but enough to attract an army of horse-eye jacks marching across the starboard side of the 320-foot-long Charlie Brown wreck, a former cable-laying ship now lying sideways in 95 feet of water off St. Eustatius’ southwest coast. At this depth, any warm-water pelagic — Caribbean reef shark, bull shark or eagle ray — might make a cameo. On your descent, thanks to dependably epic visibility, you can take in the wreck’s entirety at once. Prior to becoming an artificial reef, the vessel was made safe for penetration; along some of the passageways, light is visible throughout, so even those with limited wreck training can enjoy the experience. And with depths from 50 to 100 feet, divers of all levels can enjoy the rush. — Brooke Morton


Salt River Canyon — St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Salt River Canyon — U.S. Virgin Islands

Salt River Canyon

Steve Simonsen

Sure, Salt River Canyon on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a historical landmark where Christopher Columbus once dropped anchor, but among divers, it’s best known for epic encounters with migrating humpback whales, pods of bottlenose dolphins and, in the early morning, blacktip reef sharks. On a slow day, it humbly delivers encounters with green turtles that have fathered generations, southern stingrays and spiny lobsters. It’s just one more site along the island’s famed north coast, home to beginner-to-advanced shore diving, steep drop-offs, and pockets where the varied topography includes ledges, caves and pinnacles. Topside, the island merges domestic comforts with the stuff of escapist fantasies: palm-studded beaches, overgrown rainforests and dramatic cliffs overlooking it all. — Brooke Morton


Ray of Hope — New Providence Island, Bahamas

Ray of Hope — Bahamas

A Caribbean reef shark on Ray of Hope

Courtesy Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas

Like peanut butter and chocolate, New Providence Island’s Ray of Hope perfectly marries two of divers’ favorite things: the massive wreck of a 200-foot-long former freighter with dozens of gray reef sharks. Purpose-sunk in July 2003, Ray of Hope would be a marvelous dive in its own right — it’s relatively shallow (70 feet at the deepest), intact and sits upright in a bed of white sand. It’s the location that makes the dive so special though; because it’s only a few hundred feet from Shark Arena, where local operator Stuart Cove’s conducts popular shark feeds, the sharks, along with massive groupers and the occasional stingray, are always hanging around. And for the “shark-wreck” lover in all of us, that’s a recipe for success. — David Espinosa

Dive This Now: Bahamas Ray of Hope – Stuart Cove


Pat’s Wall — Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Pat’s Wall — Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Pat’s Wall

Elly Wray

A trip to Grand Cayman’s East End, along ironshore bluffs and blowholes, is a must for visiting divers: Hosting more than 55 sites, the remote location makes it Cayman’s best-kept secret. Here you’ll find Pat’s Wall, with a cathedral-like swim-through and a dramatic canyon. Out on the wall, look for sharks, hawksbill turtles and eagle rays. Bouquets of sponges, deepwater sea fans and whip corals adorn the drop-off to the Cayman Trench. Atop the wall, schools of creole wrasse, Bermuda chub, snappers and jacks dance above swaying gorgonians. — Elly Wray

Dive This Now: Grand Cayman – Cayman Islands


Superior Producer — Curaçao

Superior Producer — Curaçao

Superior Producer

Barry Brown

In 1977, this 220-foot cargo ship, heavily overloaded with Christmas items bound for Colombia, sank in rough seas outside St. Annebaai harbor. Located on a sandy plateau 109 feet deep, the Producer is now home to queen angelfish, turtles, barracuda, tarpon and seahorses. Be sure to explore the massive hull and the countless rooms filled with fish and sponges. Adventurous divers can also access the Producer from shore and explore a beautiful coral reef on the safety stop. — Barry Brown
sportdiver.com/curacao

Dive This Now: Curacao – Ocean Encounters


The Sisters — Tobago

The Sisters — Tobago

The Sisters

Lill Haugen

Wedged between two powerful ocean currents, Tobago’s lucky geography creates ideal conditions for some of the world’s healthiest reefs. The five volcanic pinnacles of the Sisters Rocks, two miles off Tobago’s northwest shore, are often subject to swells and currents — but are also a favorite hangout for hammerheads. Preferring the cooler water, the sharks are sometimes too deep for divers, but the Sisters will still deliver the big stuff: Barracudas, eagle rays, turtles, tarpons, groupers, moray eels, nurse sharks and spiny lobsters are all plentiful. These underwater mountains also feature rare, shallow gardens of the bushy deepwater black corals, at only 45 to 60 feet. It’s a rare treat on an island that makes a habit out of rarities.— Lill Haugen


Goofnuw Channel — Yap

Goofnuw Channel — Yap

Goofnuw Channel

Mike Veitch

Ringed with magnificent hard corals, Goofnuw is a channel that connects the mangroves to the sea. Catch it on the incoming tide when clear waters carry divers past stingrays, Napoleon wrasse and fusiliers, as well as whitetip and reef sharks. This list of residents would make any diver happy, but the main attraction tends to overshadow everything else: manta rays. There is no mistaking these majestic animals as they glide into one of three large cleaning stations in the channel. On the best days, divers are treated to multiple mantas lining up like cars on a freeway awaiting their turn to be groomed by wrasse and butterflyfish. — Mike Veitch


Hairball — Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

Hairball — Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

Hairball

Jonathan Bird

Hairball would be the weirdest site on Earth even if all of its strange denizens weren’t decked out in hairy costumes. Ordinarily, filamented ghost pipefish, Ambon scorpionfish, striated frogfish, cockatoo waspfish and seahorses would be the stuff of a photographer’s dream; but at Hairball 1, 2 and 3, these bizarre beings look as if they need a haircut. Nobody knows why the hirsute beasties gather there, or what odd turn of evolution caused them to grow hair — actually filamentous algae that grows on the substrate as well as the animals, enhancing their already awesome camouflage with the black sand — but one thing’s clear: You’ve never seen anything like it, and you might never again. — David Espinosa

Dive This Now: Indonesia – Aggressor


Barracuda Point — Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia

Barracuda Point — Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia

Barracuda Point

Ludovic Galko-Rundgren

The effort it requires to get to Sipadan — fly into Kuala Lumpur, board a puddle jumper to tiny Tawau, and taxi two hours to Semporna — pales in comparison to the underwater reward. Since Jacques Cousteau “discovered” the island in the ’70s, it’s made every diver’s wish list: On a single dive at signature site Barracuda Point, you’ll see turtles, eagle rays, octopuses, schooling whitetips and gray reef sharks. Be sure to watch the blue for the site’s eponymous barracuda, swirling nearby in the size and shape of a Kansas tornado. — Rebecca Strauss


Acropolis — Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

Acropolis — Queensland, Australia

Acropolis

Brandon Cole

It’s a thankless job choosing just one site from the world’s most famous reef; dives like Cod Hole, the Yongala and Pixie Pinnacles are all worthy of Top 10 consideration (much less Top 50). But you’ll never see anything else quite like the Great Barrier Reef’s Acropolis, a relatively shallow plateau so thick with hard corals that it’s tough to focus on anything else. If you can tear your attention away from the plate corals and antler corals competing for space, you’ll find a reef bursting with invertebrates and schooling fish. — David Espinosa
sportdiver.com/mike-ball


Blue Corner — Palau

Blue Corner — Palau

Blue Corner

Thomas Konig

Blue Corner deserves its bucket-list reputation for the rush of reef sharks careening toward you conveyor-belt style, but it’s not just sharks that’ll get your blood pumping. The dive starts with a drift along a coral wall, where you’ll see turtles, bumphead parrotfish and eagle rays. Once you reach the large corner, use your reef hook to tether to a rock, inflate your BC and bob like a balloon to soak in the spectacle. Sharks — mostly reefs and blacktips — soar like jetliners, coming closer with each pass as they get more comfortable with your presence; they’ll favor your blind spot. Clouds of red-tooth triggerfish just add to the whiplash-inducing spectacle — a spectacle that makes Blue Corner a Top 50, if not Top 5, site in the world. — Terry Ward
sportdiver.com/palau

Dive This Now: Sam's Tours


Blade, Southeast Sulawesi (Wakatobi), Indonesia

Wakatobi scuba diving blade

Blade

Courtesy of Wakatobi Dive Resort

Blade is unlike any seamount you've ever seen. This tall, thin ridge rises from unseen depths, and spaced along its crest are a series of coral-encrusted pinnacles that extend an additional 20 to 30 feet upward to give the entire formation the appearance of a serrated knife blade set on edge. A diver drifting above the teeth of Blade can actually see down both sides simultaneously. The individual teeth are riddled with undercuts and caverns that beg for exploration. This site is a favorite with photographers looking to create dramatic wide-angle images.

Dive This Now: Wakatobi Dive Resort


Emma Reef — Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

Emma Reef — Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

Emma Reef

Tobias Friedrich

The country of extreme geography and multifarious cultures also boasts some of the most biodiverse reefs on the planet. Of PNG’s myriad underwater hot spots, the epicenter is New Britain’s Kimbe Bay, known in equal measure for its open-ocean nomads and hard- to-find macro creatures camouflaged among the corals. At Emma Reef — the literal pinnacle of Kimbe diving — divers get the best of both worlds: Barracuda, jacks and sharks circle the undersea spire, but tear yourself away from the blue water to find a cornucopia of tiny critters, from ever-present clownfish to fingernail-size pygmy seahorses, and a rainbow of flamboyantly colored nudibranchs. — Travis Marshall

sportdiver.com/png


Otugi Pass — French Polynesia

Otugi Pass — French Polynesia

Otugi Pass

Simon Buxton

Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, To’au Atoll in French Polynesia has pristine hard-coral gardens on its seaward slopes, and its lagoon serves as a nursery for myriad reef fish. But it’s Otugi Pass, a thrill ride like a controlled car crash, that’s the real fun. The guide drops into the blue, leads his divers down to 80 feet, where curious gray reef sharks cruise in the mild currents. As the divers reach the mouth of the pass, large schools of gray reefs and some silvertips make passes. Once divers drift into the lagoon, there is a final surprise: A depression in the reef has created a low-current haven for hundreds of bigeye scad. By the time the divers surface, they have moved through a mile of South Pacific crystal-blue warm water in about 45 minutes. During an outgoing current, dive the fringing reef to the side or in the lagoon, and look for juvenile sharks and mantas. — Simon Buxton
sportdiver.com/tahiti


Liberty Wreck — Bali, Indonesia

Liberty Wreck — Bali, Indonesia

The Liberty can be reached from shore

Brandon Cole

One of the world’s best wrecks accessible from shore, the USAT Liberty was a casualty of Japanese torpedoes in World War II, left abandoned on Tulamben’s rocky beach, then pushed 100 feet offshore by lava from Mount Agung’s 1963 eruption. Snorkelers can glimpse the Liberty in just 10 feet of water, but you’ll be glad you’ve strapped on tanks to relish the deeper, wide-angle views of a wreck encrusted with sponges and corals, and macro treasures like ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorses and nudibranchs. — Terry Ward


Somosomo Strait — Fiji

Somosomo Strait — Fiji

Somosomo Strait

Carlos Villoch

In all your dive travels, you might never have seen anything that quite matches the proliferation of soft corals decorating the Somosomo Strait’s Rainbow Reef, a major reason Fiji has earned the title of Soft Coral Capital of the World. The best known and most celebrated site on the expansive reef is Great White Wall, a sheer dropoff covered in pinkish-white soft corals. To explore the wall, divers swim through a shallow cave on the reef decorated in orange, red and yellow soft corals, then exit the cave onto the face of the wall at 65 feet. Currents here run strong, and exploring the reef usually requires entering the water at the end of the tide when the current is mild, but the reward is a color extravaganza that’ll have you begging for more. — Gary Bell

Dive This Now: Fiji Aggressor


Secret Bay — Anilao, Philippines

Secret Bay — Anilao, Philippines

Secret Bay

Jeffrey de Guzman

Commonly referred to as Secret Bay, the Philippines’ most famous site is home to every imaginable macro subject, including wonderpus and mimic octopuses, flamboyant cuttlefish and mototi blue-ringed octopuses. There are also oddities like bobbit worms, painted frogfish, saw-blade shrimp and hyperactive skeleton shrimp. On occasion, this site — just two-and-a-half hours by car from Manila — really blows up with rare rhinopias, hairy frogfish and algae octopuses. In the end, it’s not a question of what you’re going to see, but rather, whether you have enough memory cards for a week, a day or even an hour of diving. — Jeff de Guzman


Humpback Whales — Tonga

Humpbacks — Tonga

Humpbacks

Julian Cohen

Snorkeling with a 50-foot whale and her 15-foot baby is one of the great experiences in life. Scuba is not allowed, but if you snorkel and float motionless on the surface, the whales are calmer, allowing for longer and more-interactive encounters. The whales come and go, yet they seem as curious about us as we are about them. Dolphins often appear, and if you’re really lucky, there’s a chance to see big pelagic animals such as marlin and sailfish (just not as big as the whales). It is the middle of the Pacific Ocean after all — you never know what might stop by. — Julian Cohen


San Francisco Maru — Truk Lagoon, Chuuk

San Francisco Maru — Chuuk

San Francisco Maru

Bonnie Pelnar

A trip to the legendary wrecks of Truk Lagoon is a build up in so many ways. And whether you’re on a live-aboard or at a land-based resort, you’ll work your way up to the lagoon’s most famous dive. Known as the Million Dollar Wreck for the value of Japanese cargo on board, the San Francisco Maru was sunk by six 500-pound U.S. bombs during Operation Hailstone in 1944. It rests upright in 210 feet of water, and you don’t even hit the deck until 165 feet. The ship was fully loaded with ordnance when it met its watery death; if bottom time allows, you’ll have some time to see the three armored tanks on the deck as well as some of the bombs and torpedoes in the utterly massive cargo holds. — Terry Ward


Hanifaru Bay — Baa, Maldives

Hanifaru Bay — Baa, Maldives

Hanifaru Bay

Lill Haugen

The world is full of great manta and whale-shark sites. But in the Maldives, one site is home to both. At Baa Atoll’s Hanifaru Bay, snorkelers can watch as hundreds of manta rays and a few dozen whale sharks gorge themselves on an overwhelming plankton smorgasbord. And while scuba diving is now strictly prohibited — testament to how overcrowded this bay has become — a few lucky snorkelers still have the opportunity to experience this movable feast. — LH

Dive This Now: Maldives Aggressor


President Coolidge — Vanuatu

President Coolidge — Vanuatu

President Coolidge

Lia Barrett

The SS President Coolidge is one of the most impressive, accessible and artifact-rich wrecks in the world. Did we mention it’s a shore dive too? Diving the Coolidge is like drifting through a ghostly, history-filled aftermath of war. At 654 feet long, and with depths ranging from 70 to 240 feet, there is a lot to explore: rooms filled with old Jeeps, rows of toilets and a medical-supply room. Guns, gas masks and old boots are strewn all over the ship. Navigating the array of personal effects and everyday, utilitarian objects abandoned in 90 minutes after the ship was grounded is a daunting journey through history, but one you’ll want make again and again. — Lia Barrett


Neptune Islands — South Australia

Neptune Islands — South Australia

Neptune Islands

Jason Isley/Scubazoo

If the chilly, 60-degree water doesn’t take your breath away, the sight of your first great white as you settle your feet into the stirrups of the cage certainly will. Year-round, you’re virtually guaranteed an encounter with one of the 12- to 14-foot sharks that regularly cruise the Neptune Islands — just a few hours southeast of Port Lincoln — because they’re a popular hangout for New Zealand fur seals, the sharks’ favorite food source. Sure, there are a handful of great spots in the world to dive with great whites; and while the visibility isn’t as clear as Mexico’s Guadalupe Island or the sharks as big as the titans off San Francisco Bay, we promise you’ll need to catch your breath, if only to follow a day underwater viewing the kings of the ocean with a night back on shore with your new Australian friends. — David Espinosa


Paradise 1 — Mabul, Borneo, Malaysia

Paradise 1 — Mabul, Borneo, Malaysia

Paradise 1

Jason Isley/Scubazoo

Sitting in the shadow of world-famous Sipadan, Mabul has built a reputation of its own as a world-class macro destination. There’s nothing but sand when you enter, but as you move deeper, the sand is covered by seagrass, and that’s where you find fingered dragonets, seahorses, filefish and flamboyant cuttlefish. There are also a number of concrete bases, which host giant frogfish, morays and crocodilefish. The highlight is visiting an old wreck on the sand, where you can sit back and watch the amazing mating dance of bigfin reef squid before they lay their eggs. — Jason Isley


Blue Maomao Arch — Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand

Blue Maomao Arch — Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand

Blue Maomao Arch

Berkley White

A lot of sites are compared to cathedrals. Blue Maomao Arch in New Zealand’s Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve fits that bill: The interior is illuminated from several directions, creating an ethereal ambience, the walls are covered in jeweled anemones that glow like stained glass, and it’s attended by faithful marine life, from thick schools of the signature blue maomao to white-spotted demoiselles, and a Technicolor parade of gem, clown and other nudibranchs.— Eric Michael


Farne Islands — England

Farne Islands — England

Farne Islands

Alex Mustard

The northeast coast of England is undoubtedly beautiful, with white-sand beaches and castles on every headland. Offshore are the Farne Islands, a cluster of low-lying islands that can be reached in 15 minutes from the town of Seahouses. Locals have given the Farnes the nickname Galapagos of the North, although you can never be totally sure what is being said in the thick Geordie accent. The diving is dominated by large tides, and not surprisingly, wrecks are plentiful, and swift-moving currents provide nutrients for orange and white soft corals, which plaster the walls below the squat kelp forest. The biggest draw is the colony of gray seals — about 6,000 strong. Inquisitive and playful, they turn a fine diving experience into an unforgettable one. — Alex Mustard


DS Frankenwald — Norway

DS Frankenwald — Norway

DS Frankenwald

Alex Mustard

A simple navigational error likely caused this German steamship to run straight into the island of Brattholmen in 1940. Though it’s a little off the beaten track, the Frankenwald is well worth seeking out. Almost entirely intact, it’s tucked into a narrow fjord, which provides enough shelter for it to be dived in most conditions. Visibility is usually excellent, although the depth and the latitude mean that it can be quite dark. Frankenwald sits in 130 feet of cold water, best suited for exploration over several dives and by experienced divers. — Alex Mustard


HMS Thistlegorm — Egypt, Red Sea

HMS Thistlegorm — Egypt, Red Sea

HMS Thistlegorm

Alex Mustard

A British Merchant Navy ship sunk in 1941, Thistlegorm is one of the most popular sites in the world, visited by hundreds of divers each day. Thistlegorm is most comfortably reached by liveaboard, but day trips run from Sharm El Sheikh. The wreck sits upright at 100 feet on the bottom, with the top at only 40 feet. The real attraction is the wreck’s cargo, which gives a fascinating glimpse of the machinery of war. There are trucks, Jeeps and motorbikes, two locomotives and equipment, including boxes of rifles and rubber boots. Currents can be strong, but inside the holds it’s completely sheltered. For many, Thistlegorm is a poignant dive, a reminder of lives lost during the war. — Alex Mustard

Dive This Now: Red Sea Aggressor


Capo d’Acqua — Italy

Capo d’Acqua — Italy

Capo d’Acqua

Alex Mustard

High in the mountains of the Abruzzo region of Italy is Capo d’Acqua, a small lake filled with clear spring water that covers fascinating medieval ruins. The buildings are extensive, and the dive covers an area that takes 45 minutes to explore. To protect this site, you can only dive with Atlantide, in nearby L’Aquila. Diving is usually followed by a huge Italian lunch, with plate after plate of delicious local specialties. — Alex Mustard


Sardine Run — South Africa

Sardine Run — South Africa

Sardine Run

Alexander Safonov

One of Earth’s great underwater migrations, the movable feast known as the Sardine Run isn’t an adventure for the faint of heart. It begins when your tender is launched from the shore in eight-foot waves, and continues as you pass pods of Bryde’s whales and dusky dolphins on their way to gorge on the millions of sardines that have formed massive baitballs that will migrate up the eastern coast of South Africa. The scene underwater is even wilder, as you dodge Cape gannets dive-bombing the Bacchanalian feast, picking out scraps of sardines left over from the pack-hunting dolphins and voracious sharks. It’s an adventure you’ll never forget. — David Espinosa
sportdiver.com/south-africa


Ras Mohammed — Egypt, Red Sea

Ras Mohammed — Egypt, Red Sea

Ras Mohammed

Alex Mustard

Giant stride into these waters on any site, and you’ll swear you’ve gone to dive heaven. At the tip of the Sinai peninsula — which divides Africa and Asia — is Ras Mohammed Marine Park. It is the meeting point of the Red Sea and its offshoots, the Aqaba and Suez gulfs. The reef is tantalizingly close to the surface and drops off precipitously into the blue thousands of feet. You don’t need a degree in marine biology to realize that this is the perfect recipe for a coral reef on steroids. The walls are covered in colorful soft corals and the reefs in clouds of bright-orange anthias. The fish found here hit every size on the marine-life scale, from tiny nudibranchs to giant Napoleon wrasse. And just when you think it cannot get any better, in the summer months, great schools of snapper, jacks, unicornfish and barracuda gather here. — Alex Mustard


Ready to plan a trip to one of the world's best dive sites?
The experts at Caradonna Dive Adventures can help you plan vacations!

Latest


More Stories


Videos