In recent weeks we’ve spent a lot of time up hills and climbing mountains. In this post we come back down to earth…and beyond, plunging the depths to uncover the world’s best diving spots. It is easier than ever to unleash your inner Jacques Cousteau and we highly recommend donning a wetsuit and taking the plunge!
The territory of the Maldives is 99 percent water, with what little land there is spread across 1,192 islets, comprising 26 atolls. Geographically blessed the climate here is tropical, giving rise to some of the world’s best conditions for scuba diving.
The most popular area is North Male Atoll, which includes at least 20 resort islands. It is also home to Banana Reef, the Maldives first dive sit. The dive has interesting characteristics including prolific and colourful coral formations and several overhangs. There are also an abundance of colourful fish, including species like the bannerfish and oriental sweetlips. North Male Atoll is also home to Kuda Haa, a dramatic pinnacle that is home to diverse and plentiful marine life.
Although less developed South Ari Atoll is well worth visiting, especially for Hukrueli Faru, a colourful coral reef formation that is famous for its great volume of manta rays. With depths ranging from 25 to 100 feet this is an extremely flexible dive site and one that will surprise and delight even veteran explorers of the deep.
Short flight times and an abundance of luxurious resorts and hotels have made Sharm el Sheikh a favourite destination for Europeans seeking sun, sea and sand. It also features superlative diving opportunities, with over 76 recognised dive sites, which cater for everything from leisurely snorkelling to deep exploration.
Giftun Island is a particularly popular site. This marine reserve is characterised by its steep drop offs, rich coral reefs and an abundance of tune and barracuda. The protection that comes with marine reserve status is evident from the abundance of life visitors can witness and for those who prefer to stay on dry land there are several world class beaches and a number of excellent restaurants.
Just 12 miles south of Sharm el Sheik, on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, is Ras Mohamed National Park: the first of its kind in Egypt. Here the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba meet with Gulf of Suez, creating a unique mix, which has led to a myriad of coral reefs and the aquatic life they attract. Shark Reef and Yolanda Reef are perhaps Egypt’s most prized dive sites and are home to remarkable species including hammerhead sharks, giant moray eel and sting rays. Truly remarkable.
Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts each offer some great diving sites, but for our money the northern Pacific shore is your best bet, especially as it is home to the Santa Rosa National Park, the nation’s largest.
Santa Rosa is famous for its surfing and efforts have been made to ensure that marine life is given as much protection as possible. It is, for example, not permitted to fish in and around the park meaning it is teaming with life. Nowhere is this clearer than in the waters surrounding Bat Island, one of the world’s best spots to find bull sharks. It is not uncommon to see groups of three or even four sharks circling together, particularly during Costa Rica’s ‘green season’ between May and December.
Bull sharks are not the only attraction. The waters around Santa Rosa are also home to eagle, golden and devil rays and schools of tropical fish of all sizes. The ‘Black Rock’ is a local hot-spot and one of the best places to take in the Pacific’s aquatic diversity.
Paula, or the Republic of Palau, is an island country located in the western pacific, and home to 21,000 people spread over 250 islands. It is very much a hidden gem for divers with far less infrastructure than the other options above. This sense of adventure and of taking a leap into the unknown is, however, all part of Palau’s charm.
Most activity is centred on the Rock Islands, some 200+ jungle-topped husks of limestone that dot the waters south of Koror. Their bases, worn by erosion, are now narrower than their tops, giving the appearance of giant emerald mushrooms rising from the sea. A World Heritage site since 2012, the Rock Islands are home to popular spots like Blue Corner, German Channel and Jellyfish Lake: home to an abundance of stingless jellyfish not found anywhere else. Equally popular is Dolphin Bay, an eco friendly resort, which, as the name suggests, is a sanctuary for dolphins.
With three converging ocean currents, Palau has some of the most varied marine life in the world. It is also blessed with a rich diversity of plant and bird life and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Our advice: visit before it becomes too popular!
A little known fact, but Belize is home to the world’s second largest reef, 185 miles of meandering beauty. This isn’t just a handy pub quiz titbit, but also means that this small Central American country is home to fantastic diving conditions. The water is remarkably clear and teeming with life, including highly-endangered sea turtles.
The most popular site is undoubtedly the Ambergris Caye, home to the famed Blue Hole, part of the Lighthouse Reef System. Located some 60 miles from Belize City it is an almost perfect circular sinkhole measuring more than 300 feet across and over 400 feet deep. It is home to everything from hard corals and shellfish to a preponderance of stingrays and even whale sharks.