Scuba diving is the closest thing there is to flying… so they say.
You’re introduced to the most peaceful and serene environments imaginable. The quiet and stillness you find underwater feels like another world… the perfect escape from everyday life.
To be successful, you need to be capable of making your air supply last. Breathe slowly and stay calm.
This is a completely different way of experiencing the world. Countries that you may never have considered will become attractive destinations. You’ll gain a new understanding of the oceans and the life they contain. The lasting impression you get from a glimpse in this world makes your heart sink at the sight of a beer can or a plastic bag floating through this natural wonderland. You’re suddenly more aware of the importance of recycling and caring for the environment.
Long before Belize became a tourist destination, it was well known to scuba divers. Despite the basic infrastructure and lack of advertising, divers came from across the world.
For some, it was the Great Blue Hole that resonated with an irresistible frequency. Lying just over 40 miles from the coast of Belize and with a depth of 124 feet, it is unlike anything else in the world. There are many myths and legends about the Great Blue Hole. The ancient Maya believed the hole was a portal into the underworld.
Locals believed the hole was bottomless. There was talk of gigantic sea monsters big enough to take down boats.
Though these myths have been proven to be false, the Great Blue Hole has some interesting things to reveal. Parrotfish and reef sharks bask at the higher levels. At the bottom, 124 feet down, darkness takes over and you have only the light of your torch to explore the enormous stalactites that tower all around you.
Closer to the coast is the second largest barrier reef in the world, which an astonishing number of fish call home. The clear, calm waters are warm year-round. Cheap beers, fresh seafood, and sunshine also mean that time spent out of the water is equally pleasant.
Indonesia’s most popular island, Bali, comes with a lot of perks. It’s easy to get to, affordable, there’s a variety of accommodation, and there’s plenty to do when you’re out of the water. You will have plenty of diving tours and schools to choose from. Bali is great for beginners. There are lots of shallow dives where you can see barracudas, manta rays, garden eels, and many brightly colored fish.
Close to Bali is the island of Komodo. Komodo National Park, home to the famous Komodo Dragons, is protected parkland. This extra protection has allowed fish to flourish. The waters are teeming with small fish that dart in and out of the colored coral.
Cenderawasih Bay is a tiny island off the coast of West Papua. Local fishermen use floating pontoons to fish and catch the abundant baitfish. Waiting patiently to feast on the baitfish are whale sharks. Fishermen started feeding the whale sharks to keep them from getting tangled up in the nets. This is a fairly new diving location, which has remained quiet and authentic. You’re nearly guaranteed to the opportunity of swimming with the magnificent whale shark.
This is one of the most popular places to obtain a scuba diving certificate. It’s not surprising considering the country has great beaches and great underwater biodiversity. Thailand has over 150 square kms of coral reef thriving under government protection. They are now free from the dangers of overfishing and marine pollution.
This country also has some interesting wreck diving. Sunken boats now provide shelter to an array of aquatic life. It’s also affordable and easily accessible. Thailand provides year-round diving opportunities. The best time to visit the Andaman Sea is from October to April, and the Gulf of Thailand peaks from May to September.
Malaysia is a popular ecotourism destination and scuba diving forms a big part of this. The best months are from April to August but you can go diving almost year-round. The only months you should avoid are October and November, the rainy season. The two main diving areas are the Peninsular Malaysia and the Malaysian Borneo.
The Borneo region is home to some of the jewels in Malaysia’s crown, Sipadan Island and Mabul Island. Plan and book a couple of weeks in advance to go diving at Sipadan. It requires a permit, and only 120 are given out each day. You can expect to see mammoth schools of barracuda at the aptly named Barracuda point. An array of different sharks and sea turtles live alongside scores of tropical fish. You might even spot hammerhead sharks or manta rays.
Macro divers prefer Mabul Island. Crustaceans, small fish, and octopi dominate here.
On the Peninsular, Tioman Island stands out. The diving is solid, the beaches are pristine, and the island itself is a nice place to spend some time. There are also good choices for accommodation. Have fun snorkeling or paddle boarding whenever you’re not diving.
Regular readers will know that the media has a tendency to exaggerate overseas dangers, and Egypt is no different. Rest assured, you can have a safe visit.
Egypt was one of the first established scuba diving destinations and has a legendary status amongst divers. The Red Sea is blessed with a rich history—home to a number of wrecks thanks to various wars—and an even richer marine life. You can also enjoy warm (for most of the year), clear waters.
Dahab has a relaxed, hippie vibe making it popular with backpackers. There are bars, restaurants, and affordable accommodation, plus diving here is suitable for all levels.
The best time to visit is between April and November, ideally during September and October. The water gets very deep, very quickly, allowing you to see masses of fish around the colorful reef.
While most scuba divers prefer the Red Sea, it’s worth remembering that the north, Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, offers unique dives. In Alexandria, divers have the chance to interact with Egypt’s ancient past. Here you’ll find sunken remains of Cleopatra’s palace and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. This is definitely a dive for history buffs.
Go scuba diving in a flooded maze of tunnels under the Yucatan jungle, an experience unlike any other in the world. Fun fact: The asteroid believed to have wiped out dinosaurs created these tunnels. Today, the flooded sinkholes form a vast network of chambers and caves, perfect for diving.
The Maya believed that the underground caves, known as cenotes, were the home of the rain god. Seeking favor, they would leave human sacrifices, jewelry, and pottery. Bare in mind, it’s in your best interest to avoid this dive if you’re claustrophobic.
Approximately 150 miles off the coast of Baja California, Isla Guadalupe (a small island) is one of the best places to dive with great white sharks. It used to be popular with hunters looking for seal fur, and also great white sharks looking for a meal. Cage diving with these huge beasts is now one of the islands main attractions. The best time to visit is between July and November.
Another shark themed dive is available at Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan Peninsula. Here, you have a chance to dive with bull sharks. These powerful beasts migrate through the region between November and March. While generally placid, this is not for inexperienced divers.
The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador are volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean. For the curious souls out there, Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution after observing the unique creatures he found here. The Darwin (named after him) and the Wolf Islands are where most of the diving infrastructure is based today.
Scuba diving in the Galapagos is something you can enjoy year-round. From June to November, the air and water temperatures are cooler and sea conditions are rougher. However, the amount of nutrients flowing in the cold-water currents attracts the most marine life this time of year. Water is warmer and visibility improves from December to May.
The Galapagos Islands have an unrivalled array of larger marine life. Whale sharks, Galapagos sharks, schools of hammerheads, sea lions, and fur seals are just some of the species you can expect to see. You might even be lucky enough to have an encounter with an orca pod or even the elusive ocean sunfish.
The Galapagos is not for novices. The currents are strong and water temperatures can drop. Conditions change quickly here, and the sea can go from calm to stormy in a matter of minutes. That said, you can take beginner classes on some of the more sheltered parts of the islands. However, there are definitely better places to take your first dives.
Costa Rica is famous for its biodiversity. Thanks to its nutrient-rich waters, its oceans are a haven for wildlife as well. Costa Rica is an eco-tourist paradise. People come from all over the globe to witness the different species that call this country home. You can dive on both the Pacific and Caribbean coast, as well as go island diving.
If you don’t mind a two-day boat trip, Cocos Island offers a truly magical diving experience. This is a live-aboard trip; nobody is allowed to go onto the island. Here, you can expect to see hammerhead and whale sharks, marble rays and manta rays. There are also huge schools of wahoos and tuna if you arrive at the right time of year. Important: This dive is for experienced divers only.
Cahuita National Park is on the Caribbean Coast, and one of the few parts of Costa Rica that has a coral reef. The Caribbean gets much more rain than the Pacific, so try and visit during the dry season between December and April.
If you prefer to visit Costa Rica during the rainy season, you can experience some great diving on the Pacific Coast. During this time of year, you can find different species of fish, sharks, and even humpback whales. To see bigger creatures, you will need to be a competent diver. However, there are plenty of places suitable for beginners as well.