There are plenty of incredible places and cities to discover all around the world. But the life that lies underneath the sea is just as fascinating, and the best way to get up-close-and-personal with the many wonderful creatures of the ocean, is through scuba diving. Diving courses are run all over the world, and it’s about so much more than just looking at fish. You could swim with sharks, explore an ancient shipwreck, or gaze in wonder at perfect cave formations many metres below. The possibilities are endless with scuba diving, and here are just a few of the best sites in the world to help you take the plunge.
SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea – Egypt
Wreck diving is a great way to mix things up a bit on your undersea adventure and there are plenty of fascinating submerged shipwrecks just perfect for dive exploration. The SS Thistlegorm, deep in Egypt’s Red Sea, is one of the most popular in the world. Diving the SS Thistlegorm is also somewhat of an emotional experience, as it is the remains of a ship sunk by bomber planes in 1941 during the Second World War. Once you take the plunge underwater and descend to the SS Thistlegorm, it’s almost as if time stood still – with artefacts such as motorbikes, weapons, trucks and general cargo, sitting untouched and undisturbed for more than 60 years deep below the surface of the ocean.
Gansbaai – South Africa
For those after an extreme adventure, cage diving alongside the fearsome great white shark offers an unforgettable experience. To get really up close and personal with a Great White, head to the waters off the village of Gansbaaai in South Africa, known also as ‘Shark Alley’. Climbing into the cage amidst the shark-infested waters is not something for the faint-hearted. Sharks are very curious creatures and will almost certainly approach the cage, especially at feeding time! You may even feel the odd brush of fin and tail through the bars of the cage, but don’t worry – the great whites never attack the cage. Shark diving works on a rotational system, with a series of short dives of about 15 minutes, allowing for plenty of opportunities for a unique underwater encounter.
Great Blue Hole – Belize
Diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize offers a deep sea experience that is completely unlike any other. A limestone sinkhole forming a near-perfect circle more than 300m across and 123m deep, Great Blue Hole is thought to be the largest sea hole on Earth. The Hole was first made famous as a dive sight by marine conservationist and pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau when he named it as one of the ten best dive sites in the world back in the 1970s. The Great Blue Hole is so revered amongst the diving community that some liken it to an almost religious experience. This dive is definitely not for beginners, with sudden drop-offs, deeper-than-deep waters and the need for absolute buoyancy control. But with crystal-clear cave-like scenes in the water below, populated by schools of angelfish, neon gobies and butterfly fish, alongside an abundance of shrimp, the Great Blue Hole is something to aspire towards for those just learning to dive, and a rite of passage for the more experienced adventurers.
Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island – Malaysia
If you’re keen to see fish, fish and more fish on your dive – and really, the undersea life is what it’s all about – then the famous Barracuda Point, off Sipadan Island in Malaysia, is the place for you. Once you take the plunge into the deep waters below, it’s not hard to see why Barracuda Point is named so, as huge schools of the fish (sometimes numbering well into the thousands) whizz through the water. Sometimes, their combined shadow even temporarily blocks the light from the sun, making for a somewhat eerie experience. As well as all the barracuda you can handle, you may also be lucky enough to encounter the distinctive-looking hammerhead shark, as well as an abundance of other marine life, such as turtles and a vibrant coloured tropical coral garden.
Great Barrier Reef, Cairns – Australia
The tropical North Queensland city of Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, and a breathtaking diving experience. There are many amazing sites to explore on the Great Barrier Reef, and one of the best is Osprey Reef’s North Horn dive site. Here, you’ll have a chance of spotting just about every wonderful creature that calls the sea home, including the rare Tiger Shark and dugong. Osprey Reef is probably most famous for its numerous species of sharks, including the Silvertip, Grey shark and Whitetip reef shark, and you’re virtually guaranteed to see at least a few swimming by. Huge fish also roam the waters around North Horn, including the imposing Dogtooth Tuna and Giant Trevallies. You may also spot the rare, majestic Eagle Rays and Manta Rays near the bottom of the ocean floor – be sure to keep your eyes peeled, as these creatures are camouflage experts! Enhancing the amazing experience even further, the visibility around Osprey Reef is suburb, often extending beyond 40 metres.
Bonaire is a small island located in the waters of the Caribbean, but is actually a special municipality of the Netherlands, reflected in the quirky and colourful Dutch architecture on land. Below land, the scenery is even more amazing, with the reef coming alive just metres from the shore. To make this island even more diver-friendly, each of the sites around the island is marked by yellow stones – all you need to do is jump in and take the plunge! Bonaire is also a great destination for those who are after a little luxury on their diving adventure – many great spots are accessible from the docks of the island’s resorts. Bonaire was the winner of Scuba Diving Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for best dive site in the entire world. Tens of thousands of passionate underwater explorers can’t be wrong, so be sure to add Bonaire to the diving bucket list.
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