Being a PADI diver is all about seeking adventure, diving into diverse and unique environments and exploring the beautiful underwater world that lies beneath the ocean. With this spirit in mind we have put together a list of ‘must do’ scuba dive locations around the world.
So pack your scuba gear and get your passport ready. Here is our ‘Scuba Diving Bucket List’….
Sipadan, Malaysia – ‘An Untouched Piece of Art’
What better place to start off with than an area that commonly makes top dive site lists around the world and was described by none other than Jacques Costeau as ‘an untouched piece of art’!
Sipadan is Malaysia’s only oceanic Island and has become famous for its wall diving as just 20 metres from shore the wall descends down to 2,000 metres. The area is a fully protected conservation zone which even has its own underwater police and UNESCO is currently working to list it as a world heritage site.
The island is surrounded by world class dive sites with the most famous being Turtle cave, South point and Barracuda Point. Once underwater you can frequently see Green and Hawksbill turtles which mate and nest there, huge schools of Barrucudas swimming tornado formations, big groups of bumphead parrotfish and the huge unique Napolean Wrasse.
Diving Sipadan gives you the chance to share water with the big pelagics such as scalloped hammerheads, Whale Sharks and Manta Rays. Diving here can also tick off many of your ‘must see’ marine animals.
Sardine Run, South Africa – ‘The Run’
Experiencing the exhilarating sardine run off the coast of South Africa is another scuba diving ‘must do’! The ‘run’ is explained by a natural phenomenon which is caused by currents and weather create the greatest shoal of fish on Earth.
The event occurring between the months of June and July sees billions of Sardines spawn in the cool waters (21oc) of Aghulhas Bank. The currents of cooler water allow the Sardines to migrate further North than usual along the East coast of South Africa.
Because the sardines cannot stray outside of these cold water corridors they make easy pickings for predators above and below the water. Predators create ‘bait balls’ were the shoal is attacked by birds from above and predators such as dolphins, sharks and whales from below.
This is what makes the diving so exciting as you get to see these big pelagics such as bronze whaler and oceanic black tip sharks as well as huge Brydes Whales feeding in a massive frenzy of action.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – ‘The inspiration behind the theory of evolution’
The tiny cluster of 20 islands are located off the West of Ecuador and are preserved as a national park and Marine reserve. These Islands are best known for the visit of Charles Darwin in 1835 where he discovered the thesis of natural selection and evolution. Joining a Liveaboard trip gives you opportunity to visit one of the most pristine areas for diving on the planet.
Typically, this area is better suited to Advanced Open Water divers and especially those who are Deep specialists. As the area is situated in an intersection of many ocean currents you are sure to come across an abundance of marine life.
You will get the chance to encounter some of the 28 species of shark that inhabit these waters as well as Rays such as Eagle Ray, Manta Ray and schools of Mobula Rays. You may even see marine Iguanas, dolphins and sea lion at play underwater.
Silfra Ravine, Iceland – ‘Where Continents Meet’
Diving the Silfra Ravine gives you the amazingly unique chance to cross continents and touch 2 tectonic plates while underwater. Silfra is the ravine between the Eurasian and American continental plates, these plates are actually slowly drifting apart by 2cm every year. The water is at a constant chilled temperature between 2-4 degrees Celsius meaning that you will have to wear a dry suit for this dive.
The water you are diving in is so fresh you can actually take out your regulator and drink it! The visibility is endless, at least 70-80 meters and although there is not an abundance of fish in the ravine but the different types of algae that have formed set a scene unlike anything that you would see on land.
S.S Thistlegorm – Egypt
Named by ‘The Times’ as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world, the Thistlegorm has lay at the bottom of the Red Sea since 1941 when she was sunk by a German air raid. The ship had been carrying supplies for the British Army. The ship is said to have been discovered by scuba diving legend Jacques Cousteau who used information from local fisherman to locate the wreck.
The Thistlegorm is quite a large wreck with the ship being 128 Meters long and 18 meters wide, with a depth range of 25-40 metres meaning you should consider diving Enriched Air Nitrox to give you enough time to explore. Being a Wreck specialist diver is recommended so you are able to search the hold of the ship. Here you can see motorbikes, trucks, guns and even a locomotive train.
The Thistlegorm gives you a great opportunity to dive back in time and is truly one of the world’s great shipwrecks. Around the wreck is plenty of marine life including Tuna, Lionfish, Stonefish, Barracudas and turtles.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia – One of the ‘7 Natural Wonders of the World’
A World Heritage Site, no diving bucket list would be complete without the world’s largest coral reef and the only living structure that can be seen from space. Located off Cairns, Queensland the reef stretches over 2000km from Lizard Island in the North to Great Palm Island in the South. The Reef is home amazing levels of biodiversity with over 400 species of hard and soft corals as well as 1,500 species of fish.
Even though the Reef is one of the world’s most popular dive destinations, due to the sheer number of dive sites you don’t have to worry about the dive sites being full of divers. The reef allows divers of all levels to experience its varied marine life.
One of the highlights of the reef is it is the breeding grounds of 6 different types of Turtle. This is due to the varieties of seagrass on offer for feeding. Also the waters entertain many different species of Whales, dolphins, sharks and dugongs.
Koh Tao, Thailand – ‘Turtle Island’, Where the world learns to dive!
OK, so I’ll admit I’m a little biased on this final choice – well it would actually be your first choice – but where better to ‘get your PADI‘ and earn your Open Water cert than Koh Tao, where the world learns to dive? I can’t think of a better destination for you to start these amazing scuba diving adventures than diving Koh Tao.
Koh Tao is situated in the Gulf of Thailand Sea and is known as the ‘mecca of diving’, with the whole island living and breathing scuba. In fact, more people come here to get certified than anywhere else in the world. This is due to some great diving, stunning surroundings, both above and below the surface, and idyllic island vibe and the cost effectiveness of the courses.
The Island is home to over 20 dive sites offering a wide variety of dives from nice shallow bays, where you will blow your first bubbles underwater, to places like Sail Rock for the more advanced diver.
Author: Neil Davidson (PADI MSDT #294100)