There are a few places in the world that hold great coveted treasures; where you can see forever in crystal clear waters and colourful fish dance around giant ancient living sculptures. People glide through the water sipping on tanks of air, flitting through underwater wonderlands that they must see before they are gone forever due to climate change. Below you’ll find the five best dive sites in the world (in our humble opinion) – although we always love to hear your opinions if you disagree…
Magnetic Island and the SS Yongala Wreck, Australia
Magnetic Island isn’t actually magnetic, but the reefs here sure seem to be with the swarms of divers it attracts every year. The island sits five miles of the coast of Townsville, in Queensland, Australia. The visibility is great and water temperature ranges from 23-28C year-round, so you never need much more than a shortie wetsuit. The island offers sandy, sloping, sheltered beaches and a couple diving outlets that will take you out via dinghy. From the island you can dive the world-famous SS Yongala wreck. This 110m long steamer sunk in 1911 during a cyclone and was only rediscovered in 1958. The sea floor is only 30m deep and the top sections of the wreck 16m below the surface, both of which are easy depths for most divers.
Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
Bonaire is the “B” in the Netherlands Antilles “ABC Islands”, and is best known as “Diver’s Paradise”. It is legendary for its shore dives. The west side of the island is sheltered from the winds and storms that have left it with some of the easiest to access reefs in the world. There are large yellow rocks with black lettering that mark different dive spots from the road. Just pull off, park, grab your tank and fins, and walk right in. Bonaire is renowned for its pioneering role in the preservation of nature, particularly its marine environments. What’s more, there’s more than just reefs to enjoy: you can kayak the mangroves, or bike from the green and lush north end of the island to the dry and desert-like south end.
Advertised as the clearest water on earth, Silfra is the fissure between two continental plates and the only place in the world where you can dive between such plates. It sits at the bottom of Thingvellir Lake in Iceland and has incredible visibility of over 100 metres. The reasons for this amazing clarity are that the waters are from the Langjökull glacier (the water is 2-4C year round, brrrr) and the water is constantly filtered through porous underground lava (you can even stop for a drink mid-dive). The marine life mostly consists of bright green “troll hair” and different types of algae that provide a color scape unlike anything that occurs above the surface. Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site both for its cultural and historical significance as well as natural and geological uniqueness.
Palawan, The Philippines
The Philippines offers some of the most famous sites in the world for whale shark encounters. Guides keep an eye out for skipjack tuna swimming together in one direction, suggesting that a whale shark is behind them. Dive boats scout out the majestic creatures and hustle clients into the water with a snorkel and mask to take in the spectacle. You can also hire a local fisherman on their traditional outrigger “Bangka” boats to spot the whale sharks with you. If you don’t see whale sharks – it isn’t a certainty that you will – you’ll still find that the pristine water is home to loads of other marine species to keep you amazed, including
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Belize, which boasts the second largest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef, offers stupendous diving. The famous “Great Blue Hole”, over 300m across and 124m deep, lies 70km off the mainland, but for true spectacular marine life head to Ambergris Caye. There you will find the water teeming with rays and hammerheads, as well as loads of other different marine creatures. There are loads of different tour companies offering expeditions to Ambergris Cave, so finding a way to get there shouldn’t be too tough. There is also great diving to be found elsewhere in Central America, such as in Honduras and the west coast of Costa Rica.
Make sure you check out Mission Blue to find out what you can do to help preserve these world’s best dive sites for generations to come.