assembled an expert panel of underwater adventurers to identify the 10 best scuba spots in the world.
The nature of the dive site's waters are what the panel took into consideration when choosing the top 10. While accommodations are important, for the serious diver, where you spend your time on land is hardly a factor in picking a site. There are certain base conditions that will guarantee a great dive site. “Vertical walls in deep, pollution-free water give divers face-to-face encounters with pelagic species … upwelling off points adds a rich food supply so these are where you will find [thriving marine life],” explains Jack Jackson, underwater photographer and author of dozens of books on diving.Blue Corner, Palau, Micronesia
For more information: Micronesia
With very little marine life, the Blue Hole is more a geological trip than a visit to the zoo. An unbelievable sight from the air, the almost perfectly circular Blue Hole was created by what was a dry cave system in the Ice Age. At 110 feet below sea level, the caves have stalactite formations where reef and hammerhead sharks lurk in the shadows. The water stands perfectly still and one can stare up through the passage to the sky above. "It's so distinctive a feature. It's very striking," says Morrisey. May and June are the best months to spot sharks circling the hole.
For more information: Belize
Coron Island is a wreck diver's playground, with Japanese WWII ship wrecks scattering the area. "The future for divers here is immense," says Jackson. Swim from bow to stern exploring the corals growing from the rotted wood, and the colorful schools of fish that have made their homes in the crow's nest. For the superstitious who would rather steer clear of sunken vessels, investigate the shallow coral gardens and underwater caverns nearby. Philippines' diving is great for all levels, with fabulous snorkeling for the less adventurous. April and May have the best dive weather.
For more information: Philippines
Despite its stunning beaches, Bonaire, 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela, is best known for spectacular shore diving, and is ranked #2 on the PADI network of top 10 travel destinations. "You can basically gear up and walk on the beach into the water," explains Lucey. The beauty of Bonaire dives is the comfort and accessibility found with developed dive sites. Bonaire offers good diving year-round, and is one of the only dive locations that you can dive 24 hours a day.
For more information: Bonaire
For some of the most untouched scuba diving, head to the mystifying waters of the Red Sea. "The political problems all over Sudan make it difficult to get to, but also protects the diving from crowds," says Jackson. Sudan's diving requires live-aboard boats with little else to do on the boat. Spend your free time day dreaming about likely sightings of angelfish, butterfly fish, stingrays, manta rays, wrasse and other creatures flitting amongst the reefs. At 85 feet you will likely encounter Tip Reef, Silvertip, Silky and Scalloped Hammerhead sharks. Be sure to book from May to September when the weather is best.
For more information: Tony Backhurst Scuba
Cocos Island, Costa Rica
While Cocos Island, located 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, offers live-aboard diving only, you'll find the animals you come in contact with are worth the boat bobbing. Surround yourself with hundreds of Hammerhead sharks, swim with dolphins, tuna, the gigantic marble rays, even whale sharks. "This is a must do dive destination," says Christopher. Cocos Island is ranked as the #6 best dive site by the PADI network. Plan your trip to the island from May to October for the best conditions.
For more information: Cocos Island
Coral Sea, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Old Faithful for divers, the Great Barrier Reef has aged gracefully as an underwater destination. "Suitable for all levels of diver, the Great Barrier Reef can be dived all year round," says Jackson. PADI network has ranked the Reef as #10 of their 10 best diving spots. Calmest in October, Jackson finds the Coral Sea to be the best place for diving in the Reef. Sea snakes and sharks are common sightings, and there the mythical visibility of close to 200 feet is what keeps bringing divers back.
For more information: Great Barrier Reef
Bali is the easiest part of Indonesia to travel, and its reef diving is a world-class experience. Located ideally between the Indian and Pacific oceans, a faultless current allows leisurely exploration of the diverse landscapes of pinnacles, coral gardens and black volcanic sands, perfect for the underwater photographer. These are also supreme waters for those more interested in the creatures of the sea. "These nutrient-rich waters support a cornucopia of bio-diversity," says Christopher. "Rare, unusual species can also be found by the lucky diver." The best time for diving Bali is September and October.
For more information: Aquamarine Diving BaliDinah's Beach and Observation Point, Papua New Guinea
Dinah's Beach is an ideal spot for "muck" diving. With a lower visibility, divers are forced to get very close to what they are looking at, giving a new perspective of underwater surroundings. "This type of diving results in finding unusual creatures," explains Jackson. Jackson mentions sightings of Harlequin, Ghost Pipefish, Spiny Devilfish, Cockatoo Wasp fish and Merlet's Scorpion fish. While most dive sites in Papua New Guinea are live-aboard, there is the opportunity to venture onto land for hikes or exposure to the different native inhabitants. The weather is best for diving in Papua New Guinea from mid-October through June.
For more information: Ocean First Divers Papua New Guinea