In a world full of great dive sites, drawing up a definitive list is hard, but certain basic conditions will guarantee a great dive site. This recent survey provides a handy list supported by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI):
Coming in at number 10, Cozumel Island, Mexico. Although located disastrously close to Cancun, Cozumel is relatively untouched. The island’s best dive spots include a 40-seater plane that was destroyed in 1977 as part of a disaster movie. The world’s fifth largest underwater cave was also discovered here in the early 90s.
Number nine is Turks and Caicos, two groups of tropical islands which have a swashbuckling pirate heritage. Although in recent times a hiding spot for the rich and famous, the islands still provide many spots to enjoy, including a vertical wall dive off Grand Turk and schools of whales in Salt Cay.
Belize comes in at number eight. This tiny nation is home to sites such as Shark Ray Alley, where divers mingle with sharks and stingrays, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which features shallow reefs, and the renowned Blue Hole. This last site was made famous by Jacques Cousteau who declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world, and divers still agree with him. The Hole’s eponymous deep crystal waters are home to a number of types of sharks as well as other fauna.
The Maldives, at number seven, are a great spot to stop whether you’re a beginner or more experienced, with shallow lagoons or deeper channels with faster currents. The wreck of the Maldives Victory also provides some fun for wreck divers, and Shark Point is a must-see for thrill-seekers (for obvious reasons).
For those looking for abundant wildlife in more accessible areas, Cocos Island in Costa Rica has the reputation of being one of the best big animal dive destinations. The island has often been ranked highly by PADI members and comes in at 6 in the survey. (Big animal seekers: if you can’t make it there, the waters around Bali, Indonesia, are also renowned for big animal sightings.)
At number five is the Red Sea. This is a popular site for divers all over and in the Sudan side features the wreck of the Umbria, one of the world’s most photogenic wrecks.
Number four, Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, was a nuclear-testing site in the 1950s. Today, it is home to myriad marine wildlife that enjoy the habitats provided by the sunken warships there. Outside visitors were only allowed in to this site in 1996 and divers can still gratify their explorer instincts while swimming in the Atoll’s waters.
Little Cayman in the British West Indies is the place for some old-school Caribbean diving, including Jackson’s Blight, a sheer coral cliff that drops over a mile deep. Little Cayman is number three of the list.
Bonaire, ranked number two on a former PADI list, is a cover-all-fronts site. The island has scenery, colourful reefs and plenty of shallow diving.
Finally, the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, remains the premier site for great diving – and any visitor will soon see why. Although it is probably the most famous dive site in the world, the ongoing preservation efforts ensure that there is still plenty to see on the Reef, and divers can experience the thrill of diving on a reef visible from space.
Divers will have the best experience when exploring the spectrum of diving conditions, but quick consultation with this list will ensure you dive in the best mix!