An underwater escape: World-class scuba diving destinations

In Adventure, Travel Inspiration, Water by KerrynLeave a Comment

A sailfin tang in the Egyptian Red Sea - one of the world's best diving destinations (Photo: Taras Kalapun)

A sailfin tang in the Egyptian Red Sea – one of the world’s best diving destinations (Photo: Taras Kalapun)

From the crystal clear waters of Thailand and the Pacific Islands, to the cold waters of Sweden, the world is full of spectacular scuba diving spots. If you’re looking for a great adventure holiday why not explore some of the world’s colourful coral reefs or rusty old shipwrecks that lie in watery graves? I’ve compiled a list of world-class scuba diving destinations, where there are also plenty of things to do when you’re not exploring the underwater world. Let us know where your favourite diving destinations are in the comments below.

Red Sea, Egypt

A beautiful reef wall at Elphinstone Reef in the Red Sea (Photo: Derek Keats)

A beautiful reef wall at Elphinstone Reef in the Red Sea (Photo: Derek Keats)

Whether you’re a beginner diver or an expert, scuba diving in the crystal clear waters of Egypt’s Red Sea Coast is an amazing experience. Thanks to the warm water, excellent visibility and affordability, the Red Sea is recognized as one of the world’s top diving destinations. In certain spots along the Red Sea Coast the visibility exceeds 150 feet. Not only is there a wonderful assortment of big fish and impressive macro, there are also some great WWII wrecks to explore, like the SS Thistlegorm. Popular scuba diving centres are Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab, Hurghada and Marsa Alam. From these hubs you can take boats to popular diving spots like El Minya, The Blue Hole, Ras Mohammed National Park and Gordon Reef.

When to go: Although the warm water makes the Red Sea a popular dive destination throughout the year, winter is the ideal time to come as the air temperature is cooler than the scorching summers.

When you’re on dry land: You can’t come all the way to Egypt and not take time out from diving to visit Cairo, where you can see the pyramids at Giza and amazing artefacts at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. If you have a few days to spare you can join a Nile cruise and visit the temples at Aswan and Luxor.

Turks and Caicos

You're sure to bump into a few turtles when you're diving in Turks and Caicos (Photo: Alain Feulvarch)

You’re sure to bump into a few turtles when you’re diving in Turks and Caicos (Photo: Alain Feulvarch)

Turks and Caicos Islands are made up of a collection of over 40 islands and cays about 40 miles south of the Bahamas. These Caribbean islands are surrounded by one of the world’s most impressive coral reefs which is home to an amazingly colourful collection of marine life, from reef sharks, spotted eagle rays and hawksbill turtles to eels, horse-eyed jacks and parrot fish. There are not just beautiful reefs to explore – there are also interesting caverns and a British warship wreck at Salt Cay. The most popular diving spots are North West Point, off the island of Provo, West Caicos, Grace Bay, Salt Cay and Columbus National Marine Park.

When to go: Scuba diving is popular throughout the year, but if you want to see humpback whales you should visit Turks and Caicos any time from January to March.

When you’re on dry land: Find time during your holiday to visit the Turks and Caicos National Museum on Grand Turk, soak up the sun on Grace Bay Beach or learn about the life on conch at the fascinating Caicos Conch Farm on Provo.

Malta

Diving at The Blue Hole in Malta (Photo: Martin Lopatka)

Diving at The Blue Hole in Malta (Photo: Martin Lopatka)

The azure blue waters of the Mediterranean that surround Malta hold an abundance of caves, reefs and shipwrecks, making the three islands a popular scuba diving destination. From beginners to experts there are dive sites to suit every level of experience. Popular dive sites include Attard, Bugibb, Santa Maria caves, the Blue Hole and Cirkewwa. There are numerous wrecks for advanced divers to explore, including MV Karwela, Imperial Eagle wreck, X127 Lighter, HMS Maori, Bristol Blenheim Bomber, Rozi Wreck and the MV Xlendi.

When to go: The great Mediterranean weather makes Malta a year-round dive destination, with winter water temperatures seldom dropping below 15C.

When you’re on dry land: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Medina Old City, see the Baroque art in St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, and explore the gorgeous 18th century Palazzo Parisio and its gardens. On the island of Gozo you can visit Xerri’s Grotto, the Azure Window, and the Opera House in Victoria.

Grenada

The Underwater Sculpture Park at Molinere Bay in Grenada (Photo: Kevin)

The Underwater Sculpture Park at Molinere Bay in Grenada (Photo: Kevin)

Grenada is located in the eastern Caribbean and is made up of the islands of Grenada, Carriacou, Petit Martinique, Ronde Island, Caille Island, Diamond Island, Large Island, Saline Island, and Frigate Island. Grenada should be on any wreck lovers dive list. The waters around the island of Grenada are littered with 15 sunken vessels at various depths. The most popular wrecks are the Bianca C, an Italian luxury liner that sit’s upright in 165 feet of water off the coast of Grand Anse, Shakem, Hema I, King Mitch and the San Juan. Grenada is also home to the world’s first Underwater Sculpture Park, in Molinere Bay. Other popular dive sites include Flamingo Bay, Deep Blue and Barrel off the coast of Carriacou.

When to go: Grenada is a year-round diving destination, but if you want to avoid hurricane season it’s not a good idea to travel there in August and September.

When you’re on dry land: While you’re in Grenada you can visit some of the plantation houses on the island, Grenada National Museum, the Grand Etang Forest Reserve and the West Indies Cricket Heritage Centre.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Swimming with yellow tails at Bommies on the Great Barrier Reef (Photo: icelight)

Swimming with yellow tails at Bommies on the Great Barrier Reef (Photo: icelight)

Scuba diving at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the most spectacular underwater experiences. The reef stretchs 1,600 miles along the coast of Queensland, and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, as well as numerous shipwrecks. You could spend years exploring the Great Barrier Reef and still never see all that this fantastic dive destination has to offer. The most popular dive spots along the reef are Osprey Reef, the SS Yongala wreck, Lighthouse Bommies and Blow Hole.

When to go: The best time of year to dive the Great Barrier Reef is during the Australian winter (June to August), when the temperatures are a bit cooler and the visibility is good. Between November and May there are lots of jellyfish to watch out for.

When you’re on dry land: Have a picnic on the picture-perfect Whitsunday Islands, visit Australia’s Gold Coast, and explore the Daintree Rainforest.

Cozumel, Mexico

A green moray eel at Cedral Wall in Cozumel (Photo: stokes rx)

A green moray eel at Cedral Wall in Cozumel (Photo: stokes rx)

If you’re an avid scuba diver and also enjoy a good party, then the Mexican island of Cozumel should be on your list of dive destinations. The island lies 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and boasts some of the best resorts in Mexico. Cozumel is one of the world’s premier diving destinations and is home to the largest reef in the western hemisphere. In the clear Caribbean water you’ll get to see over 250 species of tropical fish as well as turtles and stingray. In addition to beautiful reef dives, there are also spectacular tunnels and caverns in Cozumel. The most popular dive spots are Maracaibo Reef, Santa Rosa Wall, Tormentos Reef and the Felipe Xicotencatl wreck.

When to go: The peak diving season is from June to August when the water temperature is between 23C and 26C.

When you’re on dry land: When you’re not in the water you can explore the San Gervasio Mayan ruins, watch a dolphin show at Chankanaab Park, learn more about the island at the Cozumel Island Museum or join a Jean Lafitte Pirate Dinner Cruise.

Orkney Islands, Scotland

If you can brave the cold there are dozens of WWII wrecks to explore at Orkney Islands (Photo: shirokazan)

If you can brave the cold there are dozens of WWII wrecks to explore at Orkney Islands (Photo: shirokazan)

Scotland’s Orkney Islands are probably not the first place that comes to mind when you think about premier diving destinations, but the fabulous old wrecks make it one of the top scuba diving destinations in the UK, especially for beginners. The Scapa Flow dive site is accessible to divers of all skill levels. Wreckages that you can visit include seven vessels from the German High Seas Fleet of WWII, three battleships and four cruisers, among many others. There are also popular scenic diving spots at Inganess, the Old Man of Hoy, or the North Shoal. The Orkney Islands are one of the best cold water diving locations you’ll find and if you have any interest in WWII it should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

When to go: The water temperature remains quite cold for most of the year, so you may want to plan your scuba diving holiday during the low season to get the best deals on Orkney Island accommodation.

When you’re on dry land: Take time out from your wreck diving to explore the smaller islands, go bird watching at the sea-cliff reserves on the islands of Westray, Copinsay and at Marwick Head on the Orkney Mainland, explore the Skara Brae ruins or visit the Orkney Museum.

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KerrynAn underwater escape: World-class scuba diving destinations

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