Diving sites are much more than mere fish and coral reefs – shipwrecks, underwater archaeology and adventure await all those who venture beneath the waves. Read on to discover the top five diving sites from around the world.
Tubbataha Reef, the Philippines
Located in the Sulu Sea, the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park offers divers one of the best diving sites in the world. It is located roughly 200 kilometres southeast of Puerto Princesa and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Divers are only permitted when the seas are calm during March to June and on live-abroad boats due to its remoteness. As such, it is the perfect location for divers not wanting to share the reef with others. Even in the high season there are only a small number of diving boats.
The best time to start your diving experience at the Tubbataha Reef is at dawn when you can go swimming with small sharks and the turtles before heading to the legendary Shark Airport, where the sharks appear to take off sandy ridges just like planes. No matter what type of diving experience you are after – be it deep diving, night diving or even a drift dive – you can try them all at the Tubbataha Reef. For those who are just starting out, there are numerous shallow reefs where you can swim alongside plenty of brightly coloured fish and coral.
The Great Sardine Run, South Africa
The awe-inspiring buffalo runs of Africa have nothing on the mesmerising great sardine run. Each year from around June, millions of sardines make their way up the South African coastline in the direction of Mozambique.
As with whale watching, the great sardine run can be enjoyed from many towns up and down the coast but the diving town of Umkomaas is perfect for divers to experience this jaw-dropping occurrence. Once you are under the waves, it is clear that you won’t just get to see the millions-strong school of sardines, but you will get up close to dolphins, sharks, bluefish, tuna and many others who follow the sardines for their own hungry purposes. One truly remarkable experience for all divers is when the dolphins corner the sardines into a ‘bait ball’, encouraging them to head for the surface. Here, the dolphins and many other predators, including birds, will pick them off one by one.
The Gulf of Aqaba, Jordan
The Middle East has been drawing scuba divers to its warm waters for a long time now, gaining a reputation for being the elite of the diving world. There are a number of diving resorts in Egypt and Israel but the quieter town of Aqaba in Jordan is perfect for those wanting to concentrate on diving rather than other activities. Apart from the crystalline waters, the Gulf of Aqaba is home to some of the longest and in-tact coral reefs in the world. Divers can swim up and down endless stretches of coral where schools of anthias dart in and out, staying out of the way of turtles, sting rays and even moray eels.
Pacific Harbour, Fiji
Just off the coast of Fuji is most divers’ idea of paradise – not only are you relaxing in a little slice of heaven but many get the opportunity to see sharks! Nurse sharks and blacktips are quite common on the fringes of the reef, so many adrenalin-fuelled divers head to Pacific Harbour to experience an even bigger thrill. After divers sign a form recognizing the danger, groups of divers are taken to the Shark Reef Marine Reserve where professional Fujian divers feed the sharks by hand. Divers can watch from a reef-ridge below, watching the awesome and frightening sight of up to eight different species of sharks feeding not far from them.
The Maldive Islands, Indian Ocean
The Maldives have been drawing millions of tourists to its soft sandy shores and luxury resorts for decades but the clear turquoise waters hold a treasure chest of delights to surpass its above-ground rivals. Located 700 kilometres south of Sri Lanka, the majority of all the island resorts have an established diving centre, catering to all levels of experience. The reefs dotted along the Maldive Islands are home to a vast array of marine life, including the coveted reef sharks which can grow up to two meters long. Initially the thought of diving in close proximity to live sharks can be somewhat terrifying, but once you banish the fear the actual experience will be a memory that will last for the rest of your life.