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Planet’s Best Scuba Diving Spots by Priyanka ,  Jul 28, 2013

From the Caribbean Sea to the icy cold waters of the North, Scuba diving can be enjoyed in many ways. Swimming next to Giant Sea turtles, exploring coral reefs or visiting old ship wrecks, diving offers a way to enter into new and unknown territories.

With that in mind, here is a a list of 15 of the best places in the world (in no particular order) for diving:

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15. Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha

This is off the beaten path  in Brazil but here you will find lots of life among the blue waters. You’ll be able to swim with turtles, dolphins, and much more. With over 7000 kilometers of coastline, numerous islands and an untold number of shipwrecks in local waters, Brazil is, indeed, one of the South America’s best diving destinations. More and more areas of the Brazilian coastline are being turned into sanctuaries or aquatic parks, particularly for diving activities and preservation of marine life. There are official groups to protect the proliferation and habitats of sea turtles (TAMAR) and the Peixe Boi, or Sea Cow, a salt-water cousin of the Manatee. Numerous locations off Brazilian shores are favored by dolphins, and whales come to give birth to new calves in the warm, Brazilian waters between June and October.

14. Thailand

Thailand scuba diving

Thailand scuba diving

Thailand has a number of famous dive sites: Phuket, Ko Tao, Similan Islands, and the Surin Islands. In fact, you can pretty much dive anywhere in the country, though the best diving is near Ko Tao and up near the Similans. Moreover, Ko Tao is a cheap place to learn to scuba dive. Thailand’s Andaman coast extends for 870 km from the Surin Islands on Thailand’s border with Burma to Tarutao National Park (setting of “Survivor Thailand”) bordering Malaysia. Hundreds of islands are reached by boat from Phuket, many of them uninhabited and fringed with spectacular coral reefs. The Similan Islands national marine park, to the Northwest of Phuket, is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world – liveaboards, day trips and overnight tours are all available. The best time to visit Thailand is from October to April

13. Tobermory Scuba Diving, Canada.

Tobermory Scuba Diving, Canada

Tobermory Scuba Diving, Canada

The water’s chilly, but the experience is notable. Tobermory crowns the tip of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, at the confluence of pure, icy cold Georgian Bay and Lake Huron.

Explore an area where submerged forests, canyons and the remains of ancient coral in this once tropical sea.

Watch the modern inhabitants, crawfish, bass and sculpin as they go about their daily business. For the diving enthusiast, the remains of over 20 historical shipwrecks also lie beneath these clear, cold waters.

12. Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Once a secret gem for divers in Australia and the South Pacific at large, Papua New Guinea is now fair game as a prime scuba destination. The area has it all. No matter what your taste, from deep drops and shallow reefs, private lagoons and atolls and perhaps best of all, pristine wrecks – a contradiction but nonetheless – that harken back to World War II.

Diving in PNG offers everything, from Pygmy Seahorses, sharks, and occasional Orca’s.

Amidst the reefs and schools of fish one encounters numerous wrecks, a reminder of the violence and struggle in which P.N.G. participated during the tragic days of WWII. Wrecks of ships and planes the afore machines of destruction now overgrown with corals rest at the bottom of the ocean floor and are home to many sea dwellers, presenting a display of serenity and colour.

11.  Morehead City Scuba Diving, North Carolina, U.S.A.

Morehead City Scuba Diving, North Carolina, U.S.A.

Morehead City Scuba Diving, North Carolina, U.S.A.

The coastal areas of North Carolina are becoming a popular vacation destination and recreation area.

The “Graveyard of the Atlantic” has become North America’s hottest wreck-diving destination. In the early days of World War II, U-boats had a field day, littering the ocean floor with merchant ships.

In summer, the warm, clear Gulf Stream infuses the wrecks with an abundance of tropical and game fish.

10. The Red Sea, Egypt

The Red Sea, Egypt

The Red Sea, Egypt

Tropical coral reefs lure travelers to the Sinai peninsula for unparalleled Egypt scuba diving.

An affordable alternative to beaches in Europe or the Caribbean, Egyptian beaches along the Red Sea or Mediterranean coast offer sunny vacations with a variety of activities.

From views of colorful fish to intricate coral reefs, scuba diving in Egypt promises to be memorable. At the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, the famous coral reef leaves even the most experienced divers amazed.

9. Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia scuba diving

Bali, Indonesia scuba diving

The greatest feature of scuba diving in Bali is the rich and varied sites – deep drop-offs and steep banks, coral ridges and bommies, one of the most famous wrecks in the world, volcanic outcrops and seagrass beds.

With the colourful and diverse marine life, From hairy frogfish, cockatoo leaf fish and pygmy seahorses in Secret Bay and Menjangan on the north west tip of the island, to bumphead parrotfish and reef sharks in the north and east at Tulamben and Candi Dasa, to the sunfish and trevallies of nearby Nusa Penida and Lembongan islands, the Bali sights are truly fascinating.

The Bali dive season runs all year round. Overall, the best diving conditions exist from April to December, with sunfish, sharks and other pelagic fish visiting from June to September.

Lush, exotic Bali is the jewel of Indonesia and a haven for a variety of tourism pursuits. From luxury resorts to spas, recreation to wild nature, the island is a complete destination. That certainly is the case for avid scuba participants, who flock here for some of the best marine biodiversity in the world, first class instructors and a plethora of elusive, secret dive spots.

8.Costa Rica

costa rica scuba diving

costa rica scuba diving

Massive schools of fish, an amazing array of marine life and an ideal water temperature throughout the year, has meant that scuba diving conditions in Costa Rica are near perfect. The reef here is home to over 123 species of fish, 140 species of mollusk, and 35 species of coral.

Although a recent player on the scuba scene, at least in terms of mainstream awareness, the recreation and indeed, tourism in general in Costa Rica, has undergone explosive growth. It stems from the government’s superb efforts to galvanize ecotourism in the country, which by all accounts is one of the most diverse in the world. Thus, it makes perfect sense to venture here for memorable scuba.

Start with the eagle rays at Punta Gorda and then venture off to Murcielagos Island and the Catalinas for a wealth of sea life. From sharks to mantas to angelfish and gorgeous coral reefs, Costa Rica has it all

7. Palau, Micronesia

Palau, Micronesia

Palau, Micronesia

Made of limestone coral reefs lifted above sea level, from the air they look like giant mushrooms, the Republic of Palau, in Micronesia, is truly nature at its most majestic.

Dives begin in knee deep water and plunge straight down to depths of 1000 feet and more.

Blue holes, huge caverns and an immense variety of rare and exotic marine species are easily accessible in clear water with visibility exceeding 200 feet. Vast numbers, not found anywhere else in the world, of large pelagic predators, sharks, turtles, dolphins and many species of migratory fish gather here at a unique crossroads of three of the world’s major ocean currents.

Palau features land locked marine lakes, accessible from the sea through tunnels beneath the island’s steep shorelines, are home to rare jelly fish, anemones and soft corals. Palau’s famed “Rock Islands” are a collection of rounded, foliage-covered isles which seem to float above the surface of the water. A boat trip through them will reveal a number of magnificent white sand beach hideaways perfect for a secluded picnic or adventurous overnight stay.

Palau’s most popular dive site, Blue Corner,  is recognized as one of the best in the world due to its concentration of marine life, whilst Jacques Cousteau considered Ngemelis Wall, commonly known as Big Drop-off, to be one of the best dive walls in the world. Just a few minutes away, German Channel is known for its regular sightings of manta rays, which come in and hover over rock outcroppings inhabited by tiny cleaner wrasses.

Throughout Micronesia divers can encounter an abundance of marine life in just about every imaginable colour and shape. The seas are inhabited by hundreds of types of hard and soft corals, anemones, colourful sponges, countless varieties of shellfish, manta rays and pelagics.

It is common to see 30 – 50 grey reef and whitetip sharks, eagle rays, hundreds of schooling barracuda, thousands of blue trigger fish, moray eels, lion fish, schooling humphead parrotfish, nudibranchs, several turtles and a leaf fish all on one dive.

6. Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico Scuba Diving

Cozumel, Mexico Scuba Diving

Teaming with schools of fish and boasting amazing view, Cozumel offers the avid scuba diver a vast playground. Cozumel is the Mexican Caribbean’s largest island, just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cozumel is 28 miles / 9 meters long and 10 miles / 2 meters wide. Located near Cancun; Cozumel is an island destination for scuba divers and non scuba divers alike.

The popular vacation destination of Cozumel boasts some of the best resorts in Mexico and indeed the Americas. With 19 distinct reefs and a host of deep dives that go down as far as 3,000 feet, Cozumel is also a favourite with scuba fans. For spectacular tunnels, caves and caverns, there are few better locations in the world.

5. Belize

Belize scuba diving

Belize scuba diving

There is a great variety of reef types and diving & snorkeling experiences in Belize.

The Barrier Reef is 185 meandering miles (298 km) of unspoiled beauty. The reef is like a gigantic wall running parallel to the coast.

Between the mainland and the reef are shallow, sandy waters with numerous mangrove-covered islands (cayes). Hard corals, gorgonians, sea fans, tunicates, and shellfish of amazing variety populate Belize coastal waters, but the predominance of one in a particular stretch of reef may give that area its name. Similarly, there are areas where grouper are known to shoal, others where large stingray are prolific or where the diver may encounter a whale shark.

The manta ray and spotted eagle ray are fairly common, and the diver can reasonably expect to see one of these magnificent creatures during his visit. Hammerhead shark,Caribbean reef shark and even the oceanic white tip shark are seen occasionally, but these lucky sightings are rare.

Belize is a country that packs more ecodiversity in one square mile than any other on the planet. The landscape explodes with plant and animal life of incredible endemic variety. Underwater the attractions are no less special, as Belize boasts a wide range of reef types for scuba divers, each with a unique set of characteristics that ensure a memorable stay no matter your level of experience.

4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Tread in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and indeed, the evolution of life on Earth, as you explore a place that enthralls like no other.

The Galapagos Islands, under the domain of Ecuador, are much more than a hub of scientific discovery.Divers can mingle freely underwater with tortoises, penguins and a host of other wildlife.

3. Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

The Carribean’s favorite tax shelter and offshore financial center boasts some of the best dive spots on the planet.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman have a fabulous geography for lovers of the sport.

As former peaks of mountains which now underwater, offer sheer drops and shelter from perilous conditions, the more than 100 dive locals around the Caymans provide calm and unspoiled beauty for divers.

2. Bonaire Scuba Diving, Netherlands Antilles.

Bonaire Scuba Diving, Netherlands Antilles

Bonaire Scuba Diving, Netherlands Antilles

Diving on Bonaire is a shore thing: Just rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle and head out on the island’s bumpy roads to any of 50-plus yellow dive markers. Whether you suit up with tanks or just take out the snorkel, you’ll appreciate the healthy reefs of the 20-year-old marine park, one of the first and finest in the world.

Noted by dive enthusiasts around the world as a spectacular dive destination, scuba diving and snorkeling are the central activity for most visitors to Bonaire. Bonaire is a leader in Caribbean marine conservation, and the water’s off of the island’s surrounding coast have been declared a marine park.

Dive conditions around Bonaire are ideal-with moderate temperatures and high visibility. Most reefs remain pristine and untouched, and Bonaire’s location in the arid southern Caribbean keeps the water free of silt.

1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland – the world’s largest coral reef comprises more than 3,000 individual reef systems and beautiful beaches.

One of the superlative wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is without rival when it comes to natural awe and splendor. There are several ways to see and explore Great Barrier but for insiders, the only way to appreciate the behemoth is to scuba dive. The coral reefs are famous as a preeminent spot to observe kaleidoscopic aquatic life.

The gin-clear waters of the Caribbean are a huge fish bowl and your cruise ship a live-aboard dive vessel as it moves from island to island. You can explore shallow water wrecks overgrown with corals as fantastic and colorful as any Van Gogh painting one day and caress the skin of a Southern sting ray the next. No experiences like that back home.

Already have snorkel and dive gear you like? Carry it with you if you're driving to the ship's departure port. If airline luggage restrictions apply, take your mask at least since you're not likely to find one as comfortable for rent.

If you're a serious diver or snorkeler, you might want to book online with dive operations on each island visited to ensure seeing the top sites. Most dive operators routinely pick up cruise passengers at the dock.

Nassau, Bahamas

Ships dock at Prince George Wharf in the heart of downtown Nassau, with about a 10-minute walk to reach the cruise terminal. The thriving reefs off the southwest coast were the location of underwater scenes for such films as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, many James Bond films, as well as Jaws and Splash. One of the more popular shallow water trips is known as The James Bond Wrecks, though the underwater props you see may be almost unrecognizable because of thick marine growth. Plenty of fish, though. Stuart Cove's Shark Adventure is the most exciting dive on the island. On the two-tank dive, you first swim with Caribbean reefs sharks along a wall; on the second tank, you kneel in the sand and watch a professional diver feed the animals. The sharks swim very close to divers. Be sure to rent an underwater camera

Grand Cayman

Ships have to anchor well off George Town, and on a rough day toting a gear bag back and forth on a tender can be risky. Grand Cayman's Stingray City in North Sound is a great family outing. It's also considered the Caribbean's most visited snorkel site and usually packed, but you will find plenty of roaming southern stingrays to provide a full body massage as they slide across you. Be aware there are actually two Stingray Cities in North Sound; Sand Bar is shallower and best for snorkelers, especially younger ones. Divers have numerous world class options, especially off Seven Mile Beach where the water usually stays calm at sites like the 251-foot USS Kittiwake wreck sunk in 2011 and the Bonnie's Arch and Trinity Caves reef formations. In summer, head to the North Wall. Picking just one of these options is a tough choice.

Cozumel

The cruise ship piers are close to shore and just south of the capital city of San Miguel, which is about a 15-20 minute walk away. The roped off lagoon at touristy Chankanaab National Park is loaded with schools of tame fish and typically lots of cruise ship snorkelers. At Chankanaab, you can also swim with a captive dolphin. Snorkelers can better experience Cozumel's amazingly clear waters offshore at Palancar Gardens, part of the famous Palancar Reef, considered one of the world's finest coral formations. At the Gardens, typically there's only light current. Divers, on the other hand, often encounter currents too strong to swim against, which is why drift diving is so popular here. On a drift dive, you essentially fly underwater, the current propelling you above the reefs as a boat follows your bubbles for as much as a hundred yards before picking you up. Diving in Cozumel's currents sometimes panics newbies.

St. Lucia

Cruise ships dock near Castries, but the best diving and snorkeling is a good distance away. St. Lucia is famous for the two majestic Pitons, rising a half-mile skyward; however, the undersea topography near them is just as impressive. Best snorkeling is concentrated near Anse Chastanet in the Soufriere Marine Management Area where schooling fish, huge sea fans, giant sponges and corals are conveniently clustered close to shore. Divers will want to explore mini-Pitons called The Pinnacles. There schools of fish bunch around the small peaks crowded with gorgonian fans and barrel sponges. At nearby Superman's Flight, a drift dive starting from the base of Petit Piton, the strong current moves you along a sloping wall that rises from 1,600 feet. Yeah, it's dark down there.

Barbados

Although the cruise piers are close to the port terminal, it's about a 20-minute walk from Bridgetown, the capital city. While Grand Cayman is famous for its stingrays, far less known is Barbados' Turtle Bay where snorkelers almost always encounter endangered hawksbill and green turtles in the waters on the island's south coast. Most of the island's good shipwrecks are beyond typical snorkeling range, with the exception of the Berwyn, a 60-foot, French tug that's been collecting corals, sponges, squirrel fish and snapper since it sank in Carlisle Bay in 1920. Resting in 25-30 feet, the Berwyn offers a good spot for underwater photographers. For experienced divers seeking more of a challenge, try the 365-foot Stavronikita, a World War II vintage Greek freighter. The Stav, deliberately sunk in 1978 just 400- yards from shore, sits upright in 150-feet of water, but you don't need to go that deep for a good view. A forward mast comes to within 25-feet of the surface, while the deck rests at 90-feet. From the surface, it's like floating over a huge plastic toy.

Shipwrecked galleons, coral reefs, exotic underwater life... diving is a fascinating sport and the potential surprises to be found are endless. Here, we take a look at some of the best places to dive all around the planet.

diving

Azores The waters around this remote Portuguese archipelago way out in the Atlantic Ocean are home to an amazing underwater world. The nine small volcanic islands of the Azores are surrounded by waters that are home to tuna, barracuda and manta rays, along with other species such as groupers, moray eels and stingrays. Some whales and dolphins are resident in the area, too, while others pass through on their migratory routes.

Croatia The overwhelming natural beauty and vast cultural heritage of the landscape of Croatia are equally apparent in the country's marine wealth. The unspoiled waters of the Adriatic are home to numerous wrecks from all different historical periods, from Roman ships to World War II battleships, making the 1,200 islets very popular with divers.

diving

Malta Malta is another place that has witnessed a long procession of cultures down through its history, and the waters of the archipelago also boast a variety of wrecks. Couple this with high visibility, a lack of tides and currents, as well as the spectacular caves and tunnels carved into the limestone, including the famous "Blue Hole", and its popularity as a diving destination is easy to understand.

Middle East The Middle East may sound dry, and travellers tend to focus on the cultural attractions and historical heritage of the area, but here, too, there are a wealth of diving options. Jacques Cousteau himself marvelled at the wonders of Egypt's Red Sea, while Israel also touches the Red Sea, at the northernmost tip of the eastern 'horn'. Here, at Eilat, on an inlet from the sea known as the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba, you can dive one of the world's most spectacular underwater preserves. Just across the border into Jordan, is Aqaba, which shares the same waters, boasting the additional attraction of the famous wreck of the Cedar Pridea little farther south along the coast towards Saudi Arabia.

diving

Philippines Offering some of the best diving in Asia, the Philippines comprises over 7,000 islands and an almost infinite choice of destinations and dive sites. This is one of the planet's richest areas of biodiversity and the pristine reefs are home to a spectacular range of creatures from the smaller frogfish and nudibranchs to the larger whale sharks, mantas and turtles.

diving

Caribbean The Caribbean includes a whole host of exciting diving destinations, whether it's the Bahamas, where tiger and lemon sharks glide through waters scattered with the wrecks of Spanish galleons, or Cozumel, Mexico's largest inhabited island off the Yucatan Peninsula, famous for dive locations such as the Palancar reef with its wealth of underwater life, as well as for the mysterious freshwater caves known as cenotes which offer a different kind of diving experience. Then there's the islands and archipelagos of Cuba, whose waters offer a huge range of diving conditions including Maria la Gorda, Isla de la Juventud – the second largest of the islands, Santa Lucia – famed for the chance of diving with bull sharks, Cayo Largo, Santiago de Cuba with its spectacular wrecks dating from the Spanish-American war, and the marine reserve of Jardines de la Reina, a  maze of mangroves that in recent years has appeared on plenty of top diving sites lists. And the Cayman Islands, the world-class tax haven, also offers world-class diving, with crystal waters offering visibility of up to 40 metres and a wide variety of diving conditions and experiences.

Scuba has come a long way since development as a United States warfare tactic in World War II. Now a sport, or recreation rather, that spans the globe and counts millions of faithful adherents, scuba is a veritable industry and vital mini-slice of the world tourism pie.

Much like golf, people plan entire vacations around their ability to secure that elusive perfect dive. Clear waters, a myriad of colourful flora and fauna and perhaps some cool caves and sunken relics are all highly sought after features. Steep prices are paid to secure the best underwater eye candy, in paradisical backdrops no less.

With that in mind, here is a Top 10 countdown of the best places in the world for avid proponents of scuba.

10. The Red Sea, Egypt

With a surfeit of endemic sea life, unique to the region, and loads of reefs with proprietary ecosystems, the Red Sea offers divergent scuba experiences. The benefits of a trip here are twofold: supreme spots for eager divers and a rich cultural heritage and history that few other locations in the world can lay claim to.

The Red Sea, Egypt

9. Bali, Indonesia

Lush, exotic Bali is the jewel of Indonesia and a haven for a variety of tourism pursuits. From luxury resorts to spas, recreation to wild nature, the island is a complete destination. That certainly is the case for avid scuba participants, who flock here for some of the best marine biodiversity in the world, first class instructors and a plethora of elusive, secret dive spots.

Great hotel deals in exquisite Bali await.

Giant ray in Bali, Indonesia

8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

One of the superlative wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is without rival when it comes to natural awe and splendor. There are several ways to see and explore Great Barrier but for insiders, the only way to appreciate the behemoth is to scuba dive. The coral reefs are famous as a preeminent spot to observe kaleidoscopic aquatic life.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

7. Palau, Micronesia

With a 90 mile coral lagoon, well over 1,000 types of fish, from barracuda to jelly to shark, the islands that comprise Palau in Micronesia are a splendid spot for scuba. A paradise above water as well, Palau is one of the few places left on Earth where you feel a million miles from civilization and are grateful for it.

Jellyfish in Palau, Micronesia

6. Cozumel, Mexico

The popular vacation destination of Cozumel boasts some of the best resorts in Mexico and indeed the Americas. With 19 distinct reefs and a host of deep dives that go down as far as 3,000 feet, Cozumel is also a favourite with scuba fans. For spectacular tunnels, caves and caverns, there are few better locations in the world.

Cozumel, Mexico

5. Belize

Belize is a country that packs more ecodiversity in one square mile than any other on the planet. The landscape explodes with plant and animal life of incredible endemic variety. Underwater the attractions are no less special, as Belize boasts a wide range of reef types for scuba divers, each with a unique set of characteristics that ensure a memorable stay no matter your level of experience.

School of fish in Belize

4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Tread in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and indeed, the evolution of life on Earth, as you explore a place that enthralls like no other. The Galapagos Islands, under the domain of Ecuador, are much more than a hub of scientific discovery. Eureka moments are available to the layman as well, as scuba divers can mingle freely underwater with tortoises, penguins and a host of other wildlife.

Hammerhead sharks, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

3. Cayman Islands

The Carribean’s favorite tax shelter and offshore financial center boasts some of the best dive spots on the planet. Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman have a fabulous geography for lovers of the sport. As former peaks of mountains which now underwater, offer sheer drops and shelter from perilous conditions, the more than 100 dive locals around the Caymans provide calm and unspoiled beauty for divers.

Scuba diver off the coast of Grand Cayman

2. Papua New Guinea

Once a secret gem for divers in Australia and the South Pacific at large, Papua New Guinea is now fair game as a prime scuba destination. The area has it all. No matter what your taste, from deep drops and shallow reefs, private lagoons and atolls and perhaps best of all, pristine wrecks – a contradiction but nonetheless – that harken back to World War II. Did we mention a treasure trove of exotic aquatic life?

Clown fish in Papua New Guinea

1. Costa Rica

Although a recent player on the scuba scene, at least in terms of mainstream awareness, the recreation and indeed, tourism in general in Costa Rica, has undergone explosive growth. It stems from the government’s superb efforts to galvanize ecotourism in the country, which by all accounts is one of the most diverse in the world. Thus, it makes perfect sense to venture here for memorable scuba. Start with the eagle rays at Punta Gorda and then venture off to Murcielagos Island and the Catalinas for a wealth of sea life. From sharks to mantas to angelfish and gorgeous coral reefs, Costa Rica has it all – and that includes terrific hotels.

Manta rays, Costa Rica

If you still sing “Under the Sea” in the shower, believe in Atlantis and are waiting for Team Zissou to enlist your services, our 10 Best Places to Scuba Dive Around the World are guaranteed to get you wet. Life’s more fun 30 feet below—as long as that mask keeps working.

 

This reef, deemed “the most remarkable in the West Indies” by Charles Darwin, bubbles with crystal clear water warm enough for year-round access and has the highest population of West Indian manatee on the planet. Cuddle with the friendly sea cows, then move on to the Big Blue Hole, allegedly-largest sinkhole on Earth. Jacques Cousteau said this joint was one of the best diving locations you can get to—and who are we to argue old Aqualung himself? Set aside three or four days here and about $300, and you’ll be a certified master before we can say dive.

 

The largest structure on the planet made entirely by living organisms, the Great Barrier Reef is like live seafood soup with crazy-looking and endangered animals swimming at you from all angles. Able to be seen from space, this Reef is a World Heritage site and its throngs of visitors and pricy certification trips reflect this designation. Your best bet is to get certified before you go, so upon arrival, it’s just you and 1,500 species of fish.

 

Koh Tao’s got as many nightclubs and bars on the island as whale sharks in the surrounding water. Forget chartering a private yacht to the Similan Islands—if you’re not a serious diver and like drinking your liquid gold as much as searching for it under the sea, this is your place. Three days and $290 will get you properly certified.

 

In terms of underwater visibility, it doesn’t get much clearer than these Caribbean waves. You don’t have to go far from the coast to get deep. The island is actually the top of a mountain, meaning there’s an intense vertical drop-off. Be sure to check out Stingray City, where stingrays have been tamed by years of feeding on fisherman’s scraps. Certification here runs you up to $400, and takes three to four days.

The freaks come out at night and Maaya Thila offers night diving, where you can get eye to eye with octopi, stonefish, cleaner shrimp, ghost pipefish and all sorts of bizarro creatures who otherwise only appear on really good acid trips. While you can get certified here, if moolah and minutes are important, get it done before you go.

 

Known as the Everest of scuba diving, the waters around Malpelo are brimming with sea life—especially of the shark variety. Divers have reported seeing hundreds of Hammerhead and Silky sharks in a single dive; this one's not for the faint of heart. Aside from a military post, the island itself is vacant, but you can get certified in other parts of Colombia in four to five days for $300.

 

If you love history and pirates, this is your spot. The Straits of Gubal have claimed dozens of ships over the course of history, and they’re as much a part of these waters as algae. Certification is $300 and takes about five days in surrounding areas (eye patch and cursing parrot not included).

 

You know those nature shows where the dude goes down in a cage and gets all cozy with Jaws? For less than $300 in Gansbaai, you can do a day of cage diving, surrounded by man-eaters, with or without scuba certification. Apparently, inexperience pays when it comes to dangerous predators as this region doesn’t offer any certification programs—you’ve got to head to Cape Town for that.

 

This may be spring break, meathead paradise but the waters off Cozumel are part of the Gulf Stream, the Atlantic’s warm-water superhighway and make it worth a dive. The Gulf Stream is the prime place for drift diving, best described as underwater “flight." For $270 and 3 days of certification training, you can pretend to be Superman while you check out the surrounding natural beauty.

 

If you can't cough up the bucks to get scuba certified, this is the best place to take the pussy snorkel route. Located on Eil Malk Island, Jellyfish Lake is famous for its massive golden jellyfish population and only snorkeling is permitted for fear that scuba gear would harm the jellies. Don’t worry, you won't emerge looking like a porcupine-hugging leper. These blobs have miraculously evolved to be completely stingless.

When ground level congestion gets the best of you, dive down into some international fish traffic instead. They're much more colorful and are less likely to give you the finger.

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