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of the World’s Best Destinations for Scuba Diving

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Any scuba diver will be happy to tell you, at length, about the delights of the ocean depths. Whether you're exploring shipwrecks or lazily finning alongside schools of colorful fish, scuba diving brings an exhilarating intimacy with the sea that snorkeling just can’t achieve. If you’ve always dreamed of getting certified (or you’re impatiently planning your next dive trip), here are six wonders of the sea to get you started.

6

Bonaire

A diver swimming near fish schooling around a wreck in Bonaire.
Credit: bcampbell65/ Shutterstock

The undisputed shore diving capital of the world, this Netherlands outpost in the Caribbean draws coral reef lovers from across the planet. Bathtub-warm waters, great visibility, and lazy currents on the island’s western shore make this an ideal destination for beginners, while dozens of other sites across the island are accessible from the rocky shores — a blessing for divers who dread long boat rides because of seasickness. Bonaire’s inner and outer reefs teem with colorful fish, while shy garden eels peek from the sandy bottoms. During the full moons of autumn, spawning coral throw millions of BB-sized organisms into the sea. Back on shore, visitors to Bonaire will love the pink flamingos and the friendly donkeys that amble up hoping for a snack.

5

Bermuda

Aerial view looking down on the Pink Beach in Bermuda.
Credit: Sky Cinema/ Shutterstock

The chilly temperatures of the mid-Atlantic keep the coral healthy on the massive reefs surrounding this British territory, famous for its pink sand beaches. The shallow reefs that sit close to the shore were once a menace to ships but are now a blessing for wreck divers who want to explore the site of the 1977 film The Deep (without breaking out the Nitrox and wasting time on lengthy deco stops). The wrecks and reefs support a vibrant marine community of fan coral and fish, including giant grouper and playful dolphins. Treasure hunters won’t want to miss a stop at the island’s National Museum, which houses some of the incredible finds from the more than 300 ships that have made Bermuda their final, underwater home.

4

Palau

Scuba diver exploring in the sea of Palau.
Credit: Simon Shin kwangsig/ Shutterstock

The ripping currents projecting off the reefs surrounding this Micronesian archipelago make Palau a paradise for shark-lovers, while the island’s inland lake — filled with millions of stingless jellyfish — is unlike anywhere else in the world. Enormous walls of coral and plenty of World War II-era wrecks mean there’s an exploration to fit every diver’s fancy. In addition to huge pelagic fish and marine-rich mangroves, there’s an amazing variety of birdlife, including flocks of snow-white cockatoos that favor the Rock Islands rising up from the lagoons.

3

Sipadan

School of jack fishes in Sipadan island.
Credit: Simon Shin kwangsig/ Shutterstock

When Jacques Cousteau called the “Barracuda Point” dive site one of the best of his life, the world learned of Sipadan, a tiny island capping a seamount in the Celebes Sea, off the coast of Malaysian Borneo. There is no lodging on the island, and only 120 dive permits are issued per day. The variety and quantity of marine life is astonishing — diving surrounded by a tornado of thousands of bluefin trevally (jackfish) is a National Geographic moment brought to life.

2

Wakatobi

Coral reef and fish in the ocean of Wakatobi.
Credit: blue-sea.cz/ Shutterstock

In a remote corner of Indonesia’s Southeast Sulawesi, four islands (Wangiwangi, Kaledupa, Tomea, and Binongko) rise from the Banda Sea. They are the four main islands of Wakatobi National Park, and the reefs of this protected marine area are some of the most remote and pristine on the planet. They’re also fossilized reefs, which means there is no soil erosion, making for an exceptionally clean environment and spectacular visibility. Healthy coral, abundant fish, and deserted beaches make Wakatobi a true dream for any diver.

1

The Caymans

Scuba diver playing with Stingrays in shallow water.
Credit: Richard Whitcombe/ Shutterstock

Approximately 500 species of fish, wall reefs that plunge 6,000 feet, and a generous assortment of shipwrecks are just a few of the reasons why the islands of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac are among the most popular diving destinations in the Caribbean. There are 365 named dive sites here, so you can dive a different one every day of the year. Spearfishers are also encouraged to bag a few lionfish, an invasive species that is conveniently delicious, and happily prepared by local chefs.

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